The mystery, or not, surrounding the death of Kurt Cobain seems kind of pointless to me. The guy is gone. I read the book Love & Death by Max Wallace a couple of years ago now and while it was very entertaining, I didn’t put much stock in it to be honest. If there was even a shred of credible evidence that hellcat Courtney Love was involved I figure she’d be behind bars by now. It’s not like she hasn’t fractured a few laws in her time so they’d be all over her like a cheap suit if she had anything to do with this fiasco. The rise and fall of Nirvana isn’t much more than an unbelievable footnote in Rock history, but it’s still very aggravating to me. The reluctant Rock Star thing gets old in a hurry doesn’t it? None of us mere mortals can really know what the pressure is like I suppose, but it sure seems like you’d have to have some kind of idea heading into something like getting on stage before you actually do it don’t you? I love live music, always have. That’s not to be confused with live albums mind you, but there’s something about seeing your favorite tunes being performed live that has always done it for me. I can’t explain it to be honest. I know scores of people who wouldn’t be caught dead at a rock concert. Too bad for them. But if performing live isn’t your thing, can’t you just morph into Steely Dan or XTC? I mean, you have to be a dominate studio band for sure, but isn’t it possible? When it came to Kurt Cobain I think he just didn’t want to be dissected in any way shape or form. I know his stomach was bothering him in ways I probably can’t imagine, but you’d like to believe he had other options wouldn’t you?
Do you remember all of those MTV Unplugged Records in the early 90′s? They were all the rage. 10,000 Maniacs, Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Alice in Chains, Neil Young and on and on. The greatest big bad daddy all of all MTV Unplugged records by far? Yep. Nirvana. The date was November 18, 1993. Nirvana, ignoring their hits for the most part, played an acoustic set before everybody that was anybody it seemed, and covered artists like David Bowie, Leadbelly, The Meat Puppets and The Vaselines. It was eclectic and mesmerizing. The lights weren’t out, but it was less dangerous. Candles and Cobain. I videotaped it off of MTV, I bought the CD, I bought the DVD and I read all about it. Come to think of it, the only other MTV production I did that with was Page & Plant’s No Quarter. Now my DVD collection is full of one off like The Beastie Boys “I F*%king Shot That!” or any number of Rockumentary type DVDS complete with live performances. How often do I get to them? Almost never, but I love owning Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged. For one thing, it was about six months before Kurt checked out and it preserves his powers at his peak forevermore. I don’t even know where to start when trying to compare the death of Kurt Cobain to some of the earlier heroes like Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix…frankly I’m not at all sure there is a comparison…but it’s definitely vexing. How great was Nirvana? I know I loved ‘em more than Pearl Jam at the time, but I don’t find myself reaching for their records all that often anymore. Some of that is that terrestrial radio only plays about seven Nirvana songs anymore, but some of that is that time marches on. If he were around to state his case I might think differently, but it was April 5, 1994 that Cobain erased himself. We’re coming up on 17 years now. He just doesn’t have the body of work that forces us back. Plus the success of The Foo Fighters, while not Nirvana, is quite the distraction…in a good way. Still, 35 million records sold worldwide (just for those three studio albums mind you) shows you how big Nirvana was.
If he had lived, February 20, 2011 would have been Kurt’s 44th birthday if my math is correct. I may have told this story already, but I’ve been repeating myself for years now on this site so why stop now. There is a building in Brighton Center, MA that I drive by every time I visit my chiropractor, that I distinctly remember being initiated to the sound of Nirvana around 1991 or so. Bleach? Never heard of it until the re-release. Nevermind, released September 24, 1991, didn’t set the world on fire instantly, but the buzz was non stop for two years it seemed. When I finally got the hang of “In Bloom” and “Lithium” I was just like everyone else who loved this band. I was all the way down the line with them. I remember Incesticide, capitalizing on the Nirvana buzz with a “B” cut smorgasbord, was released in 1992 I took a shine to cuts like “Aneurysm” instantly. I loved “Something in The Way” from Nevermind even with it’s exacerbating silence at the end of the track. I chopped that thing to its rightful 3:15 or whatever with the beautiful Audacity software. Love that stuff. Nothing like being at the gym, totally concentrating on the hard body in front of you, when you realize the silence has gone on too long. I fixed that years ago, but I’m always on the lookout for it now. The Black Keys have one of those where if you let the track play it goes some twenty minutes. Man I hate that . Fixed that one too. Anyway, see the the lunchbox and thermos above? That’s how big Nirvana was. Man I used to love my lunchboxes when I was a kid. Now they beat you up and make fun of you for them, but they were quite the fashion statement back in the 70′s. I think I had a Monkees lunchbox…I pray it wasn’t a Partridge Family one…but I digress once again.
Kurt Cobain was yet another heroin addict as his life came to a close. I’m still finishing up Keith Richards’ 500 page life story and, as someone who never tried heroin, not even once, it gets a bit tough to relate after a few thousand of these stories. Keith tells it like it was and even if his editor let his King’s English slide on occasion, the book is well written and highly entertaining. I wish I could say the same for the Gus Van Sant’s movie Last Days, allegedly revolving around the final days of the life of Kurt Cobain. If you can follow the ”plot” you are my hero. I know it’s an independent film taking full artistic license, but that film just bored the daylights out of me and you know I wanted to love it. A junkie’s life is definitely not glamorous, but I find it hard to believe the guy stumbled around in the woods of the cold Northwest barely coherent for weeks on end. Maybe I don’t get the junkie life, but this movie was a dog whatever story it was trying to relate. And I love The Independent Film Channel. I don’t need action or drama every instant. I loved The Minus Man (1999) starring Owen Wilson for example. Totally spacey and esoteric, but at least you had a handle on what was going on. Last Days? I knew the story in advance and I still couldn’t follow that drivel. Sorry Gus. Nothing personal. Anyway, Kurt allegedly had some emotional issues to go along with his health problems. It could be said that anyone who takes his own life, particularly with a beautiful daughter to care for, is in serious need of psychiatric care, but that’s not for me to say (even though I just did).
Nirvana ruled the Alternative Rock roost, even with serious competitors like Pearl Jam in their immediate space, from 1992 to about 1995 or so. From The Banks of The Muddy Wiskah (1996) and other posthumous records tried to plug the void, but soon it was clear the Nirvana catalogue, published or unpublished, had been exhausted…at least legally to that point. I rarely follow the Box Set migration, mainly because I normally own all of the CDs of the band in question, but I’m sure there a few tidbits from the couple that Nirvana has released in the 00′s. I guess I just got tired of waiting around in Nirvana’s case. Nevermind has been burnt to a crisp so if I reach for a Nirvana record it’s likely to be In Utero followed by Bleach. Still, MTV Unplugged still gives me great joy. I don’t know if this open wound will ever really be healed in the public eye, but it’s stories like these that just leave us wondering and wanting. I never did get to see Nirvana play live. My loss big time. I know they played Spit or Axis (whatever it was called at the time) on Lansdowne Street here in Boston in the early 90′s, but I wasn’t quite hip enough at the time I guess. That’s the quest at all times. See this band before they get too big. I think Soundgarden played Metro or Citi or Avalon (the Patrick Lyons edifice that morphed so many times it turned into The House of Blues when he got tired of doing the rebuilding himself) in the late 80′s or early 90′s too. Did I bother to see them when someone uttered the very words I just did about seeing them before they get too big? Nooooo. Not cool enough. I got my share in though and I still do to this day. I don’t care if I’m half a century old. Anyway, Kurt if you can hear my thoughts…I’m really sorry you felt like you had to split, but you gave us a lot of great music and for that I am thankful. Happy 44th my friend from The Giant Panther.
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