|Teenage Angst Has Paid Off Well...|
posted by Dave on 5/15/01
It's weird how a small realization can trigger a memory, which in turn can trigger a series of memories so indelible... that they can be considered a "part of your life". I had one of those realizations the other day. You see, I recently have had to temporarily move back home to my Mom's house in New Jersey due to some unfortunate circumstances in my personal life. (The fact that I kind of creepily set myself up for this by foreshadowing it with two posts about the grand old state of New Jersey in recent months... is not lost on me)...
My old bedroom is now the computer room... and as I sat here trying to think about something to write... it occurred to me. The small realization that acted as the trigger was simply thinking to myself, "Shit.. 1991 was ten years ago.".
Then it happened... as if the ghost of my former self, who inhabited this room as a wide-eyed child, appeared behind me with mouth slightly agape, just as it was that one Fall morning back in 1991... and the memory appeared.
That same routine every morning. Waking up at the same exact minute, which uncoincidentally was the last minute I could possibly have alotted myself for sleep, without being late for school. Taking the same amount of time to shower each day... and proceeding to walk to my room, pick up the remote, and turn on the television directly to MTV. What's so fascinating about remembering that? Well you see folks, back in the Fall of '91... there was a period of approximately twenty days in a row, that whenever I touched that remote control upon entering my room... the video for M.C Hammer's "Pray" was on. It was one of those phenomenons that I was completely aware of while it was happening... and my level of disbelief and enjoyment at this daily occurrance grew by the day. I actually probably woke up a minute earlier each day than normal during this period... just to allow myself the minute to smirk and kind of giggle at how during a turbulent time in my life... one thing that was a constant... was getting dressed while listening to M.C. Hammer's fucking "Pray" every morning.
Then one day it happened. I hit that power button on the remote... and M.C. Hammer wasn't there. Oh no... something different was on my television on this morning.
It was the first time I had ever seen or heard Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"... and to this day, I'll always describe the moment as such: "I couldn't understand one word Kurt Cobain was saying... yet I completely understood every fucking second of it.".
I was about ten minutes late to school that day. Four of those minutes were spent watching the video with my mouth slightly open in complete fascination with what was on my television screen and the rest of those minutes... spent kind of stunned, thinking to myself, "Damn, that guy seemed pretty cool.".
For you see, back in the bullshit musical landscape of 1991, the simple guitar chords that started off "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and the look of what was to be labeled as "grunge", stuck out like a sore thumb. As a white suburban kid, who had spent the majority of his years leading up to that Senior year of high school that began in '91, by dealing with my parents bitter divorce on a daily basis... there wasn't anyone musically to identify with.
Sure I enjoyed the hair bands of the time on a comical, ironic level. There had to have been some escapism involved for a kid that had no clue how to actually get "Girls, Girls, Girls" to be rocking out to it on the way to school in the morning... and when it came to music with meaning, I was as big a Public Enemy fan as a white kid from the suburbs could be at the time... but still, something was missing.
Everybody is that one artist that they completely relate to away from becoming a true music fan. The one artist that completely opens up the doorway to your hunger for exposure to more artists just like him... and for me that day back in Fall of '91 was the first time I caught a glimpse of mine.
I remember the first time I ever saw the man interviewed, part of me was expecting this angry, rebellious, fuck the world type of guy... but he never came across like that at all. If anything, he came across as very unaffected... and it was this attitude that solidified who he was in my opinion. This wasn't a pre-packaged one dimensional person looking to for fame and to become a voice for his generation. It was just the opposite... here was a multi-dimensional person who's indifferent attitude in real life, made the underlying, seething anger of the words in his songs so much more poignant. He used music as his release. His music was just one facet of his personality... it wasn't who he was. He was a human being... and for my money's worth, those make the best artists.
Fast forward three years to 1994... I sat in my dorm room during a random Spring day of my Sophomore year of college. I was actually listening to In Utero when the MTV News insignia appeared, causing me to unmute the television. When Kurt Loder announced that Kurt Cobain was dead, I wasn't in disbelief... it almost seemed like it had been something I had come to expect would happen at around that time. When he went into further detail and mentioned the word "suicide", that's when the disbelief set in.
It was so easy for the media to jump all over his lyrics as "foretelling" what he was planning on doing. I think they missed the whole point of who he was though... He was a man who loved his daughter Frances Bean more than anything in the world... and even though that was something powerful in his life... his personal demons were still there. He was a human being. He still did drugs to deal with his personal pain. He had accidentally overdosed in Europe a few months earler... He had his good days and his bad days.. but I honestly never got the impression that he was suicidal.
How many people have ever written things... anything.. poetry, a short story, etc... while in the midst of being depressed. They may have been how you felt at the time... and if you died under what looked to be, self-inflicted means... it would be an open and shut case for the police, if they ever got their hands on those fleeting moments you had written about.
They say a picture's worth a thousand words... well, this one's worth about a million in my book:
Kurt Cobain's music and life weren't ahead of their time... rather I think he came along at the perfect time. His death however surely was. Before the media became the incessant hound that it has become today... forcing us to know every detail about what the President and some fat slob did with a cigar... and taking a Cuban boy and villifying him for simply being in our country through the simplicity of overexposure... Kurt Cobain's death was a mere blip on the cut and dry media radar screen that was at the time, not a quarter of the monster it is nowadays.
Maybe if the media had been so oversaturated.. and all of the 24 hour competing news stations sunk to the lows it actually needed to in order to dig up the real story about who Kurt Cobain was... rather than just scratch the surface and concentrate on his lyrics... then maybe, just maybe they might have touched upon who he truly was.
Any child that goes through having their parents go through a bitter divorce, knows that it almost feels like a moral obligation to make sure your children will never have to feel any unnecessary pain or hardship in life.
I honestly think Kurt was getting ready to leave the music industry. It was 1994. Alternative had become mainstream. Kurt Cobain was a smart guy... I think he knew what most musicians fail or refuse to realize... get out while you're young. Your legend is guaranteed to grow more by not doing anything, than by trying with all of your might to hold onto the fleeting animal that is fame. Unfortunately, Kurt did get out while he was young....
... and I am going to state for the record that this is my opinion and am entitled to it just as you are entitled to disagree with me....
I truly believe with all of my heart and soul that Kurt Cobain was murdered. I'm not a detective. I'm not a conspiracy theorist... and most of all, I personally don't care if the case is ever re-opened and actual justice is served.
In my mind, here are the simple facts:
Courtney Love is an actress. At the time, she was a heavy drug abuser who was clearly mentally unstable. Hole's album (which any fan of Cobain's writing can easily discern was written mostly by Kurt) was just about to be released... and most importantly, as long as Kurt Cobain was around, Courtney Love would always be forced to play second fiddle. Her finest acting performance ever in my opinion, was the day after Kurt's suicide... when she was completely disheveled, reading Kurt's "suicide note", plastered on every news station in the country. In the aftermath, she would clean up her image, become a legitimate actress... and blatantly fucking admit that Kurt wrote her first album by bringing in Billy Corgan to help her write the followup. How many people that write their own albums bring in somebody to help them write the next one??
... and back to the topic of the suicide note... let's look at it:
I know the whole top portion is a little illegible... but when it push comes to shove, what's in that top portion can conceivably be read as a retirement note, if read without the bottom portion. And what about that bottom portion... doesn't it seem a little different than the rest. Doesn't it just seem like it was written by somebody else? Doesn't it almost seem like it was just going to end at "Please keep going Courtney"... but then whoever, realized that Kurt would probably be mentioning Frances too if he was killing himself. So they haphazardly threw in that last line.
Her life would be happier without him? What.. being raised by Courtney Love as a single mother!! Yikes. That would be a reason for him to keep on living!!
It kills me to this day to see that footage of Kurt Loder's interview with Madonna being interrupted by a drugged up Courtney Love... because lost in the midst of what was proudly listed as one of "MTV's Most Outrageous Moments"... was the fact that Courtney had a daughter at home. People forgot about Frances Bean Cobain. Nobody took a second to even think "Wow.. I feel bad for little Frances.".. because they were too preoccupied thinking, "That Courtney Love.. is one fucked up woman.". Her spotlight. All hers.
You know, when I originally started writing this tribute, I didn't even want to go into all of that... but then I realized if I didn't take a little risk and explain how I felt about his death... that it would somehow cheapen how I felt about his life.
Kurt Cobain wasn't a hero. He never wanted to be one. However, whether he liked it or not... a lot of people around the country stopped what they were doing when they heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the first time. There was something magical about it... and in this world, there aren't enough of those type of magical moments to begin with... so the ones you do have, you cherish.
As I sit here in this same room where I first caught sight of him almost ten years ago... I can't help but crack a smile and think exactly what I thought back then... "Damn, that guy seemed pretty cool." .