Kurt Cobain and his band, Nirvana, spent only three years in the public eye, and they released only three studio albums. But what he accomplished before committing suicide 10 years ago Monday at age 27 — deciding it was "better to burn out than fade away," as he quoted Neil Young in his suicide note — was remarkable.
Beneath a bridge above the muddy banks of the Wishkah River, a troubled young Cobain would come to escape his unhappy home and the persistent gray drizzle of the Washington coast.
Among the cracking concrete supports, he would smoke pot and drink and plot his stardom, bragging to friends of his "suicide genes" and that he would die a young rock star.
It's here that many of his fans pay their respects since he fulfilled that prophesy with a needle and a shotgun.
"Peace, love, empathy," reads one message scrawled in graffiti under the bridge.
Critics describe 1991's "Nevermind," which has sold more than 10 million copies, as one of the decade's most important albums. Its biggest hit, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," remains a seminal expression of teen angst. Cobain brought the dark, driven sound of grunge rock to the nation, helped save the world from hair metal, and with a single line — "Here we are now, entertain us" — captured and captivated a generation that had grown bored and cynical about popular music.
I own the Nevermind album but as far as it being credited as one of the greatest albums of all time up there with Sgt. Pepper or The White Album, I don't get it, I never did, not then and not now.
The video and the single Smells Like Teen Spirit for me represents everything that is bad about MTV and radio and the mass media in general. I was sick of that song, and I always believed that there were 3 or 4 other songs on that album that were better. A song where I never understood the words was the voice of a new generation at the time. That is pathetic. Nirvana were to me just a mediocre band, at best, that made it. All it really represented to me was the backlash to hair bands like Motley Crue and Poison who dominated MTV up until then. It was just another trend, and not a glamorous one at that. And the really bad hair bands were overplayed and over rated as well. Overkill is what I prefer to call it.
There was never anything tongue in cheek about Cobains lyrics. They weren't a fun band to listen to, as they were live. One of the greatest moments in music history is at the MTV Video Awards after Kurt and Courtney traded verbal words with Axl Rose. And apparently Axl made a fuss, since he never had a sense of humor. During the Nirvana performance, either David or Chris was yelling "Hi Axl" over and over, and Chris tossed his bass up and it came down on his head.
Kurt Cobain wasn't the first rock star to battle addiction, but he was the fastest to disappear . Three years is hardly enough time to validate one as a legend. Who knows if Nirvana would have fallen off the charts or would become the victim of another passing trend and be has beens in the wake of urban music's domination of the media. It is very likely they could have become the same thing that they had helped turn watered down hair band cock rock metal into. It's not that illogical, infact it is probable but we'll never know.
It's too bad Kurt Cobain couldn't have become a better example to the kids who worshipped and idolized home, but like Sid Vicious, he has his Nancy in Courtney. And if you've ever read the book by Nancy's mother, Deborah Spungen "And I Don't Want To Live This Life Anymore", you'd see the simulates are horrifying right down to a young Miss Love appearing in the film. it's sad because if Kurt could have shed his demons including drug abuse and his wife he could have said to Gen X "Hey, I made it and so can you."
None of Nirvanas music celebrated life. It hailed angst as a party. It held negativity in high regard. And if rock n roll is a downer than I'm in the wrong business. There's enough of social unrest in real life, escaping into it as an artform is not fun. But that's just me and my favorite band is Type O Negative a band who does it in such and extreme way you can laugh at yourself later. Does that make me a hypocrite? Well, a bunch of long haired tattooed hippies from Brooklyn who are as lily white as they come singing "Kill All the White People" for me is fun. A learch of a sinner who could crush you in his bare hands, and has women throwing themselves at him screaming I Know You're Fucking Someone Else" offers comic relief to those of us who were distraught of the same shit.
My point is, life is tough and sometimes it simply sucks, but it isn't so bad that you can't get through it. To make a legacy out of fifteen minutes of shame doesn't make sense. And like the Sex Pistols "Near Mind The Bollocks" album, yes it makes a statement, but as far as I'm concerned is hardly worthy of being credited in the top 5 of all time let alone the top 10 or 20 for that fact.
Maybe after one of Kurt's failed suicide attempts in Europe on a tour that became postponed his estranged wife shouldn't have taken his child away and left him alone. Things may have turned out differently. Instead she rode on his untucked shirt tails and for a short while was a rock star herself. And where is Hole now? It's likely Nirvana would be in the same place. But we will never really know this for sure. But according to history of popular music over the last decade the smart money is on the trios popularity maintaining cult status at best.
The Nevermind album still sits on my shelf but as far as playing it, I don't think the actual disc has come out of it's case is over 5 years, maybe more. And yesterday MTV programming centered around Nirvana and the channel that made the band what they are also managed to find another way to cash in on the Cobain tragedy. And that alone says it all for me.Posted by Alex Zander at April 6, 2004 09:30 AM