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He can really rock like a magikist*

How could I have forgotten? Today is the tenth anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide. Or if you are in the "Kurt was God and Courtney Killed Him" camp, the anniversary of his homicide. Either way, he's dead ten years. Unless, of course, he pulled an Elvis and he's actually working tables at a Denny's somewhere, his hair dyed black and his oversized sweaters traded in for a poly-cotton blend uniform. I've only written about Cobain a couple of times. Once, to tell the tale of how Kurt spoke to me in a dream and once to share the conversation I had with DJ in which this exchange took place: Mom? Yes? Do you think Kurt Cobain lived long enough to see his brains splatter everywhere? No idea, DJ. I bet he did. And I bet he thought, damn, I could have written a really great song called Brains On The Wall if I didn't JUST KILL MYSELF! I'M SUCH AN IDIOT!! [said in a screaming tone that sounded very much like Kurt's voice on Lithium] You really need to read the whole tihng for context. It was a completely educational experience, I assure you. However, the long trail of comments (the last batch, anyhow) on that post read like a slang dictionary for oxygen-deprived youth. When the subject of Kurt Cobain comes up, you can often hear me stating my opinion that the man was totally overrated. That is to say, he a) was not the savior of rock and roll and b) was not the greatest living musician/songrwiter to ever walk the face of the earth (now the greatest dead songwriter to do so). That doesn't mean I don't think the guy was talented. He wrote some damn fine songs and made some decent music. Conversely, he wrote some really stupid lyrics as well. Example: Album: Bleach Good Song: About a Girl.Not the most interesting lyrics, but it's got a nice tune and I like the way Kurt's voice sounded on this one: plaintive - stopping just short of being whiny. Mediocre song: Negative Creep. Excellent music, fun to sing while driving, stupid lyrics. But then we have a look at Nevemrind. There are no bad songs on this album. Even when the lyrics become muddled and Cobain's voice sounds shredded and dry, the songs are overwhelmingly brilliant. However - and this a huge however, a lot of that brilliance can be attributed not to Cobain, but to Dave Grohl (a god among men) and Krist Novoselic. And this is why I beleive Kurt Cobain was and still is overrated. Not enough credit is given to Novoselic and Grohl for what they did with the lyrics, or for how they made the music play off of Kurt's unusual vocal stylings. My point is this: It is a myth that Kurt Cobain singlehandedly changed the face of rock and roll, made alternative music mainstream or led a revolution that made grunge a household world. The fact is, it was Nirvana as a whole that did that, not just Cobain. Ten years ago today I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of a Rockbottom drugstore, ready to shift into drive and head home. The DJ on KRock was just announcing the death of Cobain. No one was really surprised, given what had happened in Italy the week before. Still, it was a stun-gun kind of feeling to hear the news. If Kurt Cobain was dead, so was Nirvana. Only later would I discover that it didn't matter at all if Nirvana was dead. It wasn't until Grohl formed the Foo Fighters that many people realized the truth. Not only were the Foo Fighters better than Nirvana, but it was really Grohl who changed the face of rock and roll in the early 90's. I have no idea how a post that was supposed to be about Kurt Cobain turned into an ode to Grohl, but it's kind of fitting, I suppose, given that the same thing happened - at least in my mind - with grunge. It started out being about Cobain, but in the end it wasn't. By the way, it's time to let go, kids.
*Wesley Willis - Kurt Cobain

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» Negative Creep from protein wisdom
Back in '94, during the heady days of the first Clinton administration, I was bartending at a Ruby Tuesday's in Towson, Maryland -- an okay gig if you didn't mind wearing black polyester pants (which I did), or making specialty... [Read More]

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» Cobain's Suicide from The American Mind
This subject would normally be avoided on TAM, but it is the 10th anniversary of Cobain's suicide. It wasn't Cobain's [Read More]

Comments

I tend to agree. As much as I loved Nirvana, Grohl's Foo Fighters rarely come out with a song that I don't like.

Some people say he was on the heroin to fight the pain from his chronic stomach ailments.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to Heroin-OTC to hit the shelves any day soon.

I hate that excuse. My sister suffers from chronic, acute Crohn's disease, which is what Cobain had. She manages it with diet and prescribed medication, not heroin.

He loved his daughter, but not enough.

Wonder if that kid's going to turn out like Christina Onassis?

AMEN!

Not only is Dave Grohl fantastically talented, he's smart and has one of the best senses of humor---ever. I love the "One By One," album and I don't generally like hard rock. That song, however, hooks me into listening every time the husband throws it in the CD player, whereas if it were "Tool" he'd played, I would have left the room. Dave brought me over to the dark side---something numerous bands had failed to do over the years. That in itself speaks volumes.

We only had a glimpse of Cobain's potential talent, and even that was addled by heroin. What could he have done if a. he hadn't married that woman who shall not be named and b. hadn't done drugs? This is what's sad about the whole situation: not that we lost a voice of a generation, but that we lost a voice that had the power to mature in a very powerful and poignant way.

Kurt is still on the radio today.

And on the wall, and the bookshelf, and the ceiling...

I agree that the Foo Fighters are the better band. It's to bad the Courtney Love killed Cobain.

I saw him coming out of the 7-11 the other day with Elvis. The King was carrying a Big Gulp but Kurt only had the medium sized drink.

Dave Grohl is a wonderfully creative drummer, and made the great grunge-pop songs of Nirvana even better. However, I've found none of the Foo-Figheter songs to be great. Good yes. Not great. Not earth-shakingly, musical-style-alteringly brilliant. Which the first couple Nirvana albums both were. I think Nirvana songs are entering a Stairway To Heaven-type phase. We've heard them a million times so their brilliance seems sort of how-hum. You've still got to think about where we were and what those songs did at the time. It was Kurt who put the pain in the voice, and who had the everyman voice. It was also Kurt who put the pop into the grunge to create the magic formula.

As much as I admired the abbreviated display of Cobain's talent, I have to to hold every grudge I can muster for his having unleashed Courtney "Two Nipples Now Open For Sucking" Love upon an unsuspecting public.

Bastard.

Foo Fighters rock... i can't stand to listen to anything Nirvana anymore (well, maybe except for Polly). i remember watching pearl jam open for them (they were opening for the Chili Peppers?) back in 1990? 1991?. i can not stand Love - the only reason anyone paid any attention to her was because of Cobain.

Hear, hear - I thought I was the only one who put Grohl above Cobain, and yet here I find I delightful enclave of people who agree with me. (Which makes the delightful.) After living in Seattle for seven years during the 90's I had to put up with the "Cobain is the savior" sermon more times than I can count.

I'm no Courtney fan nor a Hole fan but 'Violet' wraawwks.

Sorry to rain, but am I the only person who thought that Cobain and his band were a bunch of no-talent, dirty, nobodies?

David, you aren't alone.

I don't dislike Nirvana's pre-In Utero material at all. Bleach was great. But I have one word for Cobain fans: Your boy was the most overrated no-talent ever, period. One thing about rock music is that even someone with very meager talent can be a great success, and can even produce really good rock. That's why it's an extremely low art.

As a younger man I was really enthralled by Nirvana, and Cobain. Now I'm embarassed to admit it. Nevermind was so overproduced that listening to them perform any of that material live was like a "Crying Game" moment. People rationalize that stuff away with claims of authenticity and absurd inflations of Cobain's musical "genius" and "pioneering" sound.

The guy was such a poser even HE couldn't stand it. All that said, I can still listen to Bleach and much of Insesticide without puking.

Is grunge a type of alternative rock? Because if it is, Nirvan was preceded by a much better alternative rock band. And all of its members are still alive and are on a reunion tour right now.

Yes, The Pixies.

The Pixies were quirky, wrote some extremely bizarre stuff that was also creative, were good musicians, and pioneered a style that has been copied to some extent by nearly every alt-rock band since. Even Kurt Cobain said that "Smells like Teen Spirit" was inspired by the Pixies' music.

The Pixies were indeed great.

Nirvana was fine, but they didn't do anything that The Melvins hadn't done before.

Britton,
And Kurt would be the first to admit that. He also had The Melvins open for Nirvana frequently. And a more kickass show you won't find I can tell you.

I don't know what live show Sage saw above, but I saw them and they were MUCH better live than on record. One of the few bands that sound better un-produced than on record.

It looks like I'm forced into the position of Kurt's cheerleader, even though (as a drummer) Dave Grohl was the guy I really admired in the group. You guys are all forgetting what was and what they did and how they changed it (not that Nirvana's type of music wasn't around before, but that they broke it open). And to whomever said something about Kurt being a no-talent: Go listen to jazz then jackass. You state the obvious and the reason rock is the best musical form there is. It probably goes for Rap too, but I'm not a Rap fan. Anyone can do it. Oh, right, we should have gotten an Opera singer to properly emote Kurt's pain.

Listen to The Ramones now and hear nothing special. Listen to The Ramones in '76 and hear a Paradigm Shift. Same for Nirvana.

"it's time to let go kids"???

What the hell is your basis for that quip? Is there some kind of 10-year statute of limitations on determing the truth about someone's death? The investigation by Tom Grant in the years following Kurt's death raises significant questions which have never been answered satisfactorily. The key points as summarized on cobaincase.com demand answers. As much as I love the music of Hole, I can never look at or hear Courtney without thinking of all the lies she has told about the circumstances surrounding her husband's death.

It is NEVER time to "let go" until the truth is found out.

I agree with you, completely.

THERE'S NO "I" IN BAND, PEOPLE!!

Thank you.

:: smooths skirt ::

Oh Robert, honey, it's ok, really it is.

snicker

Hmm. I read the old post, and your prediction about what was going to happen in the comments certainly came true. It's gonna happen with this post as well. A lot of people have no clue about how kids deal with death, do they?

I liked Nevermind, it was and remains a great album. The MTV unplugged was also good. But I don't bestow the title of "Genius" lightly (was that arrogant of me or what?). In fact, I can't think of anyone who qualifies beyond occasional flashes, certainly not the plain-or-peanut guy who gets called that on a regular basis.

My thirteen-year-old daughter just put a Kurt poster on her wall. At that age, I had a Jim Morrison poster.

What's amazing is, she's adopted!

Sigh, so many more talented people that this miserable ass-hat have died. Sign a record deal and then whinge about fame. What a complete arsehole...yeesh. Nirvana did a few decent songs then milked it for all its worth.

I do hope that people are just effusive on the 10 aniversary of Warran Zevon's death. Oh wait, they won't be cause he wasn't a selfish wanker self-publicist who killed himself. Instead Zevon was a brave and talented man who faced death like a challenge and produced a damn good album.

Was anyone surprised when Cobain topped himself? I sure wasn't... Courtney is heading down the same road.

NB: Morrison was another over-hyped wanker who topped himself (or died) right as his career was waning.

A bunch of walking rutabagas at Rolling Stone included Shotgun-Boy on their list of '100 Greatest Guitar Players' at number 12 (ahead of Les Paul, even!) and didn't even include Chet Atkins.

Imagine that. Guitar players. Cobain in, Chet not. Yikes. That is not good.

Nirvana had four great, great, great songs, which all happened to be on the same side of one album: They're the first three, and the fifth song. They're as good as Personality Crisis and Vietnamese Baby.

Everything else on that and the other albums goes somewhere between sucks and not bad.

The reason I like Nirvana so much is it destroyed the utter crap that radio had become between 1982 and 1992. Radio began to suck giant cow balls, especially when WPLJ switched and the WNEW DJs turned way, way too old. You had all these shitty big hair bands playing music that, at a slightly lower decibel level, had all the edgey quality of the Captain and Tennille (sp? and I'm glad i don't know.)

Finally, someone came along and said rock is this -- loud, couple of chords, a little shifting dynamics, and a bunch of (important now) authentic rage. Cobain got lucky on a few songs, and Madison Smartt Bell can go screw himself about his dream with Cobain with the intentional key changes and all that shit. Cobain got lucky. Then he blew his brains out because he was stupid enough to try heroin. Don't try heroin, kids. It makes you nihilistic.

As far as Jim Morrison's being overrated, while some of The Doors' stuff hasn't aged all the well, anyone who wrote, "Riders on the Storm" and "The End" doesn't have to explain himself.

Plus, Morrison had the decency to accidentally drink himself to death in Paris. To honor his hosts, Morrison had the elan to die in such a way that his grave is the fourth most visited site in Paris.

I mean, who hasn't once thought how nice it would be to drink themselves to death in Paris, accidentally, after writing a volume of poetry? Everybody, right? And he did it. 'Cept his poetry isn't that good. Rimbaud pretty much covered the ground he wanted to cover: and better, earlier, and faster.

Lew Puller, Jr. killed himself the same month Cobain shuffled off.
Too bad to muck up the anniversary of a good man's passing with some insufficiently potty trained substance abuser's only conceivable remaining career move.

Okay, true fuck'n story:

In 1989 I was going to The Evergreen State College, in Olympia. One night I got stinky drunk and went looking for this girl I had a crush on and I tracked her down at a party on the third floor of this dorm on the far end of campus. The party was packed solid and she was all the way in the back of the room by the window, so I spent, like, twenty minutes working my way over to where she was to talk to her but, when I got there, it turned out she was already there with some other guy. And, to add insult to injury, this godawful noise had started up when I was about half-way across the room; it was coming from a live band on the other side of the room, but the room was just too fucking small for the amps they were using, vaulted ceilings or no vaulted ceilings. So it was just this punishing wall of noise.

I get to where the girl is, talk to her for a minute (yelling into her ear the whole time, of course), glance out the open window and see that the foundation has been packed with pea gravel because, hey, we're in Olympia. It's a swamp, so all the buildings have drainage problems.

I know from rock climbing that pea gravel is the best thing in the world to jump into, so I yell tell the girl, "This band sucks!" and jump out the window. Three stories down. Landed on my feet. Bent my knees, sank into the gravel up to my ankles and didn't fall down. Didn't even have to use my hands to steady myself. It was a perfect two-point landing. Stood up straight and walked away.

There were cheers and clapping from the witnesses. Considering I'd just been dissed by this chick, it was a nice ego boost.

The next day my housemate told me I'd jumped out the window to get away from Nirvana.

TK, I agree with your sentiments about Morrison. I think the Doors are tad over-rated but not that much. Morrison was a crap poet but a decent songwriter. None of those songs would have worked without the talented people behind him though.

I still think Morrison as a person is way over-rated.