And way out in Seattle
Young Kurt Cobain
Snuck out to the greenhouse
Put a bullet in his brain
Snakes in the grass beneath our feet
Rain in the clouds above
Some moments last forever
But some flare out with love, love, love
– The Mountain Goats, ‘Love Love Love’
April 5th, 2014 marked the twenty year anniversary of the suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Anniversaries naturally invoke remembrance; for the (in)famous and the dead, this remembrance occurs on a global scale.
News.com.au marked the anniversary by “debunking the Nirvana myths,” while The Independent collated part of a photographic exhibition dedicated to the king of grunge. James Lachno’s piece in The Telegraph emphasised Nirvana’s role as “the ultimate soundtrack to teen rebellion,” and local media outlets around the world dedicated their remembrances to recounting the (often only) time Nirvana were in their individual geographical boundaries.
Music writers attempted more nuanced analyses of Cobain’s anniversary. Barnard Zuel in the Sydney Morning Herald asked whether Nirvana’s work truly stood the test of time (spoiler alert: yes, sort of), while Everett True used his column space in The Guardian blog to bemoan the mythologisation of Cobain since his death.
Australian music press websites also got in on the memorialisations. On Mess+Noise, Matt Shea detailed Nirvana’s only tour to Australia in 1992, interviewing individuals involved in the Australian Nirvana shows and writing, “It’s not often you get this close to pop-cultural history, and taken together these anecdotes make for a fascinating tale, littered with both funny and poignant moments.” Meanwhile, on sister site FasterLouder, Jaymz Clements examined the musical legacy of Nirvana, summarising, “So now Nirvana are a “classic” rock band who next week will be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, as Cobain and his generation-defining ethos dissolve into memory. But a memory as tactile as hearing ‘Aneurysm’ and losing your shit, or listening to Nevermind and still marvelling at those terrifyingly perfect riffs and hooks, or appreciating the intricacy of ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ and ‘All Apologies’? That’s a hell of a legacy.”
Alexis Petridis’ piece in The Guardian examined the dual anniversaries of Cobain’s death and the release of Blur’s seminal Britpop album Parklife. Discussing the dichotomy of grunge and Britpop, Petridis wrote, “It is an idea that is central to the posthumous myth of Kurt Cobain – that huge success and integrity are incompatible and that Cobain was an artist so principled he would rather kill himself than compromise his integrity. But Britpop and its practitioners suggested that precisely the opposite was true.”
In The Age, Simon Castles used the anniversary to examine the public perception of Cobain’s partner, fellow grunge rock icon Courtney Love. Castles noted, “In short, Love has been painted as part grunge Baby Jane, part Yoko Ono for Generation X, and part Lady Macbeth.”
Helen Razer’s analysis of the Kurt Cobain anniversary was characteristically more cynical then most. Writing for the Daily Review, Razer surmised, “When I was young, Kurt Cobain was a rebel angel banished to earth and loved by a fallen generation. When I was young, Kurt Cobain ate from the Tree of Knowledge and heaved up its toxic fruit in the troughs of popular culture. Now I am old, I have largely dropped such grandiose teen metaphor and find Kurt Cobain made music that became unbearable.”
At the time of Cobain’s death, Razer was working as a broadcaster on national alternative youth radio station Triple J. Below is Razer’s mid-1990s tribute to Cobain.
Speaking of Triple J, the radio collated archival audio pieces related to Cobain for the twentieth anniversary, paying tribute with, “This weekend marks 20 years since Cobain’s passing, but his legacy of relatable melancholia and emotive, distorted rock is still felt today. As the front man of Nirvana, he brought grunge to the masses and gave voice to an entire counterculture.”
Francis Leach, a Triple J broadcaster at the time of Cobain’s suicide,tweeted:
Rolling Stone paid tribute to Cobain with a series of memories and photos from bandmates, friends, family, and fans.
But perhaps the last word on Cobain should go to his former Nirvana bandmates, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. In 1994, just months after Kurt’s death, Nirvana won the MTV award for Best Alternative Video (for ‘Heart Shaped Box’). Grohl’s acceptance speech, and Novoselic’s introduction to a Cobain tribute later in the awards broadcast, is below.
“It’d be silly to say that it doesn’t feel like something’s missing, and I think about Kurt every day, and I’d like to thank people for payin’ attention to our band.”