19 years ago today an up and coming but still not very heard of band called Nirvana recorded a video for a song called Smells like Teen Spirit. Apparently this cost less than $50,000. Now this is said as though it’s something quite amazing – do you remember that video – a bunch of people jumping around in a gym. Now I don’t know the half of what goes into making a music video but the costs always shock me. Then on the flipside – take into account how much this song changed the world (or at least mine) then it was indeed money well spent.
Nothing had been heard like this before – at least not by my ears. Yes there were little melodies that as time has gone on, I can see that Kurt borrowed quite a few little hooks here and there. Who doesn’t though. We are all inspired by other things and there are only so many chords in the world – so I’ll be forgiving on that one.
Here was a man that didn’t always sing proper words, that would make up things and sometimes just slur as he’d forgotten the words or just never gotten around to writing them. The reluctant rock star with the ego to still keep pushing him forward to become the star that he did.
Nirvana was a god send to me. Not only did it give me some tunes that were melodic enough for me to try to sing along to – they were also angry enough for my teenage angst…it paid off well (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Nirvana led me to such bands as Sonic Youth, to Babes in Toyland, to Bikini Kill, I was already a fan of the Pixies, and then onto Hole. I started a fanzine. I bought a guitar. I dyed my jeans, shredded them and backed them with fabric. I had long hair, got my nose pierced, and found out that was all it took to get my dad to stop talking to me for a while.
I think I’ve read every book on Nirvana – during his life and since his death. I don’t know what to make about the whole ‘suicide’ other than I know that famous people are not just allowed to die. There is no denying that he catapulted his star. His death made his daughter and his wife very rich, in money terms – but it does make you ponder on just what else was missed so they could have money. Kurt was a junkie. There is no way to glorify this one. It must’ve made many a parent quite scared to know that the poster boy of my generation was a suicidal drug addict.
I think we’ve all talked about wanting to kill ourselves, but how many of us mean it. Kurt’s family have a deep rooted suicidal gene. Does this make a big difference? Who knows. There is no doubt that Kurt was a troubled person, it’s quite often how the best tunes are written. Not so many hits are written through someone being super happy. William Burroughs met Kurt, spent an afternoon with him and when Kurt left it is to be believed that William turned to his secretary and said ‘That boy frowns for no good reason.’ That is one sentence that I think hits hardest out of all the comments I have read about Kurt.
I don’t want to speculate on that side of things too much as everyone has their opinion and only a handful of people really know the truth.
What I do know is that a girl was robbed of her father. And the world was robbed of a true musician. I know Kurt’s voice was not the best that was out there but it was unique. His way of writing was accessible even though it wasn’t necessarily chart worthy.
The direction Kurt was starting to go in was most intriguing to me. And I really wish I had gotten to hear those unwritten tunes.
Whatever you think about Kurt, Courtney or Nirvana – the history has been made and I for one am very glad that they were around.