Sunday, September 25, 2011

A post I cannot escape

So, over the past week or so, there's been a big to-do about 20 years since "Nevermind". I really don't want to comment on it, but I feel like I'd be lying if I didn't.
No one, I repeat no one is going to believe a word of this, so feel free to tear me a new one, but please know that I'm not fond of talking about this, at all.
See, on the one hand, I cannot comment on that record, because I've never owned it. Seriously, never. As a record, it wasn't all that to me. I'd easily go with that being Nirvana's weakest album. I genuinely couldn't care less about chart position, or voice of a generation hype. It's Kurt's attempt to draw out the best from his influences, and nothing better. Given that I am steeped heavily in those influences, I don't need the copycat version. All I can say is listen to bands like Killing Joke, The Melvins,The Pixies, Naked Raygun, and Leaving Trains, and you tell me if you hear anything really new or cool, or unexpected on Nevermind.
But, that brings me to why I have to comment. See, being so heavily steeped means that I knew several of the players involved. I knew Butch from his (last) days in Spooner, and from Smart studios in Madison. I know Dave Grohl from Scream. And yes, I knew Kurt. See, look up the history (I'm sure you'll find it online, don't ask me for a link.) and you'll note that several Seattle and Olympia-based bands went to Tucson quite frequently. It's because of friends of mine, and I was the soundman at several of those clubs that bands came to play at. So, I first met Kurt when they had either recently released bleach, or were about to, I honestly don't know. Dave was not in the band yet. It's a long story, and quite frankly, not one I will share in public, but Kurt ended up sleeping on my floor. (Not an unusual thing for the time, but yes, the circumstances were unusual). I remember thinking that even though he was the same age as me, he seemed so much more a little boy. Not in an innocent way- little boys can be worldly and evil- but in the sense that he was overwhelmed by life even then.
Which brings me to another person I knew back then. Courtney Michelle Harrison, better known as Courtney Love. She's a nightmare, always. She was back then, and still is. I have to be very careful talking about her because most of what I'd say about her are things that get called "allegations"- but suffice it to say that I know of very few people outside of prison with as big a trail of death, and ruin in their wake. My personal opinion is that she should have been wearing an Orange jumpsuit, years and years ago, and that was my opinion of her before she ever met Kurt. However, once I heard that they were together, I told everyone who asked "He'll be dead inside of a year". At least he surprised me by lasting a bit longer than that, but I mean what do you expect when you put together a weak pretty little boy with a maneater ( that's the nicest term I can use. Most of the terms I'd use for her I will not say here)- You expect him to "man up"? You expect him to suddenly turn into his opposite? Not gonna happen. What will happen is that he'll get chewed up, and will likely die. I'm not bragging when I say that I'm a much stronger man than Kurt ever was, and at about the same time, I married a maneater as well, and I barely got out with my life. It took the better part of a decade to recover, for me, and I got out quicker than Kurt. So, again, knowing the parties involved, I fully expected Kurt to die, and I was most shocked by the amount he got done before he succumbed. There were many parallels between Kurt and I, even down to both of us having extremely bad guts. My son even looks like Kurt, a bit. It's a strange thing.
So, what's my take on this landmark album? What deep and pithy comment can I make? Only this- the pain on there is real. Almost nothing else is real on that record. That's why I prefer Bleach and In Utero, easily. Because while they both have the same pain, the hope on Bleach, and the acceptance, and contentedness on In Utero are just as real as the pain. Yes, I know that Kurt wrote his suicide note on In Utero. In the exceedingly dark world that Kurt and I inhabited at that time, suicide might very well be seen as a relief. Yes, I know that on Bleach, Kurt was trying to be as big dark and cynical as his heroes, but hearing a little blonde boy trying to become his heroes, what do you call that, besides hope? There's a lot said in Punk Rock circles about "selling out", and 99% of it is claptrap for weak minds, but one element is relevant: there is a despair that is hard to stomach when someone gives up everything they could have been to try to "make it big", and I can hear it all over Nevermind, so I still would rather not listen to it. But, that pain is real. It's honest. You can hear the pain and frustration of someone who has been truly isolated, truly alone on that album, and I think that pain is what people connect to. Think about it- we're hard-wired to respond to distress calls. That's why the sound of a baby crying affects you- even if only to annoy you. Most of us have had some pain in our lives, like that. So, when we hear it, we respond. If you wade through the bulldada that people will write, that's the message I hear, in the end- I could feel Kurt's pain.

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