Let me tell you about Kurt Cobain.
In the fourth grade we had to do these stupid aerobics gym classes, plastic pink green black steps, Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” pounding off the gymnasium walls.
Riding in the back seat of my dad’s car was the only time I heard good rock and roll. Maybe because he was my dad. I don’t know. “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” was my favorite song.
Until he played a mixtape, windows down flying across the earth in an automobile, with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on it. That was the point when I took ownership of music. This music felt how I feel. Nothing will ever be the same.
I started a band with Andy Siebert called Nervewrecker. I wrote it on my Converse One Stars and my stepbrother made fun of me. Andy’s parents got divorced in that golden period when rock and roll was back.
In the early ’90s Seattle was more of a big town than a small city. Everyone in the music scene knew each other, slept on each other’s couches, stayed up all night drinking at someone’s house. You know how it is.
Kurt wasn’t there. He and Kris were from Aberdeen, sort of resented being lumped in with the Seattle crowd. They were driven, pulling friends from out of town to Seattle shows. They planned to make it big.
The story from the Seattle scene is that he broke a lamp at a party. Some say he threw a fit. He left shortly after. The point is that he was a very private person. No one in the whole group ever got the whole story.
I bought the Kurt Cobain journals when they came out. Reprinted here are the original notes for the lyrics to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Come out and play-make up the rules
have lots of fun we know we’ll lose
Our little group has always been and
always will until the end
To know oh no a dirty word
load up on guns and bring your friends
I know I know it’s wrong to offend
Take off your clothes I’ll see you in court
we merge ahead this special day
this day giving Amnesty to sacrilege
A gift of choice I got from you
Oh no I know a dirty word
Now I forget just why I taste – oh yeah
I guess it makes me smile
Why don’t you cry when I’m away
oh yeah we want what’s best for you
____ ____ repeat is something new
The finest day I’ve ever had
was when tomorrow never came
bad at what I do best
And for this gift I feel blessed
that most are tame
my credit ran away from me
In the margins is written:
will be given
24 hours to
with a HO
to the back
of the neck
It’s pretty obvious that the lyrics themselves represent power, peer pressure, rape, the spread of evil as victim becomes victor. There is a promise of immortality. There is an abrupt pause between “I guess” and “it makes me smile.” It’s an unplanned pregnancy. Consequences. Just desserts.
The marginal notes are a poem I wish I had written. That was Kurt.
I could tell you he was in agony, could barely eat. That no one knew because of his need for privacy. I could tell you that I feel like I’m betraying him by writing about it. I think Kurt Cobain was a genius with demon claws in him, needles that he couldn’t get out, who found himself perpetuating the evil he opposed and carried out Seppuku rather than surrender. All apologies.
What do you think?