I've been a Nirvana fan since 1993, and after 1994 I collected all the unfortunate articles, magazines, books, and everything you could think of. I waI've been a Nirvana fan since 1993, and after 1994 I collected all the unfortunate articles, magazines, books, and everything you could think of. I was sad, confused, and most of all lost. I still remember 1994 like it was yesterday and it has stayed with me... but life moved on and you either went on or as a few people I've sadly lost, didn't. It stayed with you though, no matter how much you had moved on. It was like a dark spot in the back of my mind that I kept to myself, or only thought about alone.
What am I talking about? JFK's assassination? 911? Tienanmen Square? No, just a guy who happened to be a musician thrown into international spotlight. It all sounds so melodramatic when you really stop and think about it, but for most of us, music exorcises those demons and makes us feel like we're not alone. People can understand John Lennon, but to some Kurt Cobain seems like a curmudgeon (yes, he wrote a song by that title as well) who was unhappy about being a brilliant artist. You could argue if he was brilliant.
The point is, many of us felt that he was. Growing up, I was a depressed, often in trouble, and out of control teenager. Music really does calm the savage beast, and it was music I could relate to.
"She should have been a son." "I'm on my time, with everyone." "I wish I was like you, easily amused." "I'm not like them, but I can pretend." "I feel stupid and contagious." "Big cheese, make me." "He'll give you breathing holes, and you'll think you're happy." "Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back." "I just tried hard to have a father, but instead I had a dad." "Come, as you are, as you were, as I want you to be. As a friend." "When I was an alien, cultures weren't opinions." "I'm so happy, 'cause today I found my friends. They're in my head." "The sun is gone, but I have a light." "Can we show our faces now?"
Until the internet it was hard to track down new information. It was a thrilling thing to see concerts I'd never have been able to go to on You Tube, obscure home movies, translated foreign magazines, rare pictures that became no longer rare, and of course more unseen interviews from Kurt Cobain himself.
My friend and I were awful, we'd scout the libraries and search through 5 years worth of any magazines that might have any pictures back in 1994... and once we even were amused to find the band in scarfs used as dresses in a girl magazine! My ultimate goals were to get the Sassy magazine, and The Advocate issue. We felt like we had found treasure, and we'd hungrily go through more and more magazines searching for something, anything. We'd either check out the magazines.. or rip out the articles. Awful, I know, and now I did it, yes I feel bad.
I still have ever single one of those clippings in a very safe spot in a huge photo album. Now I realize how selfish I was, driven by that feeling of trying to find more, to try and understand this person who had been the first "celebrity" who had ever become an unintentional spokesperson for himself and people like us. We we're poor, weird, dysfunctional, unhappy with the present, dreading a future that seemed so distant from that of our parents, and we did not want to go along with it. For once, it felt like it was okay. As I was diagnosed bipolar, it seemed okay because so many other awesome people had been too - including Kurt Cobain. I don't plan to die, but it shows that even the darkest pit of depression, you can emerge and create something better than you feel about yourself. I began to no longer feel ashamed.
Not long after his death, Fender released the guitar design he made himself, the Jagstang -- a hybrid of Fender's Jaguar and Mustang guitars. Being a guitar player, I felt like that was the perfect permanent tribute and it became one of my all time favorite presents from my parents. I picked up the guitar because I wanted to learn Nirvana songs, pausing Nirvana Unplugged, and asking my dad if he could make out that one chord... but I settled for my dad teaching me "Smoke on the Water" and "Stairway to Heaven". Then I taught myself tabs, and I opened the code to play any Nirvana song I liked. The guitar is dusty, protected, and put aside so I could work towards school and a career.
Time moved on, Nirvana stayed my favorite band, but I ceased to talk about them as feverishly as I once did. My old friends often ask "You still like Nirvana?" and the answer is of course, I will always love Nirvana. They'll always be my favorite band. But talking about his ghost seemed overkill. Others would spend their lives creating a shrine to his memory, I kept a candle lit, but I needed to make something of my life besides being a die hard fan.
I'd be on a trip to Universal Studios with my boyfriend, and I remember staring in shock as I was eye level with a Kurt Cobain plastic figurine. Kurt Cobain plastic figurines, Kurt Cobain in guitar hero, Kurt Cobain lunch boxes, Kurt Cobain replica shoes... I felt very mixed. I understand some wanting to grab more pieces of a too short puzzle with missing pieces, but I could never bring myself to buy these things. I noticed for the first time, this is what people my age did with people like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, etc. People who didn't live through Nirvana grabbed onto these things and it was their way for owning a piece of a time they came after.
When Journals was released, everyone came at me with offers to get it for me or push me to buy it... I couldn't. People from all backgrounds were reading it, and most had nothing but positive things to say. People who had known I was a Nirvana for such a long time, would come to me and say they understood exactly what it was that was special -- but nameless. Endless Namless.
It just felt strange, and I realized how ironic it was that now after all these years of scavenging, I could have the biggest piece of all... and I was scared to read it. These were his private thoughts, his notebooks left on the very coffee table in his own house. He used to yell at his wife not to look. The very cover said "If you read you'll judge." They contained his hopes, fears, anger, and view of the world. Maybe he wouldn't have liked this? Maybe this is the corporate sell out he had always worried about, like he feared with using his songs for deodorant commercials. Should I read it? Should I buy it? I loved Nirvana, and I loved reading, but every time I'd walk into a book store, I'd go out of my way to purposely find it just to read the title on the spine and keep walking.
Come As You Are by Azzerad I read, the band endorsed it, they worked along with the author and said what they wanted to put in it. I had the book before the additional epilogue, and I eventually picked up the unfortunately completed, final edition. It was really the only book I read besides picking up picture books, and then came the nauseating books on murder theories and the most biographical post-94 was too Courtney Love influenced.
Years later, my BFF told me he received Journals as a birthday present, and while he was grateful his first instinct was to give it to me. He'd browsed through it, smoking and turning the pages (It still stinks like cigarettes). First though, he actually read it. He was touched and saw so much he understood, and so much he didn't. He told me it changed his view on anything he'd ever thought or known about Kurt Cobain. He wasn't into celebrities, neither was I until Nirvana, and he liked music and movies, but he didn't buy into people. I never usually did either, but Kurt Cobain was the only exception.
One day, my BFF came over and ambushed me with the book. I was thankful, but when he left I placed it on a shelf. It took a long time before I pulled it out and read it.
"Don't read or you'll judge". It was hard to turn the pages, but harder not to. I'd even heard that he was protective of these notebooks, and that he would get angry at his wife if she even looked at them without his knowledge. What was the big deal, right? That is what most people think, and I don't know if it was respect for the dead or respect for privacy... I don't know what it was, but it felt wrong. I also wondered what was left out, what was added. Then I opened the book.
I devoured the pages and my eyes noticed every way he wrote certain letters, drew certain people, wrote what seemed to be lyrical nonsense, and then statements that contained a Pandora's box of ideas once understood. Once you understood, REALLY understood, there was no denying those feelings anymore. Leonardo Di Vinci revolutionized the world with many things through sketches he never intended the public to read, and for some people, Kurt Cobain revolutionized an ideology that some of us held and thought, except it seemed some how that we were okay with the way we felt. Someone else felt that way too, and someone else who read this book felt that way, and someone else, and so did he.
In being such a lonely self-proclaimed curmudgeon, his lonely lines made me feel more connected. We're not alone. Some of us are afflicted with depression, we isolate ourselves from a world we don't understand and a world we feel doesn't understand us, and for some, our depression is a consequence of the world around us. We were not alone with these thoughts. There are many things that came out of this, but for the ones who don't understand -- they'll see it as a road map to destruction. Instead, I think hope and destruction are separated by a thin line, and those of us so possessed with the weight of things in the world, we often find our way or fall.
I don't think there is one person more deserving to live or more special than another, and I still don't. There are some people that came and left a mark and happened to reach a large number of people either intentionally or not, and Kurt Cobain was one of these people. Every generation has one, and we all cling to them in hope that they'll show us a way through this mess called life. But in the end, the only answer is this: there is no answer.
We have to make one for ourselves, and I think that was what Kurt Cobain was trying to do and trying to say. He walked a very thin tight rope, and sometimes you have to in order to confront the demons that plague you, real or imaginary that result from the world and yourself.
It's a code. You'll either read it and understand or relate, or shake your head wondering how so many people could like someone who could take their own life after hitting the top for a couple of years and disappearing forever. Perhaps you think their music sounds the same, another rock band, another generation. In trying to understand ourselves, our generation also alienates our parents because they don't understand. We don't understand them. Are we supposed to?
Journals is a collection of chosen pieces put together of someones work. That someone couldn't carry the weight, but he helped make a path for some of us to make sense of how hard it can be, but we have to walk the path and ask our own questions and find our own answers. Sadly, he died trying....more