Waif Me: The Obligatory “OMG, Kurt Died 15 Years Ago!!!” Post

Last week marked the fifteenth anniverary of Kurt Cobain’s tragic suicide—unless you’re a bitter conspiracy theorist, in which case last week marked the fifteenth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s tragic murder at the hands of Courtney Love, Dave Grohl, and Norman Fell (yeah, Roeper was in on that shit). Wow, fifteen years. Has it really been that long? I remember it almost like it was yesterday…

[CUE SQUIGGILY DREAM LINES]

It’s hard to recall exactly what my April 8, 1994 was like prior to the discovery of Kurty C’s last exit from Springfield, but I assume it was just like any other day I had in the ninth grade. I’m sure I cracked a few jokes with my friends at lunch, felt the sharp ache of unrequited teenage love between classes, and continued to hopelessly fail 7th period Earth Science (Pete Nichols, how’m I supposed to learn ’bout sedimentary rocks when all you wanna talk about is the ski team?). What I know as fact about 4/8/94 is that, upon returning home from school for the day, I followed my normal afternoon routine:

– go to room
– close door
– manipulate the garden weasel
– turn on radio

Following that last step, I usually drifted into a light slumber that took me right up to dinner. Not so on this afternoon. As always, I had my clock radio dialed to New York City’s number one pop station, Z100 (loved waking up to that morning zoo crew!). They were playing a few Nirvana songs back to back—not an unusual move, considering this was 1994 and Hootie had yet to emerge with his Blowfish to place a stranglehold on FM airwaves. I didn’t even bat an eye when those two Nirvana songs became three, and then four, and then possibly even an unprecedented five.

Dude, I thought with a healthy dose of sarcasm. It’s a totally rockin’ Nirvana block.

At this point in my life, I really wasn’t into music beyond the assorted tripe MTV and mainstream radio piled on my ears (and “Weird Al”). Salt n’ Pepa were just as good as Faith No More or Duran Duran or Aerosmith to these ears. I was much more ensconced in the nerdy, expansive world of comic books. My career goals in 1994 included getting a job at either Marvel or DC and at some point launching my own daily strip in newspapers across the globe. I actually spent a great amount of time back then writing and illustrating homemade comic books with my friend Josh. All were based around a superhero named Goggle Guy and his interstellar friend Cliffix (the latter of whom was just Bill Cosby’s disembodied head floating around with a smug expression on his face).

Anyway, Nirvana to fourteen year old me was just another one of those loud, atonal rock groups I really didn’t “get.” Yeah, they had a couple of okay songs (“In Bloom,” “Tourettes”), but since there was no accordion or funny lyrics about “Charles in Charge,” I really didn’t give a shit. Still, I recognized Nirvana as being probably the most popular group of musicians in the world, and my body definitely registered a large shock when the Z100 DJ interrupted my attempted post-masturbatory nap with an “unconfirmed report” that Kurt Cobain’s dead body had been discovered in his home. A few minutes later, it was official. Kurt Cobain was dead at the senseless age of 27, an apparent suicide.

My immediate reaction was, Oh, this is going to be a big deal at school tomorrow. I could already hear my classmates sniffling and teachers gingerly trying out their grief counseling skills.

I went downstairs and turned on MTV. Kurt Loder was doing a preemptive 24 news network type of deal with rock scribe David Fricke. The two were having a loose discussion about what Kurt’s death meant and his ultimate impact on the music world at large—you know, because there was no other news to report aside from the motherfucker being dead. I believe it was during this broadcast that Fricke displayed his trademark hyperbole and declared Kurt Cobain the John Lennon of Generation X. When I think about this statement now, it makes sense. I can’t think of a better candidate for that particular position. At the time, though, dubbing Kurt the neo-Lennon struck me as a desperate attempt by Fricke to get a juicy pull quote.

At the same time, I remember being pretty disgusted with the New York Times obit that ran the following day. It more or less amounted to “PROFESSIONAL HEROIN ADDICT DIES ON OTHER SIDE OF COUNTRY, NO ONE SURPRISED.” Kurt Cobain may not have been the Second Coming, but was an artist who made some interesting, provocative product in his time. Surely he deserved a little better than huffy ho-hums from the likes of the Old Grey Bitch and Peter Bitch-Ass Jennings. Why could there be no median? Why is it either complete ball-shining or dismissive grunts? What’s going to happen (God forbid) when Ben Shepard dies?

School was actually kind of scary April 9. More than one kid at Ridgefield High had carved “KURT” into their arm. My friend Jake did it; on the other arm, he sliced out “I LOVE SARA.” I assume he meant Sara Gilbert from “Roseanne” (hottie alert!). Jake eventually had to be taken to a psychiatric hospital, which was the worst way Kurt Cobain’s suicide affected my life. No one in Jake’s family told me where he went; the guy just kind of disappeared for the rest of the school year with no explanation. I found out what happened much later. Don’t remember how. All I know is that left me Jakeless for the rest of freshman year, floating through a pretty tumultuous life period with no one to turn to and say, “Man, is it just me, or are all these people fucked?”

It didn’t take very long for the world to deify Saint Cobain. Son of a bitch was memorialized on t-shirts and posters before Frances Bean could blink. Then the “Unplugged” came out. Oh, that “Unplugged.” Somewhere, deep in a black hole near the ass-end of space, that show is still being aired on MTV, in the same dimension where John Sencio still has a job. By early ’95, there was no question about it – Kurt Cobain was the Last Important Being To Walk Our Earth. Agree, join the cult, or face serious repercussions.

I was on the receiving end of some of those repercussions during my junior year when I remarked to an underclassmen at lunch that Nirvana was overrated horseshit. 1970s shock punk had just claimed my soul; I was actually wearing a homemade shirt at the time emblazoned with the words “LEAD KILLED KURT DEAD” (hilarious parody of “RAID KILLS BUGS DEAD,” of course; I was too chickenshit to try my original idea, “I SHOT KURT”). This girl responded to my mouth-off with a few swift kicks in and around my general nut region. She came a little too close for comfort. I made sure to tuck my boys behind my legs the next time I delivered a sharp Cobain-related diss in the presence of Doc Martin-wearing disciples.

Thankfully, I lived in Florida by this time, and the death of pothead beach God Brad Nowell in 1997 gave all the little stoned surfers a new reason to be bummed. The heat was finally off. A few years later, I came around to Nirvana and their musical greatness after purchasing Incesticide and Muddy Banks of the Wishkah on cassette at a yard sale for three bucks a pop. I could finally see why everyone was swingin’ from the Mighty KC’s nuts so hard. “Anuerysm” was like falling off the the top of the Empire State Building in slow motion and landing on a pile of marshmallows, puppies, and naked Dom DeLuise. ZOMG, so good.

This kicked off a pretty big grunge phase for JG2, a phase in which I would develop a serious, heartfelt love for bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains, and the Gits (sorry, Pearl Jam—I still think you are teh suck). It was nice to have my own little alt-renaissance going on in the car as I drove to and from college classes and various low-paying, soul-destroying jobs. While everyone else was getting back into Poison, I was keeping the spirit of Chris Cornell alive. In retrospect, I probably should have focused harder on Sean Kinney.

As for my opinion of Kurt Cobain right now, what can I say? The guy could throw together a hot melody, his style of guitar was unconventional, and that voice was one in a trillion. Sometimes he wore his influences too visibly on his nasty flannel sleeve (oh, couldn’t be an article about grunge without a reference to flannel), but I guess every artist is guilty of that to some degree. Like Elvis, dying was the best career move Kurt could have made, but I can’t say I wouldn’t have wanted to hear where Nirvana was planning to go after In Utero. I bet there was still some gas left in the genius tank.

On the other hand, maybe In Utero 2 would have just been some weak-ass Letters to Cleo-sounding garbage. The only person who knows for sure has been dead since 1994…unless, of course, you subscribe to those aforementioned conspiracy theories. Supposedly that first Foo Fighters record was comprised of songs Kurt was going to steal from Grohl for Nirvana’s next outing. That’s why Dave had him capped. O.J. actually carried the kill out. Axl Rose was the wheel man. Both were paid $20,000 in Jack in the Box coupons. Remember that the next time you see the Juice eating a Jumbo Jack.

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3 responses to “Waif Me: The Obligatory “OMG, Kurt Died 15 Years Ago!!!” Post”

  1. Billy Jack says :

    I was under the impression Nirvana called it quits right before Lalapalooza kicked off. Which is why it had a shared headliner in The Smashing Pumpkins and The Beastie Boys. Anyway, my thoughts are, there would have been Kurt solo stuff that would have been more like that unplugged gig. Which, by the way, I never liked.

  2. jamesgreenejr says :

    Yes, Nirvana did break up pre-Lolla ’94. Did I imply otherwise? Sorry to confuse you. Per Kurt going solo acoustic—I could see that. I wouldn’t want to see that, but I could.

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