It's strange to think that 11 whole years have passed since, among many things, the death of Kurt Cobain
. The news of his suicide hit on Friday, April 8th that year -- and it's now Friday 8th of 2005.
I'm definitely not one of those who claim to have been a Nirvana
fan from the get-go, although I had probably heard about them before most die-hard fans around today did. By the time I turned 14-years-old in 1988, I was heavily into The Cure
, Depeche Mode
and Pet Shop Boys
. I was lucky to have parents who were into really great music all my life -- and who actually bought an album for themselves that would later lead me to becoming a lifelong fan of a certain seminal British band -- Strangeways Here We Come
by The Smiths
In the summer of 1988, a new show on MTV
began airing at 11:00 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays called Post Modern MTV
. It was a mini weeknight version of the networks staple "college rock" show 120 Minutes
, which was on every Sunday night at midnight. I used to stay up and videotape both shows. It's where I first heard of bands like The Primitives
, The Pixies
Back then, the term "alternative rock" wasn't really in use like it is today. You could still catch an R.E.M.
video played right after an Erasure
video. The format wasn't so rigid. I can still remember staying up on Christmas of 1988 and watching They Might Be Giants
hosting 120 Minutes
. The tape is still at my parents' house somewhere.
By 1990/1991, thanks to late night MTV, I was getting into the whole Manchester/rave scene: Happy Mondays
, The Stone Roses
(who I had read about in an issue of Spin
magazine in fall '89 and gone out and bought their tape shortly after), The Charlatans UK
, etc. I was just a teenager easily seduced by music from the UK with a good hook. As I said earlier, I was deeply into The Smiths and Morrissey
, and in my late nights of filling up miles of videotape with alt rock, I had begun to hear the buzz about Nirvana.
It must have been early fall of 1991 when I caught the video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on 120 Minutes
. What the fuck is this?
I thought. This sure doesn't have a trippy beat and a shimmery melody
. I recall actually thinking how out-of-place the video and song seemed, how -- well -- grungy
. It was a lot darker than the Sonic Youth
or Dinosaur Jr.
videos that occasionally got played. There was something really different about "Teen Spirit."
This was my senior year of high school, and -- here's a shocker -- I was involved with my high school's Drama Club and Thespian troupe. That November of '01, during play rehearsal after school one night, I heard these jocks who were also in the play talking about Nirvana. I couldn't believe it. I mean, I didn't really dig the song, but this was my
fucking music! Who were these fuckers to be listening to underground bands? (Not to mention, what were jocks doing in a high school play?)
Well, we all know that Nirvana at this time were on the verge of transforming from underground band to being the biggest band in the world within a few short, winter months. Incidentally, I never bought Nevermind
, and totally turned my nose up at them when they became everyone at my school's band du jour.
I can recall sitting on the living room floor of a friend's house in summer of '92 and seeing the world premier of the video for "Lithium." I had just graduated from high school a month or two before. My friend was laughing hysterically over the title. Lithium -- a drug used to quell the mood swings of depression. She just kept laughing. I later realized it was because she had been in a psych ward at a young age and was well-acquainted with lithium herself.
Okay, so fast forward to fall of 1993 -- my sophomore year of college. The video for "Heart Shaped Box," off Nirvana's In Utero
album, was in heavy rotation. I was being swayed, finally. This was an undeniably good song. By this point, I was arts & entertainment editor of my college newspaper, and every Thursday night I'd be at the paper's office with the other 5 staff members, laying it out 'til all hours of the night. Our graphics guy, Shane, was always playing music on these nights -- stuff like Smashing Pumpkins
and Green Day
, before they went mainstream. I remember he even played the freakin' Spaghetti Incident
by Guns & Roses
. He also had In Utero
, and I used to make him play it over and over.
Another friend of mine, Matt, had In Utero
, which I borrowed. I made a copy off his (cheapskate!) and would play that back to back with Siamese Dreams
by Smashing Pumpkins (which I actually bought myself) constantly in the early winter months of 1994.
On April 8th that year, I clearly remember finishing my last class of the day and heading over to the college library to meet up with my friend Meg. We were at a table, and I was looking through the newspaper to check show times for the movie Threesome
, which opened that day. If memory serves, Meg's friend Angie came up to us and told us that Kurt Cobain had killed him self. No way.
He was the biggest icon of our generation, so there was no way he was going to kill himself. Bull.
Sure enough, I got in my car to drive home, and it was all over the radio. MTV and CNN were all over it when I got home and turned on the television. That was it. Wouldn't you know it. Just when I finally get into Nirvana...There have been four incidents in my life that I feel define the times I am living in
; incidents that have completely shaken me to the core and made me realize that the world is beautiful, relentless and confusing at the same time. I am in no way implying that these events are of equal importance
, but merely that they have each moved me as I've watched them unfold.
They are, chronologically: 1. The burning of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993
2. The discovery of Kurt Cobain's suicide on April 8, 1994
3. The Columbine High School shootings in spring of 1999
4. September 11, 2001
Over the years, I discovered what I had been missing with all of Nirvana's recordings. I've read a few books on the band. I have the boxed set which came out in November last year. I recently got the documentary on the making of Nevermind
, which is excellent. Not a week goes by where I don't play some Nirvana songs on my iPod on the drive home from work or on a walk around the UCLA campus, and my favorites are always changing. At the moment they are "Drain You," "Marigold," "Pennyroyal Tea" and "You Know You're Right."
I feel intrinsically linked to this music. It's a part of me. It's a part of my whole generation. It's not for everyone, I guess. But, for me, well --
I always knew it would come to this.