Kurt Cobain and Nirvana
Nirvana is seen as one of the most influential bands since the Beatles, and Kurt Cobain as one of the greatest songwriters of all time.Kurt Donald Cobain was born on the 20th February 1967.As a child he was hyperactive so he was prescribed drugs to help him concentrate but these drugs kept him awake until four am, so he was given sedatives to help him sleep.
At the age of seven his parents divorced, this left Kurt shy and ‘difficult’ to control. For this much of his young life he lived with various family members, once he even lived with his school headmaster for a few months. He was also homeless for some time. During this time he lived beneath a bridge. This period of his life is reflected in the song ‘Sliver’ “Mom and dad went to the show, they dropped me at Grandpa Joe’s, I kicked and screamed, said please and please, oh Grandma take me home”.
In 1979 when Kurt’s dad joined a record club, this exposed Kurt to legendary rock/metal bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Kiss. He also took an interest in British punk, especially Sex Pistols and The Clash.
On Kurt’s fourteenth birthday he bought his first guitar and spent a lot of time trying to develop his own unique musical style. He also spent much of his time going to concerts in Seattle and he was a roadie for a band called ‘Melvins’. Around this time Kurt went over to his friend Robert Novoselic’s house where he met Robert’s brother Krist, the future bass guitar player for Nirvana.
Krist Anthony Novoselic was born on May sixteenth 1965 in Compton California. His parents were Croatian immigrants (Novoselic means ‘new settler’ in Croation). When Krist was younger he and his younger brother Robert enjoyed vandalism, slashing tyres and throwing rocks at cars and houses.
When he was fourteen his parents sent him to Croatia because they were worried about his depression, Krist enjoyed living in Croatia because there he started hearing different bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Sex Pistols and The Ramones. Eventually he was called home where he began to drink and smoke pot heavily.
It is not definitely known when Kurt and Kris began making music, but they recorded the ‘Faecal Matter Demo” in 1982 at Kurt’s aunt Mari’s house. Kurt and Kris experimented with many different drummers during this time they settled on Chad Channing, he was their drummer on their first album ‘Bleach’ and on their first single ‘Love Buzz’ (which was originally released by 1960’s Dutch group ‘Shocking Blue’). He left the band soon after their first European tour.
Then the lead singer of ‘Melvins’ introduced Kurt and Kris (by now calling themselves ‘Nirvana’) to a drummer called David Grohl. Kurt and Kris were astounded at how good he was and immediately asked him to join them. He agreed. With Dave now behind the drums the true sound of Nirvana was released. They managed to combine loud distorted guitar riffs with smooth melodies while still producing a sound that, while totally original, was also a pleasure to listen to.
The band moved their contract to Geffen Records and near the end of 1991 released their album ‘Nevermind’. It went to one hundred and forty-four on the album chart, but after an appearance on the MTV show ‘Headbanger’s Ball’ (MTV was the only music channel that had alternative music, and this show in particular was one of the most popular MTV programs ever) and a live performance on ‘Saturday Night Live’, the album went straight to number one despite competition from Michael Jackson.
This new album was revolution in music, and did what many other bands could not. The music on the album did not follow any traditional structures and was extremely distinctive from any other bands of the time. Typically the album had slow verses and faster choruses. This is true of such songs as ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘In Bloom’ which were both released as singles. ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ reached the UK top ten (Nirvana did appear live on Top of The Pops once, but that particular performance was extremely distorted and did not sound much like ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’). This could be because Kurt did not like his new fame and wanted to rid himself of his new image as spokesman for a generation). At this time in his life Kurt began taking drugs more often, mostly heroine and morphine.
On the January twenty-fourth 1992 Kurt married Courtney Love in Waikiki, Hawaii. Six months later their daughter ‘Frances-Bean’ was born. At the time there was an article in the magazine ‘Vanity Fair’ saying that Courtney had used Heroin while pregnant. Social services got involved and the Cobains were not allowed to be alone with their daughter for the first month of her life.
Soon after, Nirvana began to record their album ‘In Utero’, the working title was ‘I Hate Myself and Want to Die’. The aim of this album was to lose all of the ‘false fans’ that liked Nirvana only because of the popularity of ‘Nevermind’, and all of the people who only liked ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. This album was a return to the old days of ‘Bleach’ (in fact many of the songs were supposed to be on ‘Bleach’). The album was a success, in that it did what the band wanted, it did not sell as quickly as ‘Nevermind’ and many of their former followers stopped liking the band.
While on tour in Italy Kurt fell into a coma after a mixture of champagne and a prescripted medicine. This was later revealed as an attempted suicide. When he woke up he asked for a milkshake and went back home. Courtney threatened to divorce him if he did not sort out his drug problems so he went to a voluntary rehabilitation centre. A few days later he escaped (jumping over a wall) and went to his house (he said the centre was “A place for retards”). When Courtney found out he had left she did not know where he had gone. She cancelled his credit card and expected him to phone her when he ran out of money. She also hired private investigator Tom Grant to track Kurt down.
About a week later Kurt’s body was discovered in the greenhouse above the garage. After a police investigation they concluded that he had taken a triple overdose of heroin and then put the barrel of a shotgun in his mouth, before pulling the trigger. In the suicide note (addressed to his childhood imaginary friend Boddah) he spoke of how he did not really enjoy performing his music. He wanted to be exhilarated like Freddie Mercury had been before playing a concert, but he couldn’t do it. He also did not want his daughter to turn out how he did. In the end he says to remember “It’s better to burn out than to fade away” which is exactly what he did.