An exhibition of photographs, videos of gigs and various memorabilia, collectively called “In Bloom” are being shown at the Loading Bay Gallery, Brick Lane, London at present, to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of “Nevermind”, Nirvana’s fastest-selling record. I was planning a trip to the capital this weekend, so there is a chance I could see it. The question is, do I want to?
Kurt Cobain (or Kurdt Kobain if you know anything about Mexican Seafood) wrote some of the rawest most inspiring lyrics I’ve ever heard, and I’ve listened to a lot of music. Even though he’s been dead and buried (and sorely missed) since the late nineties and I hear a lot less Nirvana in general these days, I still feel a hollow sensation in my stomach every time something reminds me of his – and Nirvana’s – story….
They were part of the reason I got into art, music and words. Along with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, Kurt created something no one had ever experienced before at the time. No disrespect to the pioneers of grunge and general madness (Sonic Youth, Pixies, Murderdolls, the list goes on), but for me personally, I give Kurt credit for introducing my ears and brain to the moodiest, most tragic sounds ever, set perfectly against that brilliantly incoherent backdrop of guitar and drum craziness that secured their place as the lanky kings of grunge.
Standing in an upmarket gallery in London pretending to understand the nature of the beast fills me with a grim feeling of loss rather a buzz of anticipation. Kurt was not a “rock star”. He did not fit the guitar-head norm. I’ve read every book there is to read on his life and fame was not on his to do list. It scared him. It changed him. It killed him. Grohl fitted the star description much better and we still see him enjoying worldwide success. No one can deny he deserves it. He’s worked harder than anybody and he, too, came from barely anywhere, made himself famous and now fills those pounding stadiums. Kurt never wanted any of that. He sat in his teenage bedroom and wrote things down that mattered to him. He told us how selfish and pathetic a person he thought he was. He opened the door to his mind and in we all went. Problem was, Kurt could never get us back out.
Nirvana are not the band to listen to while sipping wine from expensive glasses. They were dismal, grotty, drugged and oozing talent. Every gig was dark, smelly and grindingly loud. And that’s the way I’ll alway hear them. It’s too clean and smart and sticks of money to be made out of dead men. The minute Kurt Cobain made money was the minute he lost faith. I’m proud to identify with the man he was, not some clever 2D camera shot.
“And if you wouldn’t mind, I would like to lose
And if you wouldn’t care, I would like to leave
And if you wouldn’t mind, I would like to breathe”
Lyric from Blew, from debut album Bleach.