Claire noted this anniversary this week and I remembered that I had forgotten it…again.
Some of the words below were initially written back in 2007 – the year I first missed the anniversary of Kurt’s death in 1994. And some other words are contemporary observations. It should be pretty obvious which is which.
I was in my first year of university. I was 18. I was the personification of a “deadshit” and in that lumbering, awkward, snotty-nosed state my ears first heard that Kurt had died. The newsreader said it so plainly. It was the Sunday night 6pm evening news. (That’s how you got your news in those days). I remember it was channel 9. All these other news stories had preceded with very little meaning to me and I was just “lightly” paying attention.
But suddenly shoved into a 15 second sound-bite was the brutal news, pictures too – in plain, sober, English and with just a hint of “stupid rock stars deserve this” was the information that Kurt’s body, the apparent victim of a self-inflicted shotgun wound, had been found in his Seattle home.
That “numb” feeling came over me. But also in almost equal parts was that embarrassingly exciting feeling that maybe something prodigious had occurred. History was taking place.
I rang up a bunch of my friends just to let them know but very few were that interested. I then retreated to my room and systematically set about listening to EVERY Nirvana song I owned. I dug out all my magazines and re-read every stick of ink that was written about him.
Over the next few days I listened to nothing else but Nirvana.
Over the next few weeks the rock magazines started documenting the tragedy. I bought every one.
The top line are the magazines I owned before. (Some I have just realised I have somehow lost. A “Spin” and a “Select” and a “Details”. I guess from moving.) The second line are the ones I bought immediately after he suicided. (I bought two issues of that Rolling Stone just in case). The last two lines are the years after.
One of the reasons why it affected me so much was cause I was in that shitty adolescent “is life meaningful?” phase. I was essentially just feeling sorry for myself. I was so tragic I was actually writing pages and pages of ridiculously aweful poetry. Woeful.
So I eventually saw that picture of him (the famous one for Rolling Stone) – he lying on the floor with a detective hovering and his heroin box with his wallet laid out to identify him…horrific, but real. That picture I found out later was taken by a photographer on a ladder with a super-telephoto-lens. It kinda sickens me now that I got to see this image. Kurt chose that room so no one could see. I bet the cops drew the curtains. I feel sad every time I see that image. It’s not what he woudl have wanted.
My personal tragic response to this event was multi-fold: 1) I made these tapes of me and my guitar and my shitty BOSS overdrive pedal – recording covers of my versions of Nirvana songs. I would scream and scream (cause my room was pretty remote from the neighbours) and I’d make my fingers bleed all over the guitar. See the first song I could play on the guitar and sing at the same time was “Polly”.
Wow. Luckily none of these recordings exist anymore.
2) I wrote university assignments about the man. I had enrolled in modern culture courses about popular history – and one was a Religion subject entitled “Death and Dying” – perfect for my newfound obsession with Kurdt’s death.
3) I wrote more shitty poetry.
But at the end of day, Kurt was a big deal to me. And still is. I bought Nevermind when I was 17 one day on the way home from school and was quite unsure if I would like it. I had heard SLTS a few times and some of the boys in Art class had put the record on the tape deck while we painted.
One of my best friends — Shay — had bought the t-shirt ages before it had even looked a tiny bit like being a hit. So at Brashes on Pitt Street Sydney I spent the 15 bucks I barely had.
At home in Marrickville I stuck it on the stereo in that magic hour I had left before the parentals came home. I listened to it first at a conservative level, just sitting there, passively absorbing it.
But then it stirred something and I cranked it up obscenely loud and literally danced around the living room oblivious to the world. I was transformed. But, getting deeper into the record, I was just a bit scared. This was a full-on punk band (as far as I was concerned). I hesitantly listened to “Polly” knowing it was about some fuckheads raping a girl and I thought it would scar my brain. I shivered at its intensity.
I can’t forget that.