Afternoon all…I’m honoured to call John Purkey a friend. He was a close comrade of Kurt Cobain’s; he has a long and top notch history in the North West regional music scene including Subvert, Machine, Sleeper Cell and Noxious Fumes; one of his band’s appears on the wall of the EMP in Seattle; he’s been integral to the Tacoma music scene for some thirty years and generally he’s a top notch soul with a self worth telling. Means I’m happy to share his thoughts on the blog here. Today’s post is literally what he has given me permission to share based on a number of conversations he’s had with people involved in the film plus his own contributions. By the way, the Legends show Nirvana and Melvins played with Machine in Tacoma in January 1990? John set it up – it was his baby.

So, without further ado, John? Whatcha think regarding the likelihood of new music by Kurt Cobain in the Montage of Heck film and any related soundtrack releases, etc.?

It’s my hunch based on my past knowing Kurt plus the producer saying that there is a ton of unheard and unseen footage that was in Kurt’s personal items plus I asked the woman from (name of film-involved organisation redacted) if there were any totally unheard songs of Kurt’s – her answer was yes without any hesitation. They are using only six seconds from the Legends video. A shot of his guitar and a shot of the crowd.

The songs that ended up on the With The Lights Out box were pretty easily accessible via the members of Nirvana and Courtney. I don’t think they ventured into Kurt’s storage until now. I would not doubt there is at least 25 unheard songs. Whatever comes out in this film will spark a whole lot more interest in what else is there. If it’s in Frances’ control then we may hear more. I believe Courtney made sure his stuff went somewhere safe and most likely not been touched BY LAW OF THE WILL until now.

I personally do believe that there will be quite a lot of unheard four track recordings that will be released in this film and also in future CD releases. I remember hanging out with Kurt in Olympia and he showed me some pixelvision videos, a couple different ones – these I have never seen again. I have no doubt that there are hours of four track tapes that have not been heard!! I am talking spanning all of Kurt’s life. I think that after Kurt passed away much of his stuff went to his mom’s and was put in storage. There’s also the quote from Eric from Hole about songs he had heard Kurt working on that would have been like Kurt’s white album. These songs exist. A good example is that the amount of songs that Kurt wrote in just the four years spanning 87-90 was huge. He didn’t stop. Yes he had a four track and kept recording much from 91-94 that has not been heard. I do believe we are all in for a huge treat. The tapes are now in good hands and hopefully we will hear much more in the next couple years.
Love John Purkey

Also another point. I really don’t think Courtney had access to a lot of his stuff by law of the will. Example, she did have his notebooks and sold them immediately. If she had legal access to his other stuff she probably would have released it all, sold it, whatever. I really believe there are a ton of four track tapes and who knows what is on them. When you record on a four track it plays the tape really fast so if you try to play that tape in a regular player it will be indistinguishable and super slow unless you play it in a four track on the right speed.”

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/dec/04/courtney-love-kurt-cobain-montage-of-heck-documentary

Just a link from the Guardian regarding where editorial control is resting with the project – in the hands of the director with advice where required or solicited, which seems pretty darn reasonable all round doesn’t it? I’m good! I don’t mind who gets to give their thoughts so long as it’s clear and stated aboveboard which it has been.

My musings are elsewhere. There’s been a lot of focus on “rare music!” “Unseen footage!” “Art from the vaults!” “Unseen writings!” That’s led fans (and the media to be fair) into a bit of a frenzy of excitement over what may/may not exist and what may/may not be seen within the film. I admit i’m not sweating on that score. Why not?

Well, it’s a film. Sure, I don’t doubt there’ll be fleeting images and sounds that entice and intrigue – no doubt at all given how clearly statements in that regard have been made (while still keeping the big unveil of precisely what for another time.) A film, however, can only deliver so much. My expectation is scanning shots across a few canvas or installations in no intense detail, brief clips of old handheld footage from the pre-fame life then more professional stuff post-1991 but with nothing left to play longer than 15-20 seconds, music down low in the background behind commentary then flaring up momentarily over silent footage before disappearing again. That’s not a jaundiced view, I’m not being cynical, it’s the nature of the medium – imagine how tedious a cinematic experience it’d be if it stapled together a full five-ten minutes of Kurt tinkering away in his wardrobe with an acoustic, if it played the entire home movie of “Kurt attends a family barbecue” (sheesh, does anyone even watch their own family home movies in their entirety?), if it just let live footage run ad infinitum…I might watch it on YouTube or play that in the background but it wouldn’t form a crafted work that I’d wish to see in a cinema, or that would drag people back after a five minute home ad break.

A valid cinematic experience isn’t the same as an interactive archive or museum piece – I’m pretty sure I’m saying nothing controversial here. Brett Morgen has a quality record when it comes to creating film that has momentum and pace; again, those elements that stop an audience getting restless across a ninety minute/two hour documentary, mitigate against anything being left to run to conclusion so what the hardcore collectors are gaining here is glimpses, snatches, teasers to material residing in the ‘vault.’ Think more that brief glimpse at “Stinking of You” during the “Hit So Hard” documentary rather than the full songs performed on “Live! Tonight! Sold Out!” Different intentions, the latter was a live clip reel.

My focus, instead, is on the narrative – the ‘plot’ if you will – of the film that’ll arrive next year. This is where my curiosity lies given it’ll be the dominant foreground which the background sound (music), background visual (video/art/writing), excerpted statements (writing/lyrics) will serve and/or illustrate. This is where I’m wondering whether “Montage of Heck” might land a few surprises…

So, the declared format is (a) predominantly Cobain giving his own views and telling his own tale (b) a very limited number of crucial individuals such as Courtney Love and Krist Novoselic providing commentary or memory where needed. Fine and dandy! Cool! I’m wondering, of course, whether this is intended to be a celebration or an exploration and how revealing each individual or each surviving artifact might prove. For example, I’ve read quite a number of Cobain’s interviews – 250 to 300? More? And there’s only so much said because, understandably, no one says everything to a camera, to a tape machine, to a witness. The lost journal entries may fill in gaps but I’m not sure I expect Cobain to be wholly honest in any public source. That leads onto that celebration/exploration point. It doesn’t sound like it’ll be the hagiography that Tupac: Resurrection proved to be – I enjoyed that film but ye Gods, it really was an application for contemporary sainthood. It’s impossible to ask hard questions of a dead man and the surviving individuals whose cooperation was required were understandably unwilling to speak ill of the dead to camera. Given the necessity of getting and maintaining participation from people there’s a fair reason not to hammer anyone either – frankly it’s simply impolite too particular in something like a film about a cultural icon (which certainly does not carry the weight of the Watergate tapes or the Pentagon papers.)

Next, there’s my curiosity about whether the film will deviate from the well-established narrative that has been written and re-written since the authorised Nirvana bio in 1993 (Come as You Are by Michael Azerrad.) Essentially, the well-trodden path goes as follows; ‘tough childhood and legendary divorce, ambitious but still punk, surprise capitalist triumph met with discomfort, drug problems overrated and he wasn’t that bad, artistic resurgence and triumph, depression and shock ending for all concerned. The End.’ (Roll credits to maudlin piano-led rendition of a Cobain hit and some grainy footage or nature imagery fading into close-ups of the icon’s eyes.) If the film stays in that comfort zone then…Well…It’ll be nice to look at the short clips of art and video, to hear the short music clips and then to walk away having learnt nowt new of any consequence.

Brett Morgen, on the other hand, has promised a deeper glimpse at Cobain the ARTIST – if that’s been fully followed through on then that’d provide a potentially very enlightening and truly new approach. It would thread together Cobain’s childhood life in which he was surrounded by relatively musical and/or artistic relatives, where his father’s dismissal of those influences deemed ‘feminine’ (art, music, literature, contemplation) led him to take a side against his father’s definition of ‘masculine’ pursuits, would trawl for evidence of his teenager ambitions and desires in terms of pursuing the full spectrum of art (painting, collage, writing, video, drama, animation…Oh, and music too) then show how those elements blossomed in Cobain the young adult. This’d be a valuable shift away from the ‘soap opera’/biopic approach to an artist’s life story – a true focus on connecting up and tying their works into a lattice in which the mode of expression varied to fit the impulses or desires the individual was seeking to express. I’d be enthralled to see this less controversial, more unified, more complete vision of Cobain brough to the fore.

Even if that dramatic revision is not the approach, or forms only part of the approach, again I’ll come back to the point that there are numerous points of unclarified curiosity about the Cobain tale which would be intriguing to learn. Sad to say but I would be curious to learn precisely how many times (and for how long) Cobain was in rehab between 1992 and 1994 as it would either reinforce the extent to which he sought to fight his drug issues, or indicate that he didn’t feel much need to except when forced – each alternative would bring fresh clarity and a very different understanding of his last years. Similarly, disentangling his medical challenges would be welcomed given I think it’s fair to say even Charles Cross didn’t full explain them – Cobain’s narcolepsy was a cover story for when he kept nodding off in interviews, yes? No? He really did have curvature of the spine and it was/wasn’t treated or affecting him? The stomach issues weren’t actually resolved despite statements to the contrary (given he speaks of his burning nauseous stomach in the April ’94 note? I guess I sometimes want to ask “What Was Eating Kurt Cobain?” in that regard. The establishment of a clearer narrative of Cobain’s final year would also be beneficial; was there any truth to the divorce rumour? Did Krist or any other member of Nirvana believe they’d broken up in early March 1994 or was it really perceived as simply a pause in the band’s ongoing progress – what did they feel was going on? And did Cobain indicate at any point prior to departure for Europe that he didn’t want to go on tour or was it only as the tour progressed that fatigue (and drugs) and discomfort got the better of him? Understanding if the much vaunted ‘jam’ from November/December 1993 that was revisited during the Robert Lang sessions was actually a scrap of a song the band or Cobain had practiced any more fully would also be rather a welcome detail given it’d then become the second to last ‘new’ Nirvana song (Do Re Mi is not a Nirvana song just to clarify.)

Looking earlier in Cobain’s career it’d be quite the commentary to show precisely how poor he was in his late teens through early twenties – I’ve never found it much of a surprise that he should end up with dietary issues and so forth given a brief tour round the Pacific North West left me thinking “damn…This guy lived in shacks…” I met one guy who bumped into Cobain who was tossing an apple up and down in his hand. It turned out the apple was the only food he had been in possession of for about two-three days but he said he was “saving it until I’m really hungry.”

Anyways, there we go. That’s my primary speculation; (What’s the Story of) Morgen’s Glory? I’m intrigued to find out.

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-unlikely-birth-of-no-seattle-forgotten-sounds-of-the-north-west-grunge-era-1986andndash97/Content?oid=21140720

A fun piece from Seattle’s The Stranger – I think I was in a funny mood that morning given some of the stuff I come out with. Essentially just me rambling about the Soul Jazz No Seattle release a bit more in a chirpy way.

Only issue I can raise is that, as far as I’m aware, Soul Jazz weren’t particularly ‘hooked’ by the Nirvana link – it wasn’t something I raised early in the process, they were more into the idea of uncovering the ‘underside’ of a scene. They’re more about scenes and sounds than personalities, soap opera and single super stars. That’s part of their appeal really.

Also a wicked interview with Daniel Riddle – quality fella, quality musician – talking about his various creative endeavours, definitely check him out!

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2014/12/03/a-brief-interview-with-daniel-riddle-of-hitting-birth-the-best-band-on-no-seattle-comp

There’s a kneejerk tendency among certain groups of Nirvana fans to cuss the name of Courtney Love. You’ve undoubtedly noticed that I don’t share that inclination. Why? Well, essentially, as someone wishing to hear more of the musical works of Kurt Cobain, as someone wishing to see more of his wider artistic efforts – Courtney Love is the keeper of the keys to the vault. I don’t feel she’s been any more or less a good custodian than Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, Universal – nor do I feel in a position to criticise given I don’t possess, nor do I know anyone who possesses, experience of the intricate process of managing the legacy of an individual across decades.

The involvement of Courtney Love and Frances Bean Cobain in Brett Morgen’s film should be a source of encouragement for those hoping for the chance to hear more of Cobain’s work. The crucial point is to differentiate between NIRVANA’s work and COBAIN’s work. Nirvana was a group entity that interpreted and enacted Cobain’s creative will. The data on record regarding their studio sessions indicates there’s a bare handful of songs as yet unreleased, entirely other takes of songs we’ve already heard. From a very early stage in the posthumous process they were forced to dig into non-studio rehearsal tapes and boombox work without emerging with many true revelations; a jam here, an unreleased instrumental there, sketch songs lightly buttered over the top. Krist Novoselic’s past comment on the paucity of unheard Nirvana material seems accurate to me – the group released the vast majority of what it recorded. Nirvana were deeply economical when in studio; it was rare they even laid down b-side material at the same session as their album. In the early years it was simply because they couldn’t afford extensive recording sessions, the later years, meanwhile, were such a rush that there was barely time to record. While there’s undoubtedly still a pool of other mixes, other versions, slightly tweaked efforts of known songs sitting around somewhere – there’s been nothing since 2004 to dispel the notion that the cupboard is bare of any fresh You Know You’re Right moment.

The next potential source of truly unheard material would be to head toward Cobain’s juvenilia. Sure, the Fecal Matter tapes have now secured a legendary status, but then there’s still whatever earlier teenage sketches remain buried, plus anything laid down on tape prior to the commencement of the first recognisable iteration of Nirvana in late 1986. The turnover of Nirvana songs in these early years was remarkable – Cobain was prolific, the Easter 1986 recording of Fecal Matter carried over barely a song and a half to the earliest known efforts of ‘Nirvana’, then the January 1988 sessions gave way to an almost entirely different selection of songs by December 1988 when Bleach was recorded. That’s rapid work, a dozen songs at a time introduced and dispensed with. Depending on whether that apparent pace was in effect prior to Easter 1986, there’s potentially more to be seen there. Depending on how many ideas didn’t make it to Nirvana sessions maybe there’s more from 1987-1988 too. After that I doubt there’s much going sketched but unrecorded.

This is where the Courtney Love factor comes into play. While Nirvana, as a group, barely created any new music between 1992-1994, it’s unclear the extent to which Kurt Cobain did or did not continue to prepare private material. It’s also uncertain to what extent he recorded privately with Courtney. These are the primary sources from whence unfamiliar and unknown material could conceivably emerge. During the two-and-a-half years of Cobain’s fame he spent barely thirty days in the studio with Novoselic and Grohl including the abandoned April 1992 sessions, abandoned October sessions, one week playing at Pachyderm Studios for In Utero then one week mixing, only turning up for one day in January 1994…And between February 1992 and October 1993 he was barely ever on a stage…This guy was at home (or wherever he happened to be living at the time) and it’s the home recordings that could potentially indicate whether those years were ones in which he continued expressing musically, or whether he moved away from music toward video, art, family and unconsciousness. I don’t know the answer. But I do feel I expect more ‘new’ to come from Courtney than from something like the rumoured ‘Bathtub is Real’ tape recorded with Tobi Vail. While I’d be intrigued to hear what’s there I suspect no more than sketches of Nevermind-era songs.

Does that mean I’m forecasting some weighty quantity of well-drawn acoustic pieces? Some kinda Nick Drake style reassessment of Cobain’s abilities with an acoustic guitar? Nope. Let’s be fair, Cobain was disinterested in, and dismissive of, sophisticated instrumental technique – I expect the endearing and appealing sloppiness he often exhibited live (or on the existing home demos from 2004’s With the Lights Out) to be to the fore. Similarly, do I expect him to be blowing his vocal cords out when playing at home in a closet? Nope, the pieces seen so far are far more restrained – but, again, that isn’t a bad thing, just different. I’d suspect much of what exists will be unstructured, not really worked up given how much of Nirvana’s In Utero work in Rio and Pachyderm stemmed from thin ideas around which the band ad-libbed and jammed up some real quality. As stated earlier, Nirvana were economical in studio and I believe that’s reflective of Cobain’s general approach – don’t polish and re-polish a piece in private unless it’s intended to go somewhere. Given how short on songs the band were by the end of 1992/start of 1993 I’d be surprised if he had much in his back pocket that he wasn’t placing on the table for Nirvana’s full band consideration. That draws the eye to the post-In Utero era, again, it’ll be curious to hear what occurred in that final year…But there’s not much time for miracles with October-December plus February spent on tour. Let’s see shall we? Courtney has the keys…She was there.

http://pitchfork.com/news/57601-kurt-cobain-authorized-documentary-montage-of-heck-coming-to-hbo/

Intriguing…It does strike me as too much of a coincidence that a few weeks ago the press suddenly ‘discovered’ the Montage of Heck sound collage and claimed it was new/unreleased despite it having floated round the bootleg world and fan community for a decade and a half at least…And then this week the title “Montage of Heck” appears for the new biopic that is apparently neatly down the line. I suspect ‘priming of the pumps’ – getting that title out in the media, getting the name running around the Internet, getting the search stats up for it, then piling on the news.

Brett Morgen’s press release quotation doing the round is:
“…I figured there would be limited amounts of fresh material to unearth. However, once I stepped into Kurt’s archive, I discovered over 200 hours of unreleased music and audio, a vast array of art projects (oil paintings, sculptures), countless hours of never-before-seen home movies, and over 4000 pages of writings…”

Intriguing…I’d be curious to hear how the archive that Brett has seen differs from the archive that Charles Cross claimed access to for the ‘Cobain Unseen’ book, or that he used in relation to ‘Heavier Than Heaven’ – I can’t imagine that a guy who went from living in a one room apartment in Olympia behind the Pear Street house, then lived in hotels and temporarily rented apartments and so forth for most of summer 1991-late 1992, carted an unbelievably huge archive with him in a truck…Nor do I really believe that 1993/1994 was sufficient time to create a ‘vast’ archive of artwork though I happily believe he kept everything he could and had a remarkable memory for his projects. Potentially it suggests Cobain kept quantities of material with relatives and friends which has subsequently been centralised into a single archive – again, I’d want to hear more detail substantiating and explaining that…

…Then again…The early cuts of Live! Tonight! Sold Out! were built from video tapes Cobain had in Los Angeles and subsequently in Seattle. He clearly was accumulating video footage of Nirvana – I presume Geffen were supporting and assisting in this and that any local TV footage was copied to Geffen/Cobain also. That would align with Krist Novoselic’s 2009 comment:

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/no-more-unreleased-nirvana-songs-krist-novoselic-says-20090310

“There’s not going to be any new Nirvana records, what there is, is video. There’s a lot of video.” Novoselic also, apparently, spent the 1992 Australia tour with a brand new camcorder and is known to have taken one with him on earlier European tours. It suggests that someone, somewhere, was gathering all this material and it seems understandable that Brett would now have access to that.

The ‘200 hours’ of unreleased music and audio…That’s quite a lot of material…OK, rehearsals, home demos, copies of taped interviews, live recordings, radio broadcasts – and general mucking about with tape. Do I believe for a second that Brett has compared those tapes to what fans have been accumulating over the years and that it’s ‘unreleased’ compared to the bootleg archive? Nope. Do I believe he means compared to the stuff on official Geffen/Universal releases and archive projects for Nirvana? Sure. That’s a picky distinction but does hold down expectations here. 36 minutes is already Montage of Heck it would seem. After that the mind can run riot. Also, to return to Krist’s comment, we’re clearly looking at a lot of Cobain solo material versus a range of lo-fi Nirvana stuff. It sounds like the studio material has been truly scourged in the quest for anything worth releasing – heck, if the boombox demos could be released then it suggests there are no formal sessions left and little from the ‘late period’ (i.e., anytime 1991 onwards.) That would have implications in terms of sound quality and overall quality of what is contained with that blank number…

As for the 4,000 pages of writing…Don’t want to be too cynical – this sounds like an awesome film with heavy and deep research committed – but how are 4,000 pages of writing going to translate into a cinematic experience? And likewise, having read the Journals, what would another 4,000 pages of them reveal that wasn’t clear in the first volume a decade and a half ago? My feeling would be a lot of ‘nice to know not need to know’ – “oh, another draft of early lyrics for a song…How interesting…” I’m assuming cherry-picked lines from the writing will be used to add dialogue to the film, likewise that photos of particular pages will be used as click-bait in the media campaign, maybe down the line there’ll be a Journals II (This time…It’s Personal…) where those 4,000 pages might be better translated.

So, overall, cool news – expectations duly managed, questions I’m curious to understand the answers to and definitely sounds like a top class job being done by Mr. Morgen and all involved. Delighted. And lucky ol’ U.K…Cinema release? How nice!

http://www.radionz.co.nz/collections/under-the-influence/nirvana

February 9, 1992 – Auckland. Gotta love the extended riff intro to School (I can’t tell if it’s a loop by the radio station or actually what Cobain played on stage) – it reminds me of an old bootleg of Nirvana remixes I had. This has been floating around a while – it came out back in April and consists of interviews by Radio New Zealand National about this southern-most of Nirvana gigs.

Lots of neat details, few revelations – the stepping up of the venue as each one sold out, Cobain’s ropey condition by the time he arrived, the fact the band spent only 36 hours or so in the country because they were so determined to get him out and get him a break. Even the witnesses feel the band ‘only played 12 songs’…Which isn’t true but it seems they did race through it and get off. There’s no indication greatness was on stage.

There’s also an old poster on the website showing the original venue – a nice historical touch.

These recordings have been floating around for a while; October 1992, the peak of the Cobain’s siege mentality as Vanity Fair’s poison-pen letter had sparked the intervention of Child Welfare Services who removed Frances Bean Cobain from her parents at two weeks old so an investigation could take place regarding their drug usage and fitness as parents. Kurt and Courtney had to endure a guessing game of figuring out which ‘inside sources’ (what the rest of us would get to call ‘friends’) had made anonymous accusations against them – who could they trust? Relationships with Cobain’s closest friend – Krist Novoselic – had been rocky since early that year given a few disagreements between respective spouses – another link broken. And, being frank, Cobain was hitting a peak in his drug usage. While it’s pointless (and impossible – though potentially fun) to try and plot a calendar of ‘how high?’ or to argue he was OK on the basis of X or Y photograph or video footage, ultimately Kurt Cobain really did have a drug problem of sufficient scale that he had spent parts of the year in rehab and even greeted his own daughter’s birth having been fetched from there by his wife – not exactly perfect virtue. The weeks after the arrival of a child are a busy, tiring, fraught time for any set of parents – for these two, at this time, the media light, the pharmacology of the father, the mistrust of those around them…It added up.

All I feel is that it was sheer bad luck and misfortune for two U.K. journalists to walk into the middle of this environment where the slightest sign of intrusion could be deemed to have negative intent, or a traitorous edge. Victoria Mary Clarke tells her own tale and I’ve no desire to take her words from her so here she is:

http://vmcjournalism.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/my-adventures-with-kurt-and-courtney/

June 26, 1992 – it’s already going wrong. That’s the date of the Roskilde Festival. Denmark beat Germany in the European soccer championships so the whole nation was celebrating – Nirvana even agreed to go on an hour or two late because the audience wanted to see the match on the big screens on stage. Cobain met a Geffen-hired photographer for a quick ceremony handing over gold discs for sales of Nevermind in Denmark – he was happy, courteous, complimented the football result. It was a good show. He gave an interview that day, a little more edgy, a little more withdrawn – but, again, not particularly difficult. And somewhere in amidst it he’s had management kick this journalist out of the festival.

September 1992, out comes Vanity Fair – things kick off more deeply. It seems to be the news that Britt and Victoria have spoken to Lyn Hirschberg that provokes the final storm…36 minutes of vitrolic voicemails from various sources:

The Dave Grohl call is…Something I’d not checked before. Wow. Grohl calls claiming that he’s heard a rumour that they’ve slept together – he’s clearly unhappy, for whatever reason, he threatens legal action on top of the death threats from Kurt and the barrage from Courtney.

Then it gets truly surreal…Kurt’s aunt now calls up to demand that no material from her interview be used in the book – again, legal threats, a statement that the understanding is that the intended book is a hatchet job.

There’s a wider orchestration at work – multiple levels of attack coming down on the two journalists – calls from the couple at the centre seem to be leading to these reactions from other people, meanwhile the record company’s legal people and the Cobain’s private representatives are tackling the publishers in both U.K. and U.S. Full defence at play. Ultimate result is that a book never materialises – just an ugly incident.

Listening to it all is voyeuristic, for sure – don’t think I’ll listen to these again any time. The fact that Kurt calls sometime on the night of October 22 – early morning on October 23 doesn’t bode well for his condition, the tape is fascinating in the sense that more than the Sao Paolo performance in January 1993 or the post-overdose performance in July 1993 in New York, he’s visibly wasted. Nirvana are one week before the poor performance in Buenos Aires where Cobain is invisible except for the performance and brief backstage time before – he’s ill? Yeah…For sure.

The comments under the YouTube clips tend to be a bit of a ‘right/wrong’ battle at points with people taking sides. I’m not sure there’s a side to be taken here. The voicemails are vicious, unpleasant, unnecessary – it’s harassment, it’s threatening, it’s gross behaviour from both Kurt and Courtney. On the other hand, the scale of the threat to their family at that point, their love for one another and for their child, the situation they’re currently in – their terror, their rage, their misery is all understandable also. Of course we do live in a society governed by rule of law so that doesn’t justify extra-judicial intimidation but it makes their verbal violence comprehensible if not forgivable. I’m into reasons (why something happens and someone does something) not excuses (why something happens and therefore someone’s actions aren’t their fault.)

As far as Victoria and Britt…Again, similar splitting of the difference. Journalism by its very nature is intrusive – it’s meant to be. The bargain any artist makes with the media is that by giving away a certain amount of privacy they’ll receive a certain amount of benefit resulting from coverage. The individual artists draw their lines, journalists are independent and therefore entitled to explore, question, find other routes to clear understanding. The ‘quest for the truth’ doesn’t negate them receiving blame for the harm that the truth can cause. Revealing someone as a killer obviously hurts their family, their friends – but there’s a greater good at play. Music biography, a trickier field. Instinctively I’d hate it if the only biography permitted was the sugar-coated faux-honesty of artists telling their own tale – they’re entitled to try but I think most artists are flippant, deceptive, sometimes blind. We all are – it’s human to underplay or reinterpret one’s sins.

I can’t imagine Victoria or Britt gathered anything other than the truth about the situation around the Cobains; that Courtney Love had made herself a less than beloved figure long before meeting Kurt Cobain, that drugs were a major part of the scene around both people, that Cobain was on drugs throughout the pregnancy, that Courtney came off as soon as she knew but it’s hard to believe there wasn’t some blurring of early lines while still ignorant and still kicking. Revealing the views of others wouldn’t have been flattering, but wouldn’t have been dishonest either. The band’s lack of cooperation certainly didn’t help the situation – in a way it’s a shame they didn’t continue given Lime Lizard had followed Nirvana from their early days around the 1989 European tour, it may have been nice to see someone from the indie publishing world rather than the corporate music press create the first authorised biography of Nirvana.

End result? I think Victoria Clarke’s blog piece summarises things nicely. That it was grim on every front – that no one emerged untarnished or totally spotless. As a fan of Nirvana, therefore a fan of Kurt Cobain, I never want to turn admiration for someone’s creative works, or an attempt to understand a person one admires much of the time, into an application for sainthood (bleugh!) A recording like this is a good reminder that everyone has times they’re not all they are at their best – I wouldn’t wish you to see me at my worst either. It’s a grim recording, but a human one and a nice reply to the less balanced, more gushing end of Nirvana coverage and writing. A specific moment in time caught forever.