A pause to give credit where it’s due, http://www.shapedbox.blogspot.co.uk featured an excellent range of photos of the houses and I have used a number of them for the collage above. Credit for the Pear Street photo must go to Diamond Brooke and her Flickr feed – again, worth a look for Nirvana fans.
Over the past two days we’ve been dividing Kurt Cobain’s life down into time spent in specific ‘homes’. Naturally I accept that a lot of what I do on this site is simply aggregate existing data but I’m often stunned by the picture that results simply by loading data into a single view.
My reasons for compiling the data, initially, was that I wanted to attempt (as best as possible) to correlate Kurt Cobain’s song-writing to where he was while writing. In the kind of coincidence to gladden the heart of any data chimp (a friend once bought me a t-shirt reading “I love data” repeated over and over — thanks Shane!) the picture that emerges is remarkably clear.
To the best of my ability, in the Over the Edge chapter of Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide, I’ve tried to pin down, to periods of six months, roughly when Kurt Cobain wrote various songs. The approximate result is as follows:
I’ve not included the Fecal Matter songs (e.g., Spank Thru or Downer), nor have I included Kurt Cobain’s solo experiments (i.e., Montage of Heck) simply because it’s hard to pin down when they were made with any degree of guesswork. The only changes I’ve made since the book are to include Opinion in 1H 1990 and shift Tourette’s to 2H 1989. When compared to Kurt Cobain’s living arrangements, however the results are emphatic:
While money may still have been hard to come by during the years Kurt Cobain spent in Olympia, it truly was his artistic home. Given how long he spent in that location it’s no surprise that he wrote more songs there but the sheer quantity is overwhelming:
Dividing the figures by time spent in the location doesn’t alter that picture of dominance:
While making clear that Kurt Cobain’s peak occurred in Olympia, there is some fudging involved that I can only acknowledge but do not have sufficient information to fix. If I could untangle Kurt Cobain’s living arrangements from January 1992 until January 1994, it wouldn’t erase the overall picture but it would make clearer whether, for example, the Carnation house permitted a real focus on writing or whether most of the work was done while running around hotels and temporary accommodation with Courtney. Similarly, the two songs written in the second half of 1992, I’ve noted as Curmudgeon and Talk to Me (based on live data) but Curmudgeon at least might more properly belong earlier in 1991, I can’t prove it. The dominance of the Olympia spell may be even more pronounced given Kurt moved there in April 1987 so my estimates, based on six month periods, don’t correspond perfectly — 114 ½ Pear Street may filch a song or two from the previous eight months spent in the Melvins’ practice space and at 1000 ½ E. Second Street.
The first spell of relative stability Kurt Cobain had enjoyed since he was a child seemed to allow him the space and time to write and create. Tracy’s willingness to support him also meant he didn’t have to divide his time quite so much between work and music — though she, very reasonably, came to resent him sponging off her it did have a beneficial effect on his core pursuit. Similarly it can’t be underestimated that Krist Novoselic provided Kurt a steady and dependable musical collaborator reducing the impact of changing drummers so often and ensuring ideas could be turned into full work relatively swiftly. Kurt was surrounded by beneficial circumstances thanks in large part to the individuals he could now rely on.
My ultimate thought on the ‘meaning’ of all this information is that the place of greatest veneration for any Nirvana fan shouldn’t be the house at 171 Lake Washington Boulevard East. The place where the majority of Nirvana’s music was created, where Kurt Cobain truly lived as a creative soul, was at the unassuming and unglamorous property at 114 ½ Pear Street, Olympia between April 1987 and July 1991. To my mind, celebrating the place that gave the safe cocoon needed to build something is of far more importance and significance than the barely lived in site where he chose to tear everything down.