Archive for December, 2013

I love Christmas – always a good reminder that I’ve been lucky enough to have a family consisting entirely of top-notch people I enjoy spending time with. Now! How did you kick-off January?

People underestimate the value of a finishing line and a starting line. Even though it’s artificial there has to be a point where something finishes so that as much as possible can be packed away – that word ‘closure’ applies to average everyday life as much as it does to crises and drama. The move from one year to the next allows at least the pretence of a fresh piece of paper on which to plot the course of the next year – it’s why gym attendance peaks in January, slowly declines to a mild bump just as summer starts, then declines all the way to the end of the year. It’s why the job market kicks into gear as organisations try to fill their vacancies and job-hunters get their motivation to keep trying.

What’s fun about the Nirvana stat posts (look in the left-hand column on the screen, scroll down to the Categories – they’re another way to find/see the 310 posts buried on this blog) is the line between revealing what isn’t perhaps so obvious with the naked eye versus potentially inventing something via numbers and seeing something that isn’t there. Great fun! On top of that, often what I’m seeking to reveal isn’t some earth-shattering new idea, it’s simply a confirmation that Kurt, Krist and Dave (et al.) were normal people and as prone as anyone else to routine, habit, the unconscious-making of patterns in life. That’s different from the proposal that there were deeply considered and plotted diagramatic masterplans – intentional behaviour does not necessarily mean conscious choices.

Nirvana, I feel save saying, were as sensitive as anyone to the desire to kick-start each year – the difference between them and the majority of us is that their focus was music so the way to set the year off at a flying pace was to commence with a musical endeavour. Can I prove it?

Well…Yeah. Over the years in which the band was in existence, here’s the pattern of which months they recorded in and how many times over that period:

Recording in January

1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1994 all commenced with a January recording session – 1992 being the only calendar year exception. There’s a similar reinforcement of this point in terms of how many songs Nirvana recorded if examined month-by-month:

Songs By Month

I even allocated all songs recorded during the Bleach sessions in December 1988/January 1989 to December and still Nirvana recorded nearly twice as many songs in January as in any other month. Just because I enjoy muddying the waters of my own thoughts though – here’s the pattern of number of days spent in studio as best as is known:

Days in Studio Month By Month

On the one hand, it shows how a single odd result can skew data when working with small quantities – the Nevermind sessions of May 1991 were the lengthiest Nirvana ever indulged in, an outlier, and they make things look different…However, look again at the overall tendency toward winter working – December, January, February. Also, it points out that though Nirvana did persistently and consistently head in to record in January, they never embarked on a major recording session in that month – May comes first on this chart because of the Nevermind session, February comes second because of the In Utero session. January was their month to get warmed up, to set things in motion, not necessarily to finalise end-product.

Examining the songs recorded during each month’s recording sessions that point becomes fairly clear. From the January 1988 recording session only two of the tracks recorded made it onto Bleach and only because they couldn’t be improved on. Prior to Incesticide only a couple of other tracks were tossed out as compilation filler. January 1990’s Sappy was famously abandoned, of the seven songs from January 1991 only Aneurysm and Even in his Youth were officially released but only on a single, January 1993 only yielded Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol as the European bonus track for In Utero and January 1994 didn’t emerge until that glorious posthumous day not much shy of a decade later.

So! There we go…Start your 2014 the Nirvana way – start something in January. Go forth and make it so…

Strewth December goes by on spiked trainers…

Highlights of the year?

Just found this up online – the red bass guitar? That’s Pat – once upon a time member of Yellow Snow, one of the first bands to ever play alongside Nirvana way back at the Community World Theater, on drums is Bob – a charming and mellow fella – and closest to us is John Purkey formerly of Machine and Subvert among others who was queried by Kurt Cobain as a potential Nirvana drummer and who set up the show at Legends in 1990 with Melvins, Nirvana and the Rhino Humpers. My highlight of the year was sitting in the basement you see on this video watching the band play for me. I was looking for my song of the year, Dharma, by Sleeper Cell which I finally have on CD-R (package arrived the other day) but found this clip instead.

Other good musical moments? Adam Harding’s take on Do Re Mi was wicked too – likewise the dreamy Dumb Numbers debut. The Soundgarden Screaming Life/Fopp reissue finally emerging was nice to see. There’s a band called Sam Kazakgascar who may count as the release that most surprised this year – I wasn’t sure what to expect but this was genuinely different stuff, loved it.

Where next in general? Well, here’s hoping the Cobain twentieth anniversary year features something of note. I’ve a few plans of my own but I’ll just keep plugging away at them and tell all once I’ve reached the necessary critical mass – hate talking about things before they’ve come true just in case they don’t…We’ll see.

Have a great Christmas and catch y’all soon.

Statue

This entire blog is a hobby, not a job (despite the hundreds of hours that have gone into it.) Some Internet commentators seem to feel they have an absolute right to say whatever they want, however they want, to whomsoever they wish…I’d say that having that right and being intelligent with it are very different things and I’d rather be smart than right. That means that though I make observations on things related to the overall theme of this blog (i.e., the band Nirvana) I don’t claim to hold absolute truths, nor to be making authoritative and dictatorial judgments – I can be wrong and I’m very happy to say so. I believe I do have a right to comment on any and all publically available information, art, music, ideas, concepts, people, etc., plus the right to defend those comments and views if I believe them to be true, but I don’t have to slavishly follow anyone’s claims or diktats because everything here is written independently – I report only to myself…Therefore I simply try to adhere to the rule that if I get something wrong, or something was/is untrue, then I correct and make it clear and make a sincere and earnest apology. I think it’s a sign of adulthood being able to take criticism and bow one’s head, raise one’s hand and say “yeah, that was me, sorry.”

Anyways! Soooo…A lady called Jennifer Stewart very kindly commented on the blog post from way back in September regarding the Kurt Cobain statue in Aberdeen and she has a very welcome perspective given “this artist…is my mum. A beautiful soul…”

Jennifer explained that Krist Novoselic has since muted his initial discomfort with the statue and has indicated his appreciation of her mother’s efforts – that people acting creatively is the crucial piece. She also states that there were negotiations to attempt to place the statue in the Aberdeen Museum of History but they couldn’t reach an accomodation on the subject of what do with any revenue from memorabilia/postcards featuring the statue; ““she wanted to work a deal for free memberships for kids at our local YMCA.”

(As a sidebar, you note the giant fan directly in front of the statue? It’s a real quality move – Cobain apparently played the majority of his In Utero tour shows with a giant fan aimed directly at his head – you see in Live and Loud when his air blows back off his face? That’s it right there. A nice lil’ bit of authenticity.)

She further pointed out that the artist has a statue “now deemed a United States public monument in Fort Totten in Queens” (I believe this one? http://www.monumentsandmemorials.com/report.php?id=1895) which forms a tribute to the firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11. Jennifer explained the artist made an attempt to donate relics from Station House 10 to create a tribute within the museum in Aberdeen but, again, they didn’t reach the desired agreement – ah well. So! That’s something fresh and interesting and I hope I’ve shown due respect to the artist and to Jennifer.

Incidentally on a nice rainy day, this Aussie gentleman took a few more shots of Aberdeen sights, thought it might be interesting to ya:

http://deanoinamerica.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/kurt-cobains-aberdeen/

Also, it turns out that Aberdeen High apparently offers a Kurt Cobain Visual Arts Scholarship won in 2012 by Kristen Carson (yay Kristen! Well done!) and offered ever since 1994. The official description is that the applicant must be a “senior student who has taken an interest in visual art – does not need to be an art student – Must submit 8-10 ORIGINAL works of art – one medium only or a combination of 2D and 3D.” I can imagine Mr. Cobain actually, maybe, just about, being pleased that he might be remembered for his art as much as for music…

http://thedailyworld.com/sections/news/local/aberdeen-high-awards-scholarships.html

http://loudwire.com/kurt-cobain-nearly-banned-dave-grohl-nirvana-unplugged-concert/

Conversational treats from MTV To we faithful denizens of the Internet age… My feeling is that the description of Grohl nearly not playing is overstated – can you honestly imagine a prominent TV performance of Nirvana taking place with one third (or one quarter depending on your rating of Mr Smear’s position – to be fair, he was pretty well a full member at least soon after this) of the band absent…? Kurt Cobain was a man newly enlightened to the intrusive tittle-tattle of the media and how things might appear and what people might say to such a public division. It’s just a guess but I’m not sure it’d be worth the potential disruption to peace and quiet.

What it does reveal, however, is that even at this late stage Cobain was concerned about how the band looked and sounded to an intense level of detail. While his desire to spend time in studio had completely disintegrated, he was certainly paying a keen eye to business when the band had to make it happen. That awareness of public attention also occured at the Live n’ Loud performance – another well choreographed, carefully chosen piece of work. Getting his drummer new sticks was vital.

Similarly, it indicates his deep awareness of the activities of ‘HIS’ drummers in the desire to soften Grohl’s sound even if it meant doing so against his will – it shows a degree of ownership over the performance of the drummers that had continued throughout his career. He had dictated the terms of involvement to his first couple of drummers (excluding Dale Crover), had criticised and denigrated Chad Channing’s performance then finally found a drummer with the muscle he required…Until that muscle and heft of performance was a problem.

Still, I can’t imagine the talk of dispensing with Grohl for the night was more than that – talk, grumpy mutterings…There’s a world of things said that never happened.

http://blankonblank.org/interviews/kurt-cobain-on-identity/

This floated around about a month ago, generally focused around a single quotation “I even thought that I was gay.” The problem being that it’s not the crucial point of what he’s discussing.

To be gay, to be homosexual, is specifically an expression denoting sexual orientation and the romantic and/or sexual linkages resulting from it; for Cobain to be gay would have meant describing himself as romantically or sexually attracted to men. He doesn’t do this. The full statement is “I even thought that I was gay, that it might be the solution to my problem, although I never experimented with it.”

This section of the conversation was an extension of an overall discussion of his family difficulty, his difficulties fitting in at school, his difficulties forming social bonds to other males, his hatred of the way women are treated by a society that continues to promote misogyny. What he’s discussing is teenage identity rather than sexuality. His rejection of the traditional male formulation of self – i.e., expression via sports, via exclusively male activity, via the desired or actualised subjugation of women and a sense that they’re just another form of sporting achievement – is what leads to the “there’s something different about me” teenage blues in the case of Mr. Cobain.

What’s interesting though is his idea that self-defining as gay would have been an improvement in his circumstances – like receiving a pass allowing him to opt-out of the norms he was rejecting; defining oneself sexually in order to escape a sense of being in some way warped and being attacked for it. Of course he retreats from this – being known as an openly gay male would, I imagine, have been a fairly hazardous experience. It shows a distinct shortcoming in Cobain’s knowledge and understanding of homosexuality that he seems to be adopting his ‘abusers’ beliefs as his own – they think that his absence of desire for traditional male pursuits and attitudes makes him gay and teen Cobain, instead of saying that they were wrong and he obviously wasn’t gay it was simply that he didn’t agree with them, he says “maybe they’re right.” It’s a telling indication of the internalised values Cobain had learnt growing up and had been unable to shed at the point in time he was discussing.

It’s also a curious indication of his views on the purpose of identity; identity to be adopted as a veil to keep others away and to avoid being criticised. The idea is one in which being gay is a way for him to be ignored, to not be thought of as simply weird or wrong. Later in life he’s described as such a pleasant, decent and funny guy by those he knows but is often considered taciturn and socially withdrawn by others who only casually come into contact with him – again, becoming known for this allows him to evade and avoid exposure and discomfort. Similarly, toward the last year or so of his life, having discovered that withdrawing just led to increased intrusion into his private affairs – he tries the same thing, to adopt a positive identity and to say positive things, again, as a way of simply keeping people at a distance from his real thoughts and feelings.

In the case of teen Cobain, rather than arguing for the virtues and value of his beliefs and way of being – it seemed an easier solution, at least at one point, to just say “yeah, I’m gay, whatever you say.” For later Cobain there was still this tendency to use identity as a form of hiding.