Archive for February, 2014

A lot of years ago I used to head to London with £100 pounds in my hand and haul myself round the second hand record shops. I’d usually have a list of records I wanted to hear or bands I wanted to uncover. Sometimes I would have to make choices, put stuff back, weigh up two items based on zero knowledge of the contents, just a vibe from the sleeve, from the script, from the song titles or from the associations that had led me to the artist’s name. Each item felt like gold because there was a limit, I could only have so much, I had to actively choose them – say it was ‘the one.’

A few years down the line, I decided I wanted to check out DC hardcore, stuff from the Dischord label – three months later I had about eight of the key albums gathered from online. Six months later I was bored. Suddenly I could get anything, from anywhere – so what did it matter? If I wanted constantly shifting musical wallpaper, well, its never been easier to lump barely chosen sounds into a pocket-sized device and shower the room with a vague something that might catch me for a minute but has that undynamic sluggish MP3 sound quality, or that exists on top of a raft of noises from whatever I’m really focusing on because when music can be acquired with so little energy, so little effort, it’s not like I’m committing to it in anyway. It bored me.

This past year, beyond rediscovering the joys of live music after a few years of definite drift, I’ve also realised how much more special music feels when it comes from someone I connect to. Because let’s face it, the world is full of music, it might be great for a day, a season, a lifetime, but we’re under no illusion there’s something truly unique about it anymore – there’s so much. What enlivens me and restores that glow, in my opinion, is when I can see and hear the effort and energy of an individual behind it. All fine and dandy but much to do with Nirvana? Well, my initial reason for getting in touch with Jesse Sterling Harrison was that he had been recommended to me by a band who played the Amnesty International show at Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts way back in April of 1990. Jesse was a friend of the various bands present and has gone onto his own musical expressions which i’ve been taking note of given the MP3s he’d sent me were pretty damn wicked.

I enjoy stripped down rock live but to hear these more developed songs, the Eastern tinged vibe, the layering of skilled drums, subtle guitar work – it made me want to hear more. Plus I’m intrigued to see the results, it’s something I’m willing to pay for, to contribute to, to see someone’s journey. I even upgraded the blog to allow me to add this MP3 file – I think it shows the direction, a blurring of genres, the recombining of elements into a greater whole. I’ve had it on repeat here.

I’ll leave the last word to Jesse, “…like your favorite confessional songwriter got a top-notch rock band with an amazing guitarist and made a rough concept album about anger and loss.”

More, give me more.

Photos from Cobain Day

Posted: February 21, 2014 in Nirvana News

Just a quick one, give The Daily World a look peoples.

All the best to the town of Aberdeen and all who attend the Kurt Cobain Day celebrations today, hope it goes really well! Gillian G. Gaar (who also has a cool new ebook on Smells Like Teen Spirit out — check it!) describes the events here:

So, was Kurt Cobain bothered by his birthdays? Certainly it’s noticeable that even if the week of his birthday found him on tour the band never played that day:

02/19/90 – The Mason Jar, Phoenix, AZ / 02/21/90 – Blue Max, Chico, CA
02/19/92 – Nakano Sunplaza, Tokyo, Japan / 02/21/92 – Pink’s Garage, Honolulu, HI
02/19/94 – Patinoires du Littoral, Neuchâtel, Switzerland / 02/21/94 – Palasport, Modena, Italy

It’s at least possible to say that in those three years Cobain spent his birthday either in one city or the other, or on the drive/flight between them. In 1993, the band had finished most of their playing for In Utero so actively took time out to celebrate Cobain’s birthday while in residence at the Cannon Falls, Minnesota studio of Steve Albini. Though four occasions do not make a trend, what can be said is that, even if by accident, Cobain never worked on his birthdays — maybe that’s a positive acknowledgement, taking a day off for it, maybe it’s a negative never wanting to associate a birthday with a creative act, that’s up for debate.

One way of considering the attitude toward birthdays is to expand the data pool a bit…What did the band do for Krist Novoselic’s birthday between 1987 and 1993? His birthday falls on May 16…Hmm…Again, they never play on his birthday, though they are somewhere in amidst the preparation for Nevermind on his birthday in 1991. The one time though that they’re actually touring around his birthday they do skip the date:

05/14/90 – The Garage, Denver, CO / 05/17/90 – The Zoo, Boise, ID

Nor did the band ever play a show, record or play a radio session on Dave Grohl’s January 14 birthday though, of course, for him we’re only looking at 1991 to 1994, four data points. For the record they don’t play on Chad Channing’s January 31 birthdays in 1989 or 1990 either. I think it’s all just coincidence given the limited number of data points and examining the three tours; February 1990, May 1990 and February 1994 doesn’t suggest a deviation from a trend either. So! It’s a glorious point of no answer today, but Cobain never played on his birthday.

Anyways, in terms of my own small marking of Kurt Cobain Day, I thought I’d simply give away my favourite chapter of the Dark Slivers book — it’s called Family Man. Click on the link, it’ll take you to a redundant new page where you can open the PDF and download.

Family Man

I’ve always found attempts to state a single uber-meaning for a Nirvana song fairly ludicrous given the disjointed writing methodology on display; most choruses have little relation to the verses around them, verses barely connect while the lines within a verse often flip focus. It doesn’t mean though that it was just impressionistic gibberish — compare it to Beck’s album Odelay where the lyrics consist of a gush of one-line/two-line images — Cobain’s work has a consistency of theme and image running across years if not necessarily within individual songs.

Rather than sinking into endlessly asking “what is In Bloom ABOUT, mannnnn?” I felt a better approach was to draw together the lyrics from Cobain’s three albums, plus Incesticide and the single/compilation tracks released during his lifetime and break them by theme to identify the way certain modes of expression persisted, how certain topics were tackled and how some subjects became more or less prevalent. Incidentally, as context, I believe Cobain wrote three types of song; story songs which declined and halted by 1990, character sketches which became ever more vague by the time of Oh the Guilt and Curmudgeon; leaving the mode he’s primarily known for which I call the abstract address, series after series of not intimately related points relayed to an unknown audience. I’ve hooked a few pages from the preceding chapter into it as well just to expand the number of funky tables.

Happy Kurt Cobain Day denizens of the musically obsessed world. Every best wish for your day!

I’ve muttered on about Lollapalooza before, this is just a very brief addition to the topic. I noted that Perry Farrell and the organisers hadn’t been asked about it. A few brief attempts to contact Mr F didn’t get far so I just popped a question on Twitter – land of those incapable of making an extensive or wide-ranging argument or luxuriating in a flow of words (a comment on the medium not Mr F I assure you – he’s a sharp guy!) Anyways, just a minor addition to the store of Nirvana knowledge but he did reply with the following:


Not a major addition, more a touch more chronology indicating that the band did accept – after one of their usual bursts of word play and teasing. I shouldn’t credit Cobain with all light plays on words but it does hint that he either was involved, or that he had allowed someone to go ahead and agree on his behalf even if he had only the slimmest intentions of going ahead with it. The silence is just fairly typical passive-aggressive North-West behaviour – best not to reply than to offend by saying something someone might not like or might come back on. It was suggested to me the other day that this is a fairly common characteristic of the area – a bit like how I was once told that the Japanese would rather move office and disconnect the number than say no to you on a phone call. As I’m British and therefore make weasling out of blunt honesty a core part of my average day I can definitely sympathise.

I’d simply been curious regarding what point in time the invitation had been made – this is still up for grabs. I’ve never been a fan of the idea that Cobain plotted his end over a lengthy period of time and I was wondering whether the invitation was made in late 1993 or whether the band received the invitation in the spell from February onwards when he seems at his worst. Ah well, nice there are always questions.

Even in amidst the peaks and troughs of his troubled final year, Kurt Cobain’s basic decency remained on display. Reacting to the news of the brutal rape and killing of Mia Zapata the band used their weight to ensure that there’d be a good audience for the benefit that allowed Mia’s friends to begin the private investigations into her death that ultimately led to finding the murderer.

After a crazy time in which band members and male friends were the obvious first suspects, during which the police investigators questioned the role played by whatever Mia happened to be wearing that day in her fate (for the record and though I’m sure it doesn’t need stating, rape is not a crime that relies on someone dressing for the occasion – it’s about power and opportunity. The physical vulnerability of the victim versus the physical strength of the attacker plus the availability of a suitably discreet venue are the key factors – the attractiveness or otherwise of an individual is why you date them not why one forces an unwanted sexual act on them. Anyways, I digress…) and nothing seemed to be moving. An awful lot of money, an awful lot of work went into solving the crime and it took over half a decade to reach a result. Simultaneously, the hopes and dreams of an up-and-coming group of musicians were broken; they lost a beloved friend and also their own day-to-day lives were irrevocably altered as the chance to play, tour, record and progress as a group (and as a job that gave them their living) was whipped away. It’s understandable that the entire incident was extremely wounding to those involved and that reprising it comes with pain that must be considered.

That’s all context though – I think I’ll let individuals at the heart of this speak for themselves.

Happy Friday comrades!

A fun and entertaining sideline presented to me by Jeremy Keene – thank you fella! At about the three minute mark of this neat little interview with Duff McKagan there’s a mention of the famous room at the Marco Polo Hotel. Duff points out the echo of a song by punk band GBH:

The thought therefore occured that maybe the room was wrong but there’s definitely no fifth floor or room 526 at the motel – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a knowing echo. Cobain’s work is strewn with puns on other words and twisted meanings. It’s an intriguing possibility that, even when at his lowest, there was room for a sardonic smile when it came to choosing the room.

I’ve mentioned before how the final months of Cobain’s life are filled with echoes of his past – that he seems to have been looking backwards – a 1984 punk track isn’t out of place at all. Examples? Jesus Don’t Want Me for a Sunbeam had been played only twice after its heyday in 1991 until it reappeared at MTV Unplugged; similarly Where Did You Sleep Last Night had cropped up only once or twice a year since 1989 before becoming a landmark TV performance for the band; in 1994 only two new songs featured in Nirvana set-lists but one was My Sharona by the Knack – a band Cobain had pointed to back in 1991-1992 as a comparison for Nirvana- while the other was My Best Friend’s Girl by the Cars, played at Nirvana’s last show and reputedly one of the first songs he ever learned; the suicide note reference to ‘dear Boddah’ tying to a childhood imaginary friend; calling his grandfather out of the blue, for the first time in ages, just to talk. It made sense too that key tour partners in Europe were his teenage favourites, the Buzzcocks, and perennial supporters, inspirations and Aberdeen buddies, the Melvins – his desire to support and see favourites was of course on display but was another part of this apparent cocoon of old comforts. The fact he mainly did it with music and with family is an indication of the twin poles of salvation he’d looked to.