Archive for the ‘After In Utero – The Final Year 1993-1994’ Category

My hangovers have become two day extravaganzas. One day of physical pain then a second day of general emotional vibes and not quite being with it, motivation down, self-criticism up. Apparently this is quite common. Partly it’s age, partly it’s because I don’t drink as often as I used to so my body just isn’t used to it – plus not drinking often means it’s possible to see the depressive effect of alcohol for what it is. Alcohol in itself is a pure substance, but we consume it usually in adulterated forms and imprecisely varied amounts so the body is facing an array of chemical onslaughts. Couple that with the impact of body temperature, pre-existing mood and psychological status, physical health, body mass, efficiency of internal organs, whether one is drinking stood up or sat down, sleep patterns, quantity and/or type of food consumed with it, whether one drinks water…The impact of alcohol in a laboratory can be tested to derive a scientific rule or equation but loose in society it becomes a conundrum of infinite complexity. Most of us have experienced it; the morning after a booze-soaked outing but somehow we’ve survived, or the couple of pints on the way home that somehow leaves the head buzzing the whole of the next day – or the friend who downs beer with abandon but needs carrying home as soon as they touch shots.

I’m always struck that people often have difficulty dealing with ambiguity; in the case of Cobain I’m always struck by people studying photos, looking at video footage, reading observations from others and claiming that the reality of his addiction wasn’t all it was made out to be because he was fine on this occasion or that. As I’m sure most people actually do realise on some level, the fact the impact upon him varied shouldn’t come as a surprise. The fact that in July 1993 he overdosed sometime in the period immediately before going on and was still able to play indicates that he was remarkably functional drug addict able to sing and play guitar despite being undoubtedly under the influence and probably not in anything close to a decent state. On the other hand, The Jesus Lizard have said before that it wasn’t exactly a virtuoso performance – he phoned it in. Not such a disaster that people talk about it in the way they do the January 16th show in Sao Paolo but still a zombified human being. It was both things at once – amazing stamina and well-practised capability, drug-induced sluggishness and lack of energy.

Examining a video and catching behavioural changes resulting from drug use might be valid, but the only thing that could be told from a photo would be skin damage and/or weight gain/loss. Similarly, the indication of off-kilter movement or speech on a video says that at that point in time someone might be having trouble…But it doesn’t extend to suggesting that three days later that was still their ongoing condition – it captures a moment not a trend or a pattern. The video and camera doesn’t lie, people are just asking far too much of it if they expect it to tell all about an individual. The functioning of his internal organs, the chemical impact on his brain, on fluid levels, on lung capacity, on heart rate or vision – none of this can be told without a close up examination.

To make a wider statement about his holistic condition across a period of time means combining evidence and here the evidence is very clear; witness reported overdoses, statements regarding drug use or purchase, photos indicating skin damage (take a look at the shots from Paris in 1994 where makeup was required to cover what had happened to his face), video clips indicating impacted motion and performance, hospitalisation, self-reported usage, the independent decision to seek treatments, reported physical pains and issues that may or may not have been linked to drug use. There’s no debate, given the span of time over which these sources are available, that there was a committed ongoing drug habit of varying intensity with spells of relatively controlled or intermittent usage and periods of heavy debilitating and incapacitating usage. There’s an expectation – born of a focus on worst case scenarios and imagery that sticks in the mind – that he should look like a Nancy Reagan approved dessicated skeleton, preferably with damaged teeth and eyes rolled back. He never did. In some images it’s clear that at age 26 Cobain had grown into his looks, in others he’s looking pretty rough – no one image can tell the tale and there’s no single pattern or path that could be observed in something as blunt as an image.

As human beings in a rapidly moving world, we make mental snapshots that allow us to evaluate and respond at pace; we rarely assess our fellows wholly or completely. Common statements that always make me twitch are “he didn’t look/act like a (insert choice here – pedophile, mass murderer, terrorist, spree killer, serial cheat, fraudster)” as if anything other than a tiny minority of individuals fall into the required image. It’s particularly lunatic because all those items are legally created and contextual descriptions – in a society with no legal age limit for sexual activity there’s no such thing as illegal and therefore immoral activity with a child, in a society that accepts killing in certain situations even mass murder doesn’t mean one wouldn’t invite them for dinner, meanwhile the ability of respectable individuals in smart clothing to egregiously enrich themselves seems to be a boom industry because people judge the clothing, personal grooming, accent and presentation rather than any awareness of internal intent or objective.

The result is statements like “I don’t understand why they’re unhappy – I mean, they’re rich/beautiful/successful/powerful/loved…Ad infinitum.” Again, easy external markers are used as a substitute for any knowledge of the internal emotional and/or psychological condition of an individual. It’s like saying of someone who dies of cancer – “but they looked so healthy,” – our position as external observers of one another gives us no ability to glance inside to that individual’s personal measures of success, personal frustrations or desires. In order to be able to function as a social order, in other words to understand and judge or react to status, position and our potential relationship to an individual, we substitute the things that we can measure at a glance; style, demeanour, brands, employment status and so forth. None of these things show us what the person might be like one minute to a next but they’re the nearest we can get in the quick-study contact most of us experience with one another day-by-day.

In the case of Cobain, he didn’t need to look like a drug addict to be one. And being chemically or psychologically dependent on pharmaceuticals didn’t make him a less moral or less decent person – nor a less functional one. Just as one’s morality exists independent of what one eats for dinner, so did Cobain’s. Anyways, sorry! Afternoon rant over!

For the record, the only thing I’ve ever found truly effective against a hangover is how much water I consume WHILE drinking – I used to drink water afterwards when I made it home but too much at that point disrupted sleep and so forth. Avoid mixing – for it is the devil’s work!!

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Room 226

Courtesy of Mr Mitch Holmquist, a series of interior shots of Room 226 of the Marco Polo Motel as it stands today. Thanks Mitch! The guy is a mine of Nirvana-related/State of Washington-related knowledge.

Room 226_3

I strolled past way back in September when visiting the North West but never popped inside. It’s known among Nirvana circles simply because it’s one of the final places Kurt Cobain was seen alive. Naturally it’s changed over the years but gives a fair sense of the room – its a motel room, I doubt it was any more thrilling twenty years ago. That’s the most jarring thing perhaps – multi-millionaire rock star at peak of his fame, mansion by the waters just a 45 minute drive away, instead he’s sitting round in a blank little box of a room, maybe gazing out on the parking lot view, otherwise looking at nothing.

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And actually, to be fair, it looks pretty nice! Given the cost of a hotel in Central Seattle, staying here, on one of the main bus routes back into the centre (the bus ride out took me 15 minutes or so back in September – service seemed really regular and reliable), within walkable distance of centre (the walk toom me maybe an hour to head back as far as the Paramount), with decent facilities and a clean room…Nice! Frankly, beyond the historical (and slightly ghoulish) Cobain connection I reckon the Marco Polo Motel looks extremely pleasant.

Room 226_1

It’s also what I like about U.S. history compared to European history. The fact we built stone castles and cathedrals over our sites of interest sometimes makes European history seem less day-to-day or real – it’s all too excessive in a way, the life of normal people wiped away and replaced by the actions and relics of those with the power and wealth to create enduring temples.

Room 226_2

In the U.S., so many more of the historical sites are surprisingly ordinary and examining something at this close range – the life of an individual who’ll still have a place in legend in fifty years time or more – it’s still possible to see how simple and everyday it all was.

Room 226_4

Kurt Cobain reminds me that beyond the excess portrayed upon TV and film screens and via celebrity-obsessed rags, the rich and super-rich ultimately live nothing more than a more polished and sunnier version of reality. Their hotel rooms might be a bit nicer – but how much ‘nicer’ can something truly be? I stayed in a seven star hotel once – it was just a hotel in the end, anonymous living.

Room 226_5

Someone in the comments at one point asked my thoughts on Do Re Mi – and certainly as the last known Cobain original it’s impossible to look at the song without considering the background circumstance of the time and what would come next…

In terms of the apparent facts about the song, it’s a wonderful end to the Cobain saga simply because so little is known about it. What’s it really called? It might be Do Re Mi (a fair guess given Cobain’s liking for children’s TV if its an echo of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical number from the sound of music) or it might be Dough Ray Me (referring to a comic book series as described here; http://shutuplittleman.com/history.php?idd=19) or it might be Me & My IV (apparently scribbled on a napkin according to Courtney Love)…Basically there’s no definitive name so call it whatever you like.

Likewise, there’s no facts about what it was intended for; the rumoured Lollapalooza EP release is the only official upcoming outlet for it but there’s no information whatsoever if there was ever substance to that idea. That would leave Do Re Mi as one of those Nirvana’s that drifted until a purpose was found for them. Alternatively, there’s the rumours of intended collaboration with Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and some people point to the overall mellow style of the song and the deviation in vocal style to push that possibility. Again, it’s a moot point – there’s no answer.

Furthermore, arguments about Cobain’s next musical direction can continue uninterrupted forevermore given there’s no indication that Do Re Mi’s acoustic approach was the way the song was intended to stay. There’s plentiful evidence by now that even the most raucuous Cobain compositions (Sliver, Very Ape for example) often began life as muted sounding home acoustica. His own comments revealed a desire to go in a variety of direction and on the last known (but still unheard and unreleased) version of the song Cobain played drums instead of guitar which neatly keeps everyone guessing.

What is known is that as well as the bedroom demo found on With the Lights Out (and therefore recorded sometime in the twenty-two days in January 1994 during which Nirvana was not out on tour or Cobain was not definitely occupied) there’s a later version recorded during the fifteen unoccupied days in March with Pat Smear and Eric Erlandson. It’s a possibility that a third version may exist recorded during a March 25, 1994 basement jam with Pat Smear. It’s also clear that, given the comprehensiveness of With the Lights Out, Do Re Mi is one of only two songs Cobain definitely wrote between the end of the In Utero recording sessions and his demise a full year later.

That’s what I love the most about this song as a concluding entry in the Cobain catalogue; it’s an open-end, an uncertainty.

Vocally though, I’d argue its a disquieting support for the idea that there wasn’t much life left in Mr. Cobain. Many people like his falsetto vocal – I would agree with them – yet I’d also point to the broken and strained voice displayed, there’s very little power displayed, held notes break all over the place, it sounds like his voice isn’t warmed up or that he’s a man just risen from his bed. This has a charm all its own but there’s a sense of exhaustion carried in his voice. I’m not declaring that he was a vanquished force, I’m more a believer that this was a man who wasn’t doing much with his private time beyond shooting up and sleeping. It’s still a beautiful vocal performance and truly a different approach to the use of his beautiful voice – I can’t tell if that’s a reaction against yet another element of his musical persona that had devolved into a stereotype or a brief experiment. Again, the fact that this is the only identified or even claimed Cobain original mentioned in discussion of the March jams, and that he did choose to practice it, suggests to me that he wasn’t hiding material from Pat or Eric, this was simply all he had left to work out.

Musically, the song has some attractive melodies delivered with a forceful thwacking of the strings that makes me think there was already an electric ideal in mind – he’s really driving the strings and its aggressive build is disguised by the skeletal recording style and high-pitched vocals. Again and again there are lashed chords that crash through the song, whether on the bridge just before the 3 minute mark (and again in the outro) or in the lead into the chorus. It doesn’t, however, support the idea that he was able to pull away from the verse-chorus-verse mode of song-writing he took such issue with. He placed great emphasis on the tiredness of that song-writing model and on guitar music in general yet here he is still playing it out toward the end of his career. It had become his default setting for how he thought about songs and their structure.

Finally, lyrically, I’m going to cut here from one of the final chapters of the Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide book which you can find under the About tab of this blog:

Listening to You Know You’re Right (acoustic) or Do Re Mi what’s striking are the prominent lyrics that focus on sleeping and dreaming; Kurt’s lyrical inspiration barely got these two songs out of bed. When it does though his themes went no further than opiates, medication, an emotional state that’s either numb or cold as ice next to a series of blanket refusals; “I will never,” “I could never,” “I won’t.” This isn’t a man with many ties left to a world outside his head or one looking forward positively.

That’s what strikes me most forcefully about what are, in each case, beautiful lyrics. In neither one is there a world existing outside the head of the narrator. This wasn’t uncommon in Kurt Cobain’s work, many of his lyrics were opinions or views rather than external features or landscapes, but usually in his prior work there are plentiful links to events that were occuring around him even if they were suitably veiled. I see no reason to believe that Cobain had deviated from the writing practice that had come to dominate since around 1990 (again, I talk about the three main modes in which he wrote – my theory – in the Dark Slivers book so I won’t recap) and therefore no reason to believe that these two songs aren’t showing what he saw around him in which case its one cold and barren landscape peppered with negatives, with resistance or (in the case of the full Nirvana version of You Know You’re Right) submission…It doesn’t lead me to believe there was more to the life of Kurt Cobain in 1994 than cocooned hiding. Do Re Mi is beautiful, a gorgeous song that wears it rough edges like a backwoods’ princess, but hardly a celebration of the joys of spring or a life filled with either humanity, fellowship or a lust for more.

Someone on LiveNirvana (www.livenirvana.com) kindly shared the reference from Rolling Stone magazine (June 16, 1994) stating:

Despite increased demand for Nirvana songs in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, the band’s label, Geffen Records, recently chose propriety over profits. It scrapped two Nirvana projects in the works: a third single from In Utero, ‘Pennyroyal Tea,’ and a CD-5 to be released during this summer’s Lollapalooza tour, on which Nirvana were expected to perform. An album and a video documenting the band’s appearance on MTV Unplugged (the album reportedly including songs that never made the telecast) were under discussion, but Ray Farrell of Geffen’s sales department says it’s ‘too sensitive a time’ to consider releasing it. (A bootleg recording of the Unplugged telecast is already circulating.)”

The quotation confirms that there were indeed plans for Nirvana to capitalise on the Lollapalooza tour that was to take place that year from July 7 to September 5 with a new EP. The proposed tour EP would have been the third time Nirvana capitalised on a tour in such a way following the Blew EP of 1989 (intended for their first European tour) and the Hormoaning EP of 1992 (intended for their first Asia/Pacific tour).

The most significant difference, however, was that in 1994 the archive of potential songs for inclusion was threadbare. In 1989 the band had still had to return to the studio to kick-out a couple of new originals despite having a number of unreleased leftovers most of which would eventually appear on Incesticide in 1992. In 1992 meanwhile, for the Hormoaning EP, Nirvana had scraped together two previous released single tracks then appended material from a BBC radio session to flesh out the release. At the start of 1994, the band hadn’t been on radio since November 1991 and in terms of completely finished and polished originals had nothing that was less than a few years old.

The belief has, therefore, always been that the January 1994 sessions at Robert Lang Studios were about cobbling together a song or two ready for whatever further releases might be needed in 1994-1995 after the release of the Pennyroyal Tea single, with the EP the prime beneficiary. My issue, however, is that there’s never been any confirmation of that statement.

Examining the session leads to ambiguities. There was apparently no pressure at all in January to finish anything completely; You Know You’re Right being the only song to emerge in arguably complete form. An interview with Pat Smear found at the Nirvana Fan Club does feature Cobain telling Smear that he’d be able to overdub his guitar onto the recording but that still could suggest either that, yes, You Know You’re Right was finished and just needed mixing and the added track, or that Cobain was being polite to the new guitarist. The feeble results of the session are generally deemed to be a consequence of Cobain’s essential uncertainty whether to continue as part of Nirvana at all and that seems right but this session is still a rarity in that so little was accomplished; the equivalents would be the full session spent on Sappy in 1990 or the abandoned instrumental of Frances Farmer will have her Revenge on Seattle from 1992. Nirvana, if something was needed imminently, tended to turn up the goods.

Also, it’s unclear when Nirvana were first invited to perform at Lollapalooza and, therefore, when the EP idea started rolling around. Certainly it was on the agenda by March 1994 but were both the invitation and the EP idea mooted before the end of January? It’s unclear and, again, it seems a stretch to suggest that the Robert Lang Studios session, already booked in late 1993, was repurposed to prepare for a Lollapalooza EP so soon (potentially) after receiving the invite.

Instead, a more realistic view of the January 1994 studio session was that it was about getting the band playing again in a creative sense — actually trying new stuff rather than just repeating material on stage ad infinitum. In that case though, with no recent radio performances, with no more obvious and recent unreleased and complete original Nirvana songs, it would suggest that the Lollapalooza EP could only really be either a live CD or a rip from the MTV Unplugged show. Yet, on that last point, the Rolling Stone quotation seems to suggest the latter was under consideration as a totally separate project so what’s left that could have made up this EP?

The answer, I believe, lies in remembering the distribution of Nirvana’s singles. There had been no singles from In Utero released directly in the U.S. therefore only Verse Chorus Verse (Sappy) and I Hate Myself and I Want to Die on The Beavis and Butthead Experience had made it to U.S. audiences. Lollapalooza, as a U.S. only tour at that time was an opportunity to gather together the single tracks Marigold and M.V., plus I Hate Myself and I Want to Die (also a B-side on the Pennyroyal Tea single) and Verse Chorus Verse into a single release to an audience that had not previously had easy access to these songs. That would have annulled any pressure on Nirvana to re-enter the studio any time soon in 1994, would have meant they didn’t need to waste whatever new material they came up with (given they had so little and were doing so little together) on an EP and would have had a genuine value to a 1994 U.S. audience.

Today’s thought was sparked by a gentleman from Canada called Greg, all thanks to him not only did he purchase a copy of Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide today but he made me realise something blindingly obvious I’d been missing (I’m sure most of you spotted it.)

I’ve rambled endlessly about the chances of missing Kurt Cobain demos from 1993-1994 (re: don’t hold your breath for anything in 1994, see the early edition of the Dry as a Bone sample chapter contained in the About tab of this site and taken from the Dark Slivers book – https://nirvana-legacy.com/about/.) I’ve also stated that barring a few tweaked versions, a few alternative takes, the odd jam (Sappy ’91, Hairspray Queen ’89, January ’94) there’s very few hopes of much in the studio outtakes category – if the In Utero Deluxe does bring together the 1992 In Utero demos from Laundry Room Studios and Word of Mouth Productions then it’s done. That’s left me with the feeling that truly interesting material that hasn’t seen official release exists in two categories; Nirvana rehearsals and Kurt Cobain home demos.

In the latter category I’ve accidentally always wrapped in an entire sub-category; Kurt Cobain collaborations with Courtney Love. Over the years Courtney has been a source for bootleggers of rare material, has played songs on radio shows a long while back, has mentioned unknown songs in interviews with names that aren’t known from other sources – with the exception of the increasingly easily available Fecal Matter demo, Courtney is the most likely source of something fresh. Gratitude to the LiveNirvana site which presently lists the following known or potential Kurt/Courtney tracks;

CourtneyLove-KurtCobain Potential Collaborations

While the quality of material that has become visible so far is of mixed standard to say the least – the Hole contributions from Cobain are as wasted and ephemeral as he may have ever sounded on record, Stinking of You isn’t a song it’s a shred of an idea – there’s still more material potentially from this source than any other. In total, on top of home work with just Cobain and Love together, there’s a total of five known practices (Hole in January ’93, Hole in October ’93, Cobain/Love/Erlandson sometime in ’93, Cobain/Love/Grey/Bjelland sometime in ’93, Cobain/Love/Schemel in early ’93) featuring Cobain with Courtney and others – more practices and jams than he engaged in with his Nirvana comrades during the 1993-1994 period. Heck, the much vaunted 1994 basement demos with Pat and Eric perhaps rightfully belong to this category also.

What’s striking is the absence of any acknowledgement of this work on the With the Lights Out box-set. It suggests a determination on the part of Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl to ensure that the name Nirvana meant the true band, plus Kurt alone, with a refusal to accept his collaborations with their DGC sister band or its denizens as any part of the official tale. While that’s a fair approach to the Nirvana legacy it isn’t a full reflection of the Cobain legacy anymore than the absence of his pre-Nirvana work (all but one song) or his more experimental urges from the 1987-1989 period. Kurt’s final two years saw him retreat from Nirvana and it’s within that retreat that we’ll find whatever remained of his song writing urges.

Of course the big question becomes one of time. In the chapter from Dark Slivers mentioned above (https://nirvana-legacy.com/about/) I tried to indicate the limited time available in 1994 for writing and creation. Remember that Kurt Cobain seems to have been an ‘on paper’ creator of lyrics, not someone who improvised lines live, so he needed time to sit down and work on material. All descriptions of his working practice for music also seems to involve time spent alone – his fastest/biggest period of creations (mid-1990 to mid-1991) coincided with his greatest isolation. Therefore the question for everyone is to work out how much time he had from February 1992 onwards while staying in hotels and on drugs, then how much he had in 1993 after recording sessions for Nirvana, around being a father and husband, around being a big addict, and prior to heading back out touring later in the year. I’ll leave that open for the optimists and pessimists to debate.

CEffect_1

Just enjoying perusing my copy of the Cause & Effect Vol.1 triple 7″ set. I was made aware of the release, and of the Joyful Noise label, via Adam Harding of Dumb Numbers. This bloke has done a lot for my listening habits this year – a few months he even gifted me a link to this little beauty:

I admit I actually stated that I prefer it to the Cobain solo demo; it was such a surprising reconfiguration, the muscular backing rhythm giving some heft even as the vocals retain the fragility of the original effort, while still using backing vocals to give the song a gorgeous dreamy effect. It’s light and heavy all at the same time and I totally adore it.

As for the Cause & Effect set, heck what’s not to like? There’s something lush about vinyl and the packaging on this one is wonderfully intricate – outer package, inner sleeves decorated with images of the various artists, coloured vinyl on the inside… I don’t want to fetishise the object(s) but it did give me pleasure studying these this morning and seeing how much effort had gone into them. Buy it! Go buy it! You’ll also find the new LP from David Yow (former Scratch Acid, formerly The Jesus Lizard, definite vocal influence on early era Kurt Cobain) and the new EP from Sebadoh too. Goodies!

Meanwhile Duluth, Minnesota’s finest – Trampled by Turtles – are playing a batch of shows in the U.S. and have an entertaining new video up which made me chuckle:

http://trampledbyturtles.com/

And what of my 2012 meisterwerk, Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide? Well, it rolls on alongside my efforts on the blog front, alongside fresh ideas germinating and generally sprouting in a way that makes it hard to find time around work to translate it all into full-blooded words on paper… I admit, on the topic of object-focused fetishism, a normal Saturday morning topic, that people often asked me last year whether I’d considered just doing it as an e-book. I was very firm that given I was writing, ultimately, out of pride and ego, that I wanted to hold the physical object in my hand, I wanted a book, not just data on a screen. It was the right choice. OK, it meant I worked hard to make the words what I wished of them, to make something I felt said new, interesting stuff about Nirvana, about Incesticide, about Kurt Cobain – but it felt great seeing the book. I’ve got about 20 copies of the second print run left now, not bad, not bad. Just drop me an email at nirvanadarkslivers@gmail.com if you want to inquire about it.

Inner and Vinyl

Much gratitude to the individual who posted this video, two very listenable interviews with Dave Grohl in which he comments on having shared music with Kurt Cobain, then later mentions the state of estrangement within Nirvana. If you can tolerate the tedium.

Dealing with the latter first, he’s fairly plain-speaking about the division in the band; “I don’t do drugs…There was, like, the people who did the drugs, then the people who didn’t do the drugs. I didn’t do the drugs so I was just out of that world you know? And if you’re in it, you’re in it, if you’re not, you’re out.” He then moves onto say, in response to a direct question about whether the band was breaking up, “it was important that we take a break. I think everyone felt that way, it was time to take a break.”

Certainly no criticism of Dave Grohl, but I admit I see this last comment as rather a salve for the soul rather than a fair representation of the position of Nirvana in early 1994. Why so? Well, Nirvana had already staged their break — Nirvana played not a single show for five months of 1992, a total of sixteen shows June-October but most of that in the June-July spell in Europe. 1993 was even more barren; five shows in nine months, only three after the duo in Brazil in January. And it wasn’t like the band were studiously practising either, Kurt joined them for a maximum of 21 days in studio for the entire two and a half years after Nevermind — and remember, at best estimate, the band played for six days at most of the twelve days at Pachyderm. I’ve already commented numerous times on the trend in Kurt Cobain’s song-writing also, in each previous year of Nirvana’s existence he’d brought six-twelve songs forward to the band; in the final year…Well, you all know the answer there.

Given the broken state of the band long before April 1994, it’s hard to see how anything other than the total dissolution of Nirvana would have solved whatever issue Kurt Cobain had with being part of the band as a business entity, as a musical vehicle, let alone as a functioning community of creative companions. I’ll admit that Dave Grohl’s comments here do remind me to place more emphasis than I sometimes do on the influence of the drug factor as a divider between Kurt Cobain’s cocoon and his band mates. Note made.

With regard to the initial comments, Dave’s comments are very clear indeed; Kurt was aware of two songs — Alone+Easy Target and Exhausted. This conforms to the best sources (basically check LiveNirvana, it rocks) but what interests me is the nature of his reaction to the songs. He loves the music for Exhausted but wants to use the music while remaining in control of the lyrical aspect of Nirvana. While he’s the known voice of Nirvana, while he’s rightly recognised as the key creative force, it makes it clear how much the band was a vehicle for his self-expression and, within that, how much emphasis he placed upon the words. Even with his own writer’s block in latter years it seems that sharing writing duties simply wasn’t going to happen. As an aside, for Alone+Easy Target it seems he wanted to snatch the chorus though whether that refers to the chorus line or the backing riff it’s unclear.

Kurt Cobain’s literary nature is underrated. His lyrics were not ad-libbed live, he wasn’t an improviser. Dave Grohl explains “he’d stay up late at night, for hours, with a notebook just writing and writing and writing…He enjoyed writing a lot.” Cobain’s closest connection to the blues came from the way the guitar was a way of accompanying words, not a raison d’être all its own. Cobain was brutally critical of his own guitar-playing skills and he was increasingly disparaging of the limitations of the instrument and its clichéd nature by the early Nineties. On top of that, in all the years the band was in existence, all the time they shared with true innovators of the guitar, like Sonic Youth, there’s no indication he ever actively sought to expand or advance his guitar vocabulary or to learn more about his instrument. The guitar was a functional object serving the song form and, in turn, the words.

The switch in Kurt Cobain’s lyric-writing, from early story songs and character sketches, toward a more impressionistic grab-bag sourced from his Journals, can be seen as a reaction to the increasingly hectic schedule of Nirvana as the time to whittle away at a single piece of WRITING (not just a song, true writing) fell away. Its notable that his most extensive phase of writing — winter 1990 through spring 1991 — coincided with a long period of relative quiet for Nirvana.