With the news that a 20th anniversary reissue of Nirvana‘s In Utero is due on 23 September 2013, featuring over 70 “remastered, remixed, rare, unreleased, and live recordings”, we thought it was a good time to delve into the world of the grunge overlords and, in particular, Nirvana’s iconic frontman, Kurt Cobain. Despite still appearing on the t-shirts of many people who don’t actually own a Nirvana album, not everybody loves them.
Cobain is not really that divisive a character, but who better to ask for an opinion on a rock star than Gavin “I ♥ Ronnie Radke” Lloyd? Nobody – once you read this, you will agree – but if you are a fan of Gavin’s last article, this one might surprise you somewhat…
Regular visitors to this site will know I recently wrote a piece on Ronnie Radke which got many people up in arms. For those unaware I am a big Falling In Reverse fan but exaggerated my love for Ronnie Radke for comic effect. The joke went over a lot of people’s heads and a line that especially seemed to irk a lot of people was a joke about Kurt Cobain.
“…Some might argue that most bands are just following the vulnerable rockstar attitude ushered in by Nirvana. To them I say what’s Kurt Cobain up to these days? Not living it up cheating on Courtney Love with her friends that’s for sure.”
He’s dead now, of course.
Truth be told, it’s not the first time I’ve mocked the Nirvana frontman and it’s something that has popped up in my writing a few times. While in many ways he’s an easy target to attack and subsequently annoy people, I do also have my personal reasons for regularly singling out Cobain.
Can I just start off by saying openly that I like Nirvana. I wouldn’t claim to be their biggest fan by any stretch of the imagination. However, I do think they were a great band, Nevermind is a superb album and more than worthy of being viewed as the classic album many people see it as. It was also an incredibly important album and played a vital part in reshaping the rock landscape for the better after the tired sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll schtick pervaded by ’80s hair metal.
Cobain was obviously the driving force for this and was one of the first ‘rock stars’ that could address teenage growing pains and say it was ok to be different. Furthermore, his stoic beliefs and outspoken views on a range of topics is to be applauded. His open disgust for homophobia is a viewpoint I wish more contemporary figures from the rock world would take on board and challenge the constant stream of casual homophobic slurs that are so readily thrown around these days.
So despite all my praise for the man, what is my over-powering problem with him? My problem is that he is dead. To be more specific: that he committed suicide.
Let me shine some more light on this. While it is something I’ve never really talked about and very few people, including close friends, know about me, I’ve struggled with mental health problems in the past. Not to be all “poor me”, as I’m sure many people have had it worse, but my teenage years weren’t great. My entire secondary school career was five years of getting bullied and beaten up, regularly being scared for my life and crying myself to sleep. In addition to this, a lot of people close to me passed away and I didn’t have a good relationship with my dad. I haven’t seen my dad in about ten years since he and my mum broke up.
All of this caused enough damage to leave me with crippling depression that often left me feeling uncontrollably sad and hopeless. This was topped off by constantly beating myself up for feeling and acting in this way. I don’t write all this for any kind of sympathy, as on a day-to-day basis I’m fine now, but to stress that I know what it’s like to go through those dark times.
I don’t want to use the tired old cliche of “Music saved my life” but it certainly helped. I developed an obsession with music which has remained with me to this day. However, at my lowest points, Nirvana were never any real help to me. They didn’t provide any reason to keep fighting as their front man just gave up.
It may still be looked down upon by many and sure it had its silly moments but it was an array of nu metal heroes that gave me hope. A case in point being last month, when Slipknot headlined Download. Their whole insistence on turning hate into positivity may seem unreasonable to an outsider. Yet, as you watch these masked misfits bring 90,000 people together it was truly special and, in its own way, heartwarming. There was a rare sense of being part of something truly special. It felt like a celebration that even if you were having the best day of your life or the worst you could have an emotional release and find reason to keep moving on with your life.
I have just always felt offended by the way in which Nirvana came to an end. While Cobain’s death may have only strengthened his legacy in many people’s eyes, for me it tarnished it with a massive black mark. I don’t feel like a martyr is what those going through hard times need but rather figures who provide ongoing hope. Be it the aforementioned Slipknot or My Chemical Romance who dealt with emotional discord by wrapping it up in fantastical high concepts. Or Gallows who along with giving the punk scene a much needed kick up the arse provided everyone with a sense of fight and never giving up. I’m not a fan of them personally but if Black Veil Brides can make the teenage outsider fell like they have somewhere they belong then I say more power to them.
To end this on a positive note, if anyone who is going through a hard time emotionally happens to read this, the overall point I wanted to make is that suicide is never the answer. Life is always worth fighting for even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes. Find someone to talk to about your problems – be it someone you know or anonymously. Furthermore, creativity can be one of the best weapons in fighting mental health problems. Find something you’re passionate about and fill your mind with that, be it music, art, reading, writing, sport, whatever you want. It helped me and I hope it is advice that will help others too.
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