Chandler, Arizona, United States
There's an old saying. If you don't want someone to join a crowd, you ask them, "If everyone were jumping off of a cliff, would you?" Well, I have. So my answer would be "Yes". True story.
Profile continued . . .
Why Kurt Cobain is Still My Role Model
with love from CRS @ 10:52 AM
this entry brought to you by the naked and famous, "no way"
I was in the ninth grade when Kurt Cobain killed himself.
That year there was a kid named Danny if I remember correctly, although he liked to be called Prince. I didn't know Prince very well, but I knew who he was. He was the only openly gay kid in our high school.
Prince was a tall kid, probably around six feet tall, and round, but the most important feature about him was that he looked a very androgynous lesbian, and wore business casual and never was seen not wearing a suit jacket. He was quiet and unassuming, and frankly, he kind of weirded me out, but it wasn't because of what he was, it was who he was-- nobody else at Franklin High School dressed or looked like him. But I didn't hate him. He was just a weird kid at my high school, just like I was a weird kid at my high school.
There was a monster on the football team named Joey, a gigantic, easily 6'7" corn fed monster, half dough and half muscle, who for some reason people loved but was always the cartoon ogre football monster that every high school has, and his only personality trait was dickishness. He wasn't charming like some other football players, he wasn't good looking, he was just an ogre in a backwards baseball hat. And he beat the hell out of Prince one day.
I didn't see it. I don't know what happened. Knowing Joey, who was a barbarian, whatever slight discretion Prince made to the jock was completely and utterly undeserving. But let's say for argument's sake that Prince somehow totally deserved a pounding.
There was blood on the wall in the hallway a few yards from my art class. A splatter of it. It was Prince's. It had happened just a moment before I got there, Joey and Prince having just been taken away, the janitor not having enough time to come by and clean it up. And way, way too many members of my class were jeering, yeah, about time somebody kicked that faggot's ass. He had it coming. Joey should have killed him. Joey should have killed that faggot. He could have, too. But he should have killed him. It's not fair that Joey getting suspended for kicking that faggot's ass. He should have killed him.
I was looking at the boy's blood. On the wall. In front of me. Even if Prince stuck his leg out and tripped Joey and directly caused the fight, and should have seen a pounding coming, it was those words that haunted me as I looked at this boy's blood on the wall in front of me. He should have killed that faggot.
I hated everyone in the world right then. Everyone.
On October 25, 1991, just a month after the release of Nevermind, Kurt Cobain showed up on Headbanger's Ball, a show that featured heavy metal back in the late 80s and early 90s, in one of the most awkward interviews in the history of rock music wearing a giant yellow dress. Why? Because fuck you, that's why.
On January 11, 1992, Kurt, Krist, and Dave all kissed sloppily during the closing credits of SNL. Why? Because fuck you, that's why.
Kurt Cobain was the coolest guy in the world for three years, a scowling, grit-jawed, tiny man with hair in his eyes, that would flip from stock still glare on stage to being a frenzied marionette with electricity flowing through him at a moment's notice, coming off in interviews as bored and over it one day to hilariously off the cuff and affable in another.
But the difference between Nirvana and the thousand metal-dude bands at the time that were turning from the idiotic preening and pantomiming of glam metal to the increasingly aggressive punch-metal bands or even the pointless anarchy of what was punk at the time was that Nirvana weren't just pissed at nothing in particular. They weren't just mad at the world for aggression's sake. And although Kurt's alienation at the world was completely deserved by the time In Utero had come out and his life had become tabloid fodder-- something that has almost never happened to a rock star who is famous for nothing but rock music since then-- there was something personal underneath the quixotic lyrics behind Nevermind.
I think one thing that's gotten lost in the years since Kurt Cobain's death, with our focus on the multiple references to suicide and guns in his lyrics, is just how funny some of his lyrics were. "Oh well, whatever, nevermind" Kurt warbled after a series of nonsensical lines about mosquitos and knowing dirty words. Elsewhere he merilly yelled "What the hell am I trying to say?", a line recorded before the man even had a single hit for the critics to write baffled remarks about.
But besides just how happy Nirvana's music and lyrics made me, there was that personal "Us vs. Them" undercurrent to everything. "Our little group has always been and always will until the end". On Kurt's original lyric sheet and in live versions of the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" he substituted the word "tribe" for the word "group". "What else should I say? Everyone is gay," he plaintively remarked during "All Apologies", a song that nearly never manages to choke me up. "I'm not like them," he wrote in "Dumb". After shrieking "Get awaaaaaay!" in the most spine-shivering rock yell ever on a record that somehow went number one, even though he was singing a song--"Scentless Apprentice"-- inspired by the book Perfume, it was obvious who the emotion behind that scream was referring to-- them. You. The ones who like all the pretty songs and sing along but know not what it means.
The most popular rock bands in the days just before Nirvana sang songs about girls, girls, girls. Axel Rose recorded a song called "Rocket Queen" with him having sex with a girl in the studio over the intro. There was a whole song by a shit band called "Warrant" about cherry pie, which featured sweet cherry pies landing in girls laps, girls slowly eating hotdogs. Girls posed in scantily clothes would writhe around on the hood of sports cars. Mere months after this nonsense, and just over a month after the release of their first major label record when they still had everything to lose, Kurt sat in defiance, bored, on the couch of Headbanger's Ball. All of this was still years away from "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" being the best compromise Americans could come up with on how to handle homosexuals.
People that are deeply into music will often say that such and such a band changed their life, and I often wonder if people who have never had that experience with music think those words are hyperbole when they hear it. I wasn't much into music before I started listening to Nirvana because pop music bored me, and rock music repulsed me, hip-hop was turning into something dark and frightening. I admit that I was late to Nirvana, because to my young, inexperienced ears, loud screaming guys with long hair and guitars were indistinguishable from Motley Crue, even if I had to admit that "Teen Spirit" song was catchy.
But when I did get into Nirvana, my whole outlook on life changed, and I wish I could say that I'm exaggerating because it seems so cliche to say. It was a revelation. It made me excited to be alive. It was like there was this whole world that had been there the whole time and I just now discovered how to access it. I didn't just want to hearIn Utero-- my first Nirvana album-- over and over again, I wanted to hang out with people that looked like they might listen to Nirvana as well. And though those kids had intimidated me just months prior-- hair dyed, things pierced, sullen looks, cigarette smoke-- once I found them, they were all I wanted to be around. Though not all of them were into Nirvana, in fact, there was a distinct "Ah, those guys are sellouts" vibe amongst them, I found a group of people who were accepting, open-minded, affectionate, supporting, and couldn't give a shit if you were a "faggot" or not. Guys who were uncomfortable when other macho guys showed up, who detested the "Show us your tits!" type when they somehow got around us. This was the kind of group would wear nail polish and happily put on a dress in public and open mouth kiss another male friend because fuck you.
In 2004 or so I was in my last months of Target, working in the backroom with several other guys. We shared a stereo that there was much arguing over. There was a guy that worked there, a decent guy my age that I had no specific problems with, but a self-described "meathead jock", head shaved, muscular, tattoos.
He brought in his book of cds and handed it to me, telling me to pick whatever I wanted to listen to. I flipped through it and saw Nevermind and asked if anyone had any problems with Nirvana, as there had been a lot of yelling and screaming going on about the stereo in the previous days. Everyone unanimously said that Nirvana would really hit the spot.
We were half way through the album when the jock came up to me and asked, "I love Nirvana so much, they're one of my favorites but-- was that guy a homo?"
I never had a problem with this guy so his wording kind of threw me off guard, and him asking me that filled me with mixed emotions. One, it was 2004, and he didn't even have the common courtesy to say "gay", and used the much more derogatory "homo". And it bothered me that he would feel comfortable using it in mixed company. Another part of me was annoyed that a guy who had a wife and kid could still have his sexuality questioned because he wore a dress on tv, even though his intent for wearing that dress was pissing people off.
When I was a teenager I was fond of painting the nails on my left hand black, because I was in a group of friends who wouldn't bat an eye, and because it was fun idly scratching it off once it had dried for a day. And I was in the mall with a female friend named Olivia once, walking through a food court, when she spotted a friend of hers on a raised platform that people sat and ate on. I lifted my friend up to the platform so she could peer over the side and talk to her friend, and wrapped my arms around her and leaned into her side, nuzzling.
The idiot with the backwards baseball hat Olivia's friend was with eyed me the entire time, and when the conversation was over the jackass asked, indicating the nail polish on my hand, "What're you, a homo?"
My arm was around a beautiful girl, and she affectionately leaned into me and held my head in her hand as she peered over at them, and because I had black nail polish on one of my hands and absolutely no other indication I was gay, he assumed that of course I was.
I laughed and locked eyes with him. And the lowest, most unimpressed voice came from me. "Yes, I am a homosexual," I said, enunciating every syllable of the word. "And I am so. Attracted. To You."
Olivia indicated that she wanted to get down, but I waited a beat, locking eyes with him to show that we were leaving because my friend wanted to leave, but I was not intimidated by him. Because fuck him.
And so ten years later, here I was in Target, working with a guy who had enjoyed Nirvana's music this entire time, but there's been just this one little thing thing irking him the entire time. I was disgusted by the implication and offended by the casual use of the word he used, but I was also amused as hell that Kurt Cobain got to him. All these years later, and his casual fucking with people who didn't belong in his tribe still resounded.
Kurt Cobain was a lot of things, and yes, there was the fact that he was a drug addict, but to me, there are things about a role model you don't have to follow so long as you pay attention to the right things, so long as the right things overpower everything else so much. There was also the fact that Kurt Cobain was an intensely sad man, and I was and am often sad person, and Cobain's comfort in being sad was something that helped me in my lowest moments. But, frankly, lots of other musicians were intensely sad at the same time Kurt was sad, and they would have helped me in those departments even if Nirvana never existed or if I'd never found them. Those other artists didn't sloppily french kiss their band mates on television before even their second single was released off their debut record back in a time before "It gets better". And this isn't to say those other bands-- notably Pearl Jam, fronted by the second coolest guy in the world at the time, Eddie Vedder-- weren't important or made important statements. But Kurt Cobain was the kind of person who didn't need to make statements in words, he could wear a dress on stage and sneer at the audience and have his message loud and clear: "If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us -- leave us the fuck alone! Don't come to our shows and don't buy our records," words that he eventually wrote in the liner notes to Incesticide.
In the song "Heart-Shaped Box", Kurt exclaimed "Hey! Wait! I've got a new complaint!" When Cobain sang it he was being self-parodying, but holy shit, it might as well be a life slogan for me. If there is ever bullshit, may I always complain about it. May I always rebel against it. I can't think of better words for a role model to say to an impressionable teenager.