Revenge of a Rock 'n Roll God

"Music is not Art."
                         - Kurt Cobain, 1967-1994

Most of the people who witnessed a groundbreaking era in the world of music still could not understand why the most enigmatic person in the history of Punk said that line. Even at this age of YouTube, most of the younger hordes (and anonymous commentators) still couldn't see it. During those years of Grunge invasion in the mainstream, kids never bothered to take it seriously and just continued to rally behind Mr. Moustache and his kick-ass band called Nirvana. And sixteen years after his death, I was only able to decipher and understand what Kurt really meant after reading the less-known anthology (published in 1998) compiled by Rock 'n Roll journalists John Rocco, Everett True, and company.

We saw in the '80s how the political machinery, corporate materialism, and greed (specifically in the music industry) became the primary hate targets for adolescents who thought that there would always be a choice better than Ronald Reagan, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna. Those were the times when kids decided to look for a genuine root in music (the Beatnik Generation) while at the same time used the current technology to deliver the message. And that message was very angry and very playful. This is actually the birth of the Post-Modern Punk. Not surprisingly, their rivals and brothers in the Metal scene also felt the same way and before realizing it, both parties began to rebel against the current establishment and the recurring social issues by doing it "underground." The major base of operation was in Seattle. That movement is frontlined by The Melvins, Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and of course not counting as the least, Nirvana.

Nirvana as a band made only 4 studio albums, but they released two more posthumous "live" compilations-- Unplugged in New York and From the Muddy Banks of Wishkah. Additionally, the band also released tens of singles, EPs, collaborations, raw editions, including the numerous bootleg and stolen studio recordings. But of all their work, the most definitive album was Nevermind followed by Bleach. The album Nevermind allowed them to break into the wall of mainstream Rock 'n Roll awakening and disturbing the sleeping status quo that previously refused to listen.

But just like any tragic story, everything that has a beginning also has its end. After Kurt took Rohypnol and overdosed himself, picked his brand new Remington MII shotgun, loaded it and shot himself pointblank, his critics still "criticized" the death of a heroin junkie, while his followers mourned the loss of a genuine hero.

But before that why did Kurt said that music is not art?

As a kid Kurt loved playing the guitar. He loved listening to the Beatles, Leadbelly, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and later on Black Flag and The Raincoats, among others. Music for him is an opportunity to express his thoughts, his opinions. Playing the music is an act of freedom. But this was during his younger days.

After forming Nirvana and gatecrashing into the mainstream by selling millions of copies of their albums and earning numerous awards, the world became different. Nobody can ignore him anymore even if he went low profile. His words are easily misunderstood and his privacy, destroyed into pieces as his relationship with Courtney became a massive spectacle like a circus show. They were virtually cannibalized by the worldwide media and the press. The magazine interviews spawned controversies because of the lack of context. Of all the things he hated, this lack of context is what Kurt hated most. The lack of context resulted to lack of understanding, and then lack of respect.

This lack of respect by the media for Kurt, Chris, and Dave became a direct proof of the inevitability that Nirvana has turned into a mere commodity and no longer artists. In the words of Mari Earl (Kurt's aunt);

"Music was for Kurt an escape, a way to express what was inside himself. It was an understanding friend, predictable and comforting.When he became famous, music was no longer an escape for him, it was a nightmare of scheduled 'creativity' and harried performances. It was almost as if he became a caricature of himself and the whole grunge movement. Kurt's success only reinforced my suspicions of how the music business operates. By that, I mean the artist becomes a commodity, a can of beans, if you will, merely a saleable product. Can anything drain the human spirit more?"

After his death, the world saw that they can never own Nirvana nor Kurt Cobain. Kurt only belonged to himself, his wife and daughter. It may sound selfish but he needed an escape act and the courage to quit from the claws of opulence. He wanted to show that Nirvana's fate will never become a commodity, that there can only be one Nirvana in this world, and Kurt Cobain can never be replaced.

That was Mr Moustache's final revenge.


hardcore encore:

"If you introduce yourself they say, 'I know who you are.' And if you don't they think you're arrogant."
                                       -- Chris Novoselic

"It's a load of shit on Kurt's mind that he doesn't deserve..."
                                       -- Dave Grohl

"There's a photo-one photo-of Kurt that I really fucking hate. You must've seen it. Taken by an English photographer Martyn Goodacre, it just shows Kurt up close, staring moodily into the camera, black eyeliner on, hair all scrawny-lighting perfect, make-up mussed up perfect, the whole tormented "rock star" schtick perfect. I can't fucking recognize him. It looks nothing like the Kurt Cobain I knew, presents such a one-dimensional, distorted picture of him...and it seems to've been everywhere since his death. Posters, T-shirts, calendars, tribute books. Everywhere. Each time I see it, I catch myself looking at it thinking, "Is this the only way people remember Nirvana as the backing band for a tormented moody fuck-up of an artist? Is this the only way people recognize Kurt Cobain---as the Axl Rose who never made it?
I have nothing against Martyn Goodacre.
It's the lack of context I can't handle."
                                        -- Everett True

Genre: Anthology, Music, Rock 'n Roll, Punk, Grunge Culture
Rating: 4 "JagStangs" out of 5 (my original rating is 4.5, but I took 0.5 for the rough editing)

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