My Kurt Cobain Artwork

        
Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl
"Faded Jeans"
           Fading in, the melody of All Apologies welcomes you into the private life of its song writer but that is not what made the world take notice of the trio form Washington, nor the culture movement of the city Seattle. What would called the grunge movement, suddenly became a new sound of 'sludgy' distorted guitars, dynamic songs, 'growling' vocals with apethetic or angst ridden lyrics.
           A rejection of the theatrics of the past, many of the musicians of this era, from the Seattle music scene, were suddenly unkempt and looked like the same guys that served you coffee that morning.
           With a fast guitar riff, a thunder of drums and a flooring of bass, what came on the radio in the fall of 1991 was an awakening to becoming a teenager. It was my seventh grade and as I was ushered on with my brother's musical talents with his friends, their rock albums bought at Sam Goody of the likes of Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Iron Maden and Guns 'N Roses, I heard a new sound.
           It was loud, simple and made you want to sing along, even if you had no idea what or why you were singing. Soon, on the radio, among the hair bands of the late eighties, the introduction of alternative rock was smashed onto the radio waves to so many. The song was Smells Like Teen Spirit and even if I did know it at the time, the tune had a uses a 'verse-chorus form where the main four-chord riff is used during the intro and chorus to create an alternating loud and quiet dynamic.'
           "I was trying to write the ultimate pop song," front man Kurt Cobain said in an Rolling Stone interview. "I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard."
           It was raw, it was emotional and full of loud angry screams and soon, I found myself listening to the album on a audio cassette, so much so that the tape ran wild. It was my brother's copy of the album Nevermid. Nirvana had landed and landed hard with the rotation of Smells Like Teen Spirit on the radio, the world had tasted Nirvana and liked it.
           The album was polished with a jumble of raw emotion of a new generation of rock. The singer and songwriter, Kurt Cobain sounded like, to quote my father, 'like someone had slammed his hand in a door.'
           With his lyrics "Monkey see monkey do / rather be dead than cool," Cobain screamed his ironic 'whatever never mind' spirit in Stay Away or as it was originally called Pay to Play. He disliked the bullies and cool kids in his youth and that generation, the Generation X, were now singing his songs, as well as the next generation of 'Y.'
           ''Y" as in Why?
           With the wide set success of Nirvana's Nevermind and its first track of Smells Like teen Spirit, "Weird Al" Yankovic would make fun of the almost grumble and mumble that many heard in Cobain's vocals.
           Charles R. Cross asserted in his 2001 biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven, that many of the songs written for Nevermind were about Cobain's dysfunctional relationship with Tobi Vail, an independent musician, music critic and feminist from Olympia, Washington. She was a central figure in the riot grrl scene. Later, Cobain would dress his infant daughter in a shirt that read "Riot Grrl."
           Drummer Dave Grohl said that Cobain told him, "Music comes first and lyrics come second," and Grohl believes that above all Cobain focused on the melodies of his songs.
           Talented in art as well as music, Cobain was someone I had hoped to be like, someone that I could of said, 'If he could make it, so could I.' With the release of the single, 'I Hate Myself and Want to Die,' a single on the otherwise sarcastic compilation soundtrack of The Beavis and Buthead Experience,' Cobain wanted to write a song that was in essence what everyone thought, which was that he was suicidal .
           It was to be taken as his middle finger to the media as a comment on what everyone had thought of and scandalized his life and his wife, Courtney Love (born Courtney Michelle Harrison), as being labeled drug addicts and bent on self destruction.
The Beavis and Buthead Experience
           Of happen chance, on my fifteenth birthday, while walking in a mall with my Dad, back when there was actual music stores, I was passing the soundtrack isle of CDs when my dad saw the soundtrack to Beavis and Butthead and laughed.
           With a grin, my Dad said that he must buy this for me.

           As I listened to Nirvana's third studio album, In Utero, I felt his lyrics were even more piercing when it came what he felt towards life and its problems. With the lyrics to its first track Serve the Servants, Cobain had an almost irony with "Teenage angst has paid off well / Now I'm old and bored."

           Cobain wrote his songs for himself and did not take the title of a voice of a generation at all as something he was nor what he should be, he wrote his lyrics for himself and stated in an interview (later released in 2001 by Cross), "Why in the hell do journalists insist on coming up with a second-rate Freudian evaluation of my lyrics, when 90 percent of the time they've transcribed them incorrectly?"
           With In Utero, all seemed possible and I rejoiced with the fresh screams, the acoustic melodies but of course at the end of the album was sublime.
           As I sat at my draft table, drawing giant posters of characters for friends, late one night I heard what would be one of my all time three favorite songs: All Apologies.
All Apologies Promo Cover
           Like many of Cobain's songs, Apologies was almost primal in its simplistic genius. With a double guitar with bassist Krist Novoselic, instead of Cobain's seventh chord, the almost calm hum of a beginning welcomes you in with the quiet the bass drums that draws you in.
           As Cobain's sings of his family, Cobain was quoted in the Nirvana biography, Come as you Are, summarized in the words "Peaceful, happy, comfort," was intended for them.
           The song, at that point tentatively titled "La La La", was recorded on February 14. The recording featured Kera Schaley on cello, who was the only other musician to play on the album besides the band members. With addition of the cello, I found myself even more effected by the song in that it had the same comfort and vibe of my other two top favorite songs: Bach's Cello Suite #1 In G, BWV 1007 - Prelude and Led Zeppelin's Kashmir.

           With Nirvana's 1992 compulation album Incesticide, I found the many influences in what Cobain felt that were his passions when it came to musical genres,which among them were punk and classic rock. Among the songs was Aero Zeppelin which Cobain wrote as a tribute to Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.

           Cobain was also a fan of 70's hard rock and heavy metal bands, including AC/DC, Black Sabbath,, Queen, and Kiss. Nirvana occasionally played cover songs by these bands, including Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, Dazed and Confused and Heartbreaker, Black Sabbath's Hand of Doom, and Kiss' Do You Love Me?.
           "My aunts would give me Beatles records," Cobain told Jon Savage in 1993, "so for the most part [I listened to] the Beatles [as a child], and if I was lucky, I'd be able to buy a single."
Sliver
           As Nevermind came out alongside my first year of middle school, the 1993 album In Utero came with as the soundtrack to my first year in high school and all that came with it. It seemed poetic in its art, the cover of the album is an image of a Transparent Anatomical Manikin, with angel wings superimposed. The same male equivalent was the art for the single of Sliver.
           The back of the In Utero album was of a collage made by Cobain in his living room and described as "Sex and woman and In Utero and vaginas and birth and death", As it so happened, I sketched the design on a textbook from one of my hish school classes.
           I enjoyed the mixed reactions.
           The artwork on the In Utero CD itself had artwork of an image of a transvestite which was simple and subtle, the image was one of Cobain's messages that he tried to portray in career, something he had trouble with when it came to his fame.
           A vocal opponent of sexism, racism and homophobia, he was publicly proud that Nirvana had played at a gay rights benefit supporting No-on-Nine in Oregon in 1992, in opposition to Ballot Measure Nine, a ballot measure, that if passed, would have prohibited schools in the state from acknowledging or positively accepting LGBT rights and welfare
"Flowery Womb"
          His life was reflected in in his music, however he knew he would not age well and adapt to being older with his music as he thought Eric Clapton had done well. Cobain had high respect for Clapton but Cobain was seeing the future in a different way. He wanted to work with his friend Michael Stipe.
          However, Nirvana biographer Michael Azerrad argued that much of the album contains personal themes, noting that Grohl held a similar view. Grohl said, "A lot of what he has to say is related to a lot of the shit he's gone through. And it's not so much teen angst anymore. It's a whole different ball game: rock star angst."
          Early in 1992, Cobain told Rolling Stone that he was sure that the band's next album would showcase "both of the extremes" of its sound, saying "it'll be more raw with some songs and more candy pop on some of the others. It won't be as one-dimensional [as Nevermind]".Cobain wanted to start work on the album in the summer of 1992. However, the band was unable to since Cobain and his band mates lived in different cities, and the singer and his wife Courtney Love were expecting the birth of their daughter Frances Bean. DGC had hoped to have a new album by the band ready for a late 1992 holiday season release; since work on it proceeded slowly, the label released the compilation album Incesticide in December 1992
           When I did have Mtv, a friend called and said that I should switch on Mtv, the music video for Heart Shaped Box was being played. With the phone in my hand, I jumped onto the couch and watched. As with "Come As You Are" was a trip in the aquatic, semen streaming world of Cobain's art and ideas, Heart Shaped Box was as well.
           The group decided to work with Dutch photographer and video director Anton Corbijn, who typically created his own ideas for videos, was initially unsure of directing the video since Cobain's treatment was so detailed. Cobain said, "But then I looked at it and I thought that actually it was pretty good. I was very amazed by somebody writing a song and having those ideas as precise as he did."
With the Lights Out 2004
           As with the concept of some of the art in the album Nevermind, in the book Cobain Unseen, Charles R. Cross writes that Kurt Cobain agreed to the release of this compilation ablum because he was allowed complete control over the album's artwork.
           The cover art for Incesticide was painted by Cobain, who is credited as Kurdt Kobain in the liner notes. The rubber duck seen on the album's back cover also belonged to Cobain.
           In a Music Trader, I came across the odd Cds and I happen across the Nirvana bootleg Pay to Play and on it were various covers, demos and rarities, later re-released officially in the 2004 box set With the Lights Out. Among the covers were Molly's Lips and Son of a Gun by The Vaselines, whom Cobain covered Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam in his Mtv Unplugged in New York.
           With its release, Unplugged was at number one on the Billboard 200, and has become the group's most successful posthumous release, having been certified five times platinum in the United States by 1997. As someone without Mtv until 1996, I relied on the radio and magazines for seeing any band I was a fan of and when the CD of Unplugged was released, I was delighted with the talking in between the songs.
           Entertainment Weekly gave the album an A rating. Reviewer David Browne noted "Beyond inducing a sense of loss for Cobain himself, Unplugged elicits a feeling of musical loss, too: The delicacy and intimacy of these acoustic rearrangements hint at where Nirvana (or at least Cobain, who was said to be frustrated with the limitations of the band) could have gone." Robert Christgau also gave the album an A rating, writing "the vocal performance he evokes is John Lennon's on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band." By early 1995, MTV Unplugged in New York had surpassed Nirvana's final studio album In Utero (1993) in sales with 6.8 million copies sold.
Unplugged in New York 1994

"Where Did You Sleep Last Night"

Song by Nirvana from the album MTV Unplugged in New York
Released 1 November 1994
Recorded November 18, 1993 at Sony Music Studios in New York City
Genre Alternative rock, blues rock, acoustic rock
Length 5.08
Label DGC Records
Writer Lead Belly
Producer Alex Coletti, Scott Litt, Nirvana
MTV Unplugged in New York track listing
"All Apologies"
"Where Did You Sleep Last Night"

           Among the songs covered, Unplugged gave us three songs from the second album by the Meat Puppets, an album that I had bought and enjoyed the original screaming versions of "Platue," "on a Plain" and "Oh Me;" a song not released in the original airing but as I did not actually see that, I just thought everyone had heard it. You can hear after Cobain introduces the song Oh Me, Dave Grohl echoes the title as "oh... Me?'
           The album had the critically acclaimed cover of the traditional folk song, In the Pines. Originally it was a song given down from one generation to the next as a tradition. The song In the Pines was first printed in 1917 by Cecil Sharp,
           In between 1944 and 1948, Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Lead Belly, covered half a dozen versions of In the Pines. It was Lead Belly that renamed the song as it was listed as Where Did You Sleep Last Night, this version appears on a number of Lead Belly "best-of" compilations, such as Absolutely the Best released in 2000.
           Although Cobain had said at the Unplugged performance that Lead Belly had been the author of the song, this renaming of authors was much like the Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam performed by the Vaselines, to which Cobain added,"oh, It's a... It's an old rendition of a Christian song, I think."
           You can hear the band offer to hand a hat around for Kurt to start a collection for him. He asked David Geffin if he buy Lead Belly's guitar but Geffin said no.
           After the band finished, Cobain argued with the show's producers, who wanted an encore. Cobain refused because he felt he could not top the performance of Last Night.
Nirvana occasionally performed the song during the early 1990s. Cobain was introduced to the song by fellow Seattle musician Mark Lanegan, and played guitar on a version on Lanegan's 1990 album, The Winding Sheet. Like Lanegan, Cobain usually screamed its final verse.
           There is a breath, a pause in that last verse that you can see in Cobain's eyes, his pain, his soul and his demons. It never fails to take my breath away.
           According to the American folklorist Alan Lomax, Lead Belly had learned of the song from someone's interpretation of the 1917 printed version, which was compiled by Cecil Sharp, and in 1925 was made into a phonograph recording.
           It was likely that Cobain made reference to Lead Belly's 1944 Musicraft version for his interpretation of the song; this was the 78 rpm version that was owned by Lanegan, and the version that Cobain most closely resembles, in lyrics, form and title. In a 2009 Mtv article, Kurt Loder remembers arguing with Cobain about the song's title, with Cobain insisting, "But .the Leadbelly version is called Where Did You Sleep Last Night" and Loder preferring the In the Pines title used by Bill Monroe (as well as Lead Belly).
Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Lead Belly
           As the producers wished for more of a Nirvana set of songs, Cobain added more of covers. When he was asked about not performing Smell Like Teen Spirit at the performance Cobain said, aside from his disliking to preform their debut hit, Cobain added that you really could not do a acoustic version of the song. In fact, Mtv's Unplugged sessions started with artists not understanding that it was to be an all acoustic performance. Again, Cobain was a rebel when it came to the performance and was able to sneek in an electric amplifier. You could hear Cobain insisting on running his acoustic guitar through his amplifier and effects pedals. Producer Alex Coletti built a fake box in front of the amplifier to disguise it as a monitor wedge. Coletti said, "It was Kurt's security blanket. He was used to hearing this guitar through his Fender. He wanted those effects. You can hear it on 'The Man Who Sold The World.' It's an acoustic guitar, but he's obviously going through an amp." Nirvana was augmented by guitarist Pat Smear and cellist Lori Goldston, who had been touring with the band
           Coletti recollected that the network was unhappy with the band's choice of the Meat Puppets as guests ("They wanted to hear the 'right' names-Eddie Vedder or Tori Amos or God knows who", Coletti recalled) and the dearth of hit Nirvana songs on the set list. Upset, the day before filming was set to take place Cobain refused to play. However, he appeared at the studio the following afternoon. Cobain was suffering from drug withdrawal and nervousness at the time; one observer said, "There was no joking, no smiles, no fun coming from him... Therefore, everyone was more than a little worried about his performance."
           The performance was a panic to the producers, an erratic odd arrangement of songs by artists no one had heard of but in the end, when all of what could of been said had been said, it was a perfect and brilliant arrangement by Cobain and his band mates.
           As with all music, my Grandmother loved or at least tried to understand my music and since All Apologies was my all time favorite, seemingly best of all songs that I had, at the Christmas of 1994, played All Apologies on their stereo hi-fi, the studio version and in hind sight, I should of played thed unplugged version.
Last Days
        There were two celebrity deaths that surprised and had an emotional affect on me, one was the sudden heart failure of actor, River Pheonix on Halloween of 1993. He was a talented actor who starred in may of my favorite films of the eighties as well as in the nineties, with one of my all time three favorite films, My Own Private Idaho. The film would start in Seattle, a city associated with grunge and Cobain.. The film would be directed by Gus Van Sant, who later directed a film about Cobain and his last days, apply named Last Days. The film My Own Private Idaho had among its actors, the musician Michael "Flea" Balzary, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. On the night Pheonix was to perform with Flea onstage at The Viper Room, a Hollywood nightclub partly owned at the time by actor Johnny Depp.
My Own Private Idaho
River Pheonix
           During the early morning hours of October 31, 1993, Phoenix collapsed outside and convulsed for over five minutes. When his brother Joaquin called 9-1-1, he was unable to determine whether Phoenix was breathing.
           During the episode, Johnny Depp and his band P (featuring Flea and Phoenix's friend Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers) were onstage. According to Haynes, the band was in the middle of their song Michael Stipe while Phoenix was outside the venue having seizures on the sidewalk..  
Fight Club
           With the death of River Pheonix, I found myself in shock, 'you should don't just die like that when you are someone like River Pheonix.'
      Pheonix would of been the interviewer in Interview with a Vampire. The film was dedicated to Pheonix and the film would also have on its soundtrack the last song performed by the original line up of Guns N' Roses.
           In the he film, Brad Pitt played the vampire that Pheonix would of been interviewing. Pitt, would gain world wide success and it would be the first in a line of hit films for Pitt, who would eventually be in the second of the top three films of mine, Fight Club, a film that would end with the song Where is My Mind, by Cobain's favorite band, the Pixies.
Interview with a Vampire.
R.E.M.'s Monster 1994
           The R.E.M. album Monster, released in the fall of 1994, was also dedicated to Pheonix as he was a friend of their front man, Michael Stipe. The album would also have the song Let Me In dedicated and written about Stipe's friend, Kurt Cobain.
           In my sophomore year of high school, I met a friend that was a fellow devout fan of Nirvana, as well as all of the bands that were alternative rock. It was thanks to him that I was able to see R.E.M. live in their Monster tour and as the crowd cheered as R.E.M. left after playing for almost an hour, the crowd chanted and with just a single spot light came on to the stage. The came the heavily distorted guitar riff of the song Let Me In that was simple, raw and performed only by Stipe and their lead guitarist, Mike Millsfirst.
           It was a shot in the heart, something like hearing of the death of River Pheonix, another of Stipe's friends passing. The second death that shocked and affected me, the death of Kurt Cobain.
           On April the fifth of 1994, I came home from my freshmen year of high school and turned on my stereo to Rock 105.7 and heard within minutes a call in to the station from a listener about Kurt Cobain.
A young man asked: "...yeah, is it true about Kurt Cobain?"
The D.J.: "Yes, he shot himself in the head with a shotgun."
There was a moment of silence before the young man responded: "Is he dead?"
           I was in shock and suddenly the world seemed much more turbulent, more jaded, more hopeless without Kurt Cobain in it. 'He can not be dead,' I thought as I slumped down the wall of my bedroom. 'He was going to survive. He was not supposed to actually kill himself. It was all metaphores, ironic statements in his songs... He was supposed to be the guy that made it out alive so I could do the same.'

           The press would shoot out articles on his life, his tragic last days and what he had left behind. Newsweek would have a cover story on suicide, Rolling Stone would have a small article the week of his death only to later have a whole issue, then a whole book on Cobain, calling him a 'Geek God.".
           The day after the news was released of his death, my high school freshman english teacher asked a show of hands if we were shocked or surprised by Cobain's death; I was the only one to raise my hand.
           I defended my idol and I had no real grounds to do so other than he was a genius, a emotional man but a man that was in need of help. Many believed that he did not actually commit suicide, from which has spawned conspiracy theories of whom and why someone would killed a fragile man. His death was violent and yet, Cobain was not a violent man.
           If it was or was not a suicide, there was proof of either, there was an investigation into his death but no matter how Kurt Cobain died, he left us all. It is easier to blame someone that would of killed him, someone other than Cobain for his death but no matter what, he is gone.
           He left us all.
            He was also a father, a husband and his now widow, Courtney Love would start her period or grieving. In a make shift public memorial, Love joined hundreds of grieving youths in Seattle as she consoled some and eventually read over a speaker parts of Cobain's suicide note.

           She was finishing up her second studio album when she got the call about her husband. She would spend the next few months with her mother-in-law, Cobain's mom, whom said about her son's death, "He Joined that damn club.

           Love's album was to be released on Geffen's subsidiary DGC label in April 1994, four days after Cobain was found dead of a self-inflicted shotgun wound in their home. Two months later, in June 1994, bassist Kristen Pfaff died of a heroin overdose, and Love recruited Melissa Auf der Maur for the band's impending tour. Throughout the months preceding the tour, Love was rarely seen in public, spending time at her Seattle home, or visiting the Namgyal Buddhist Monastery in New York.
           If there was a religious apect to Cobain's life, you could of said that he and were were fond of being Buddhist, given that Cobain's band was named Nirvana and after his death, Courtney Love would travel with Cobain's ashes with her as she searched for a burial site. She was in need of somewhere peaceful for her late husband, some place secret and where he could be left alone. With her husband's tragic death and her friend and bassist over dosing, Love happened to to have her second album apply named Live Through This.
           In the note found at the Cobain's dearth scene, apparently written to Kurt Cobain's imaginary childhood friend "Boddah", Cobain quoted a lyric from Neil Young's song "Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)": "It's better to burn out than to fade away."
"The Primal Scream"
"The Primal Scream"
         In the pages of Rolling Stone magazine, a magazine that I have faithfully read and kept every issue since the fall of 1993, I came across this image of the man I soon came into being associated with as my altered sate of being.   Kurt Donald Cobain performing on stage wrenching from his very soul every note and word that he feels it to be necessary to chant out.   The stage lights cast down on his unwashed hair that cover most of his face as the outline of his small shoulders are seen draped in one his legendary sweaters.   This was my first attempt at pastel.
         His music can be played non-stop through out my life and yet his face has caused me to pause from time to time.   The only time I was able to see him perform was on Saturday Night Live in 1993 with Charles Barkley, RuPaul and Sebastian Bach of Skid Row.  

Nirvana Performing on Saturday Night Live

Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana

RuPaul was a friend of Kurt as well as Skid Row was one of the bands that Kurt liked as a youth.   After performing "Heart Shaped Box" and "Rape Me," the show ended, as it had for its entire run, with the whole cast and guests waving goodbye.   At this point, as an artist, I had noticed Kurt's square shaped hands.   It was not until I had read "Come As You Are" that I realized Kurt so slight of frame do to his stomach ailment.   His hands looked large in contrast to his small arms.   His waving and grinning at the end of the show was all the more unique in his eating a pastry and being dwarfed in height compared to Barkley and long time friend and band mate, Krist Novoselic.
         Close to my graduation from high-school and for my eighteenth birthday I walked to the local mall after school with a friend and fellow Nirvana fan and purchased "Cobain" fresh off the printing press.   The book had a collection of the various Nirvana articles that Rolling Stone had done through the short career of Nirvana.  
         Not having much money in my teenage years, I did not have a lot of posters and this compelled me to make my own.   This pastel depiction of Kurt was an attempt at a Nirvana poster.

Rolling Stone no. 674, January 1994

References:

  1. Journals by Kurt Cobain - Riverhead Trade (November 4, 2003)
  2. Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana (Paperback) ~ Michael Azerrad (Author) - Main Street Books (September 1, 1993)
  3. Cobain ~ Rolling Stone Press (Author) (Hardcover) Little, Brown and Company (April 1, 1997)

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