Kurt Cobain, 1967-1994

Kurt Cobain died fifteen years ago this week.

When I heard the news, I bolted from the office of Details magazine (my then-employer) and went home to Brooklyn to find my Nirvana notebooks. I had toured around Germany with Nirvana in 1991, as Nevermind was becoming a blockbuster hit, and done another extensive interview with Cobain in Seattle just before In Utero was released. I knew that in my notes, I had contact information for people close to Cobain; I wanted to pass them on to a reporter who had recently interviewed Courtney Love; Details was putting her on a plane to Seattle to get an on-the-scene dispatch. The reporter strenuously resisted, saying that if she stayed home, Courtney would call her. Everyone in the office scoffed.

I spent a couple of hours going through every inch of my closets, while in the background, MTV played an endless loop of Nirvana. Finally, I gave up and came back without the notebooks. The next day, I found them in the office, stashed in a desk drawer. By then, the reporter was gone, on the same plane flight as representatives of Rolling Stone and the New York Times. My information didn’t help her; she came back a couple of days later, having been shut out like all the other writers who descended on Seattle. While she was gone, Courtney had left a message on her answering machine.

I wrote a personal remembrance of Cobain for the magazine, which you can read here. I’ve added the piece to the archives unedited even though there are portions of it I now find callow and naïve. (For example: I know now that Cobain was using heroin while I visited him in Seattle, and was keeping it together just enough to do his press interviews.) But my grief was genuine, and I suspect some of the details might be of interest to a new generation of readers. (I’ll add my other Nirvana articles to the archives soon.)

My memories of Cobain are complicated, for many reasons, and this piece doesn’t fully reflect my mixed emotions in 2009. But I still feel privileged that I got to spend so much time talking to him.

posted 8 April 2009 in Archives, Articles and tagged , , . 2 comments

2 Comments on Kurt Cobain, 1967-1994

  1. Chris M. Says:

    Thanks for sharing that piece — I probably read it back in ’94 but didn’t recall it, so it felt new to me.

    I’m curious, yet assenting, about your “complicated” memories of Kurt. When I read Heavier Than Heaven, for example, I got the distinct impression that Kurt was gifted and brilliant but, even to those who loved him, a royal pain — that he willfully alienated people almost without meaning to.

    From your encomium, on the other hand, I get the feeling that he could be truly warm and sweet, the kind of person with whom you could imagine genuine friendship. (I imagine this is how Michael Stipe felt about him toward the end.) That said, I don’t suppose the Charles Cross impression and yours are mutually exclusive.

    Was Kurt “difficult” in your eyes? Was he hard to love? Having read a lot — and written a lot — about Kurt, I have formed impressions; but having never witnessed him in the flesh (not even live, which embarrasses me) I am at the mercy of others in forming these ideas. And it’s so easy to feel like you know Kurt, even just from the records alone.

    I could see Kurt being complicated the way only people we really care about frustrate, anger and confuse us. That would make total sense to me.

  2. Gavin Says:

    I would say that the Kurt I knew wasn’t especially “difficult,” but that as the years have passed, I’ve become more aware that I wasn’t necessarily privy to the whole package.

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