This is Nirvana: Grohl/Novoselic/Cobain

Heavier Than Heaven (Cross)

Some years ago, I was reading Stephen King’s “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.” I hardly recall the story but I remember the protagonist Trisha’s fixation over a band called Nirvana. She’d have their music played on her Walkman and that’s mostly the knowledge this book has given me, besides her loving baseball and all that. I had been ignorant of the band and their music. One of the first Nirvana songs I ever heard was Rape Me, thanks to a friend and his iPod. He claimed to be knowledgeable of the writer of the song and gave me a back story involving how the song was supposedly written against rape, and how it backfired–causing the writer to commit suicide. Being naive at the tender age of fourteen, I believed his story and was for a time, affected. Shortly after that, however, I forgot how the song sounded like and Nirvana altogether. Soon after, I began to be interested in high school bands, being in one myself, naturally attending gigs. A band called Pink Salad Days did a cover version of Smells Like Teen Spirit, which I knew to be a Nirvana song by nominal memory. At the time, I didn’t know what the song actually sounded like, so I had no basis for comparison. I forget how exactly I got into knowing Cobain, Novoselic and Grohl, but I bought a copy of the anniversary edition of Bleach. I’m in the middle of reading Kurt’s Journals (it’s a pain to understand, sometimes, but he can’t be blamed) and am about to read Charles Cross’ Heavier Than Heaven.

Some friends and I were discussing how technology and the Internet have changed the landscape for aspiring musicians. Cobain’s Journals contain sporadic narratives-updates if you will-of the things the band were doing before they hit the big time: rigorously jamming to hammer their songs down, complaining about commitment and attendance issues, etc. What particularly caught my interest was that they recorded and worked with tapes. Today, we have ubiquitous software for recording and editing. It’s all digital. This implies the utter convenience of not having to worry about wasting tape for retakes because of mistakes. This is great in the sense that we don’t need to be as meticulous when recording. This is also bad in the sense that we don’t need to be as meticulous when recording. Skill-wise, I’m observing a downward trend in technical musical abilities of several musicians. But that’s another story. Anyway, Kurt would write about how they’d have to connect with this producer and that engineer to get their demos down, apart from having to go around and struggling to get their music out and bag a deal with a record label (the words “willing to compromise material” don’t exactly resonate with the Nirvana we think we know). Today, with MySpace, ReverbNation and SoundCloud (among several others), millions of musicians have their music just out there, waiting for people to find them. Again, that’s another story. This post is about Nirvana–Kurt Cobain, more specifically. He’ll forever be a mystery to us even after all the biographies, documentaries and interviews. Perhaps that’s how he wanted it. But I can’t help but be curious. I’ll probably start reading Heavier Than Heaven tomorrow. Or in a few hours, if I can’t help it.


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