I was a good kid until I was 11 years old. I did what I was told and didn’t give my parents too much shit, I worked hard at school, played sports (badly), climbed trees and kept myself out of trouble.
But even from an early age, there was something else about me, the hint of something darker. I loved reading and burned through a lot of books as a kid which meant I quickly got bored of the standard Enid Blighton / Roald Dahl fair.
When that happened I went straight for the jugular and started reading Stephen King and Dean R Koontz and a whole host of other very, very twisted literature that children probably shouldn’t go anywhere near and those words took root in my brain and sprouted a thick, dense jungle of thoughts and ideas that is expanding exponentially as I get older.
I grew up an only child and as is the case with all only children, I spent a lot of time hanging out with grown ups. My life in many ways was an endless procession of well-mannered dinner affairs with my parents and their friends where I was told to sit up straight, finish my food and behave, which I did.
Fast forward to Christmas in 1994 – my parents and I are staying at a place called Highlands Run, a trout farm near Dullstroom, it’s about 6 in the morning and I’m tearing through my Christmas presents like only an 11 year old kid can.
A friend at school had said to me that his older brother was listening to this band and it was the best album of all time which piqued my curiosity and prompted me to ask my mom for the album for Christmas.
At the time I was big into really, really crap music like 2Unlimited, Midi, Maxi and Efti, Haddaway, 12 Inches Of Snow, that kind of shit, so you can only imagine what happened when I opened my Christmas present, put the cassette tape into my walkman, put my headphones on and pressed play.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” tore like machine-gun fire through my mind and I loved every second of it. Here was this guy screaming his fucking head off, banging out these loud, angry three and four chord riffs that hooked me instantly and to this day, have not let go.
Everything changed after that day. The flood gates were opened and in poured an ocean of noise which quickly became the soundtrack to many a wasted night and day spent getting fucked up with my friends when I was way too young to have any idea what I was doing to myself.
Anyway, the point of all this is Kurt Cobain changed a lot of people’s lives the way he changed mine. He was the sole reason my entire generation started playing guitar and dressing like they’d stolen their clothes from a Salvation Army donation bin (they probably had).
I’ve heard so many people over the years say he was murdered by Courtney Love and spent countless hours arguing with those people because I refuse to believe that. The man was a mess! The drugs, the fame, the overwhelming commercial success of his music, the legions of screaming fans, he couldn’t handle it, it made him miserable as sin because he’d all of a sudden become the poster-boy for an entire generation, some kind of over-inflated grunge hero and he hated the pressure and the pretence of it all.
He’d lost his will to play and with it, his will to live. The same way he exploded onto the scene, he exploded off it, and I know it’s not really the popular opinion, but I think eating a shotgun is a seriously badass way of offing yourself because it sends a very clear message that what you did sure as hell wasn’t a cry for help.
A lot of people have speculated what it would be like if he hadn’t painted the ceiling with his brains, some saying he would have eventually come right and possibly gone on to write material that would be even better than his previous stuff and become an even more influential force in rock music, but I’m sceptical.
This piece that Chuck Klosterman wrote for Spin Magazine is probably the best prediction of what would have happened if Kurt Cobain were still alive
It’s a pretty hilarious read because in Chuck’s version of events, Cobain fizzles into obscurity and despite his half-hearted efforts, never quite manages to top the successes of his early career.
The universe has this funny way of working out sometimes. Can you imagine a 44 year-old Kurt Cobain? Some doddering, irrelevant middle-aged junkie, stinking up awards ceremonies and becoming the butt of the Justin Bieber-era entertainment industry’s jokes?
To be quite frank, I’m glad Cobain isn’t around to see what became of the industry because it’s the fucking Mickey Mouse club out there!
There are things in this life that are worse than death and Cobain still being alive to see how ridiculously over-commercial, overly-sexed and painfully shallow mainstream music has become over the last twenty years would definitely be one of them.