Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Hard To Believe It's Been 15 Years

An event happened that was devastating, but hardly surprising 15 years ago today. It was on April 8, 1994 that Kurt Cobain's body was found, dead from a self inflicted gun shot wound. It marked the end of the groundbreaking Seattle group Nirvana.

I got the news from my girlfriend who called me from her job. I had crashed at her place the night before licking my wounds from getting fired from a shitty job the day before. It wasn't welcome news to say the least. I was a big fan of Nirvana. Nirvana represented a welcome trend in the popular music scene. The era of lame bands like Poison, Ratt, and Motley Crue was over. Even a great band like Guns and Roses faltered when Nirvana burst on the national scene in 1991.

I had just moved to Seattle in 1991 and befriended a guy named Mike who told me about a local band that was ready to release their second album that month. We went to a record release party at a record store called the Beehive. At the same time a new radio station started airing in Seattle called "The End". "The End" focused on an alternative music scene that was growing since the late 80's. Bands like Stone Roses, The Farm, and Blur were played along with Seattle bands like Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, and a band that was releasing a new album, Nirvana.

It was a good thing this radio station existed, because I did not bring either my CD player or my CDs and a radio station that played better more varied music than any on New York at the time was welcome and educational. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was the top requested song every night on "The End" on their countdown show. The opening guitar riff still sends chills down my spine from the very first time I heard it.

The album was released and I listened to it at Mike's many times before I finally got my CD player. The album was so popular and so indentifiably Seattle. This helped a band called Pearl Jam and helped increase sales for Soundgarden. The Seattle "grunge" scene was on and I was in the middle of it all, adopting the look, carousing the clubs, attending the shows and basically enjoying the last gasps of my adolescence a few years after the fact. The next few years were an orgy of fun slackerdom. The best part of it was the fact I lived for the present, I rarely was nostalgic, I wish I can say that now.

Things would soon change. In 1994, I was in a serious relationship with a woman who represented a change in my life. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her and I had to face the fact I was getting older and I needed to become responsible. Still, the scene in Seattle was going strong. Pearl Jam, Soungarden, and Nirvana continued to release great albums that would keep the scene strong, but every good thing must come to an end. I just didn't think it would be so quick on that dreary day in 1994.

I guess it was inevitable. He tried to kill himself in Europe a month before, He wrote a song called "I Hate Myself And I Want To Die" and he took enough heroin to put Sid Vicious to shame. I guess I wanted to ride the Nirvana express until I chose to get off.

He died when he was 27. 27 is a scary year for many. It's when we start to age and when we need to get our act together in our career. It also can be when we realize life isn't going to work out the way we hoped it would. That may explain the amount of rock stars who died at the age of 27. Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and now Kurt Cobain. I was 27 in 1994, and was hoping it would be a transformative year for me in a profound positive way. Instead it marked the end of the Seattle scene I enjoyed, I moved to a town Federal Way, WA, that allowed me to gain 30 pounds quite quickly. I had taken on two jobs that were pathetic, just so I could survive. Plus it was the year of OJ, the baseball strike, and the Republican Revolution in November. A lousy year, transformative? Yes, for the worse.

15 years is a long time. We went through 9-11, the Bush years, Britney Spears, People not knowing the Foo Fighters lead singer was the drummer of Nirvana and other atrocities.

And one of the worst was seeing Kurt Cobain endorse sneakers from the grave.

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