Tomorrow, Saturday, 5th April, will be 20th anniversary of the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain‘s death. Cobain, whom many continue to hail as the voice of a generation and single-handedly responsible for changing the course of rock music, took his own life in his Seattle home.
Since his band’s entry into the mainstream arena with their now-seminal 1991 album Nevermind, Cobain’s fans have felt as connected to him personally as they have to the music of Nirvana, most of which Cobain wrote himself, and which fans still probe for undiscovered autobiographical tidbits.
To mark 20 years since the passing of one of rock’s most highly regarded and consistently influential songwriters and frontmen, Music Feeds have gathered a few examples of why, 20 years on, fans continue to feel connected to Kurt Cobain, exploring his uncompromising attitude and his humour.
1. Nirvana turn a ‘Fuck you’ into an anthem
Many of us have given others a fuck-you, but few of us turned it into one of rock’s most enduring anthems and a staple of ‘Home of Rock’ radio stations around the globe. Written about posers who began showing up to Nirvana shows post-Bleach, the song became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Watch: Nirvana – In Bloom
2. Kurt shows everybody his Morrissey impression
The story goes that Nirvana were less than pleased with Top of the Pops‘ live vocal to pre-recorded backing track performance policy and so decided to punk everyone by making it very obvious they weren’t playing their instruments, while Kurt did his best impression of The Smiths‘ lead singer.
Watch: Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit (Top Of The Pops 1991)
3. Kurt is the belle of the ball
Nirvana and particularly Kurt’s distaste for the media machine that was MTV in the 1990s is notorious and made for its fair share of funny and awkward on-air moments. Of particular note is when Kurt wore a rather ostentatious gown in order to “attend” MTV program the Headbangers Ball.
Watch: Nirvana interview on Headbangers Ball 1991
4. Triple J find Nirvana to be kind of a difficult interview
As far as awkward interviews go, this one is on par with every single Lou Reed interview ever, which is to say absolutely brutal. In Oz to play Big Day Out and a string of mid-size shows, Nevermind basically exploded while the band were en route to Sydney Airport, leaving them utterly exhausted.
Listen: Rare 1992 Triple J Nirvana Interview
5. Kurt plays the forbidden song
Feeling a little like the ‘I Didn’t Do It’ kid (whoever he was), Kurt decided to delay playing their well-worn Nevermind hit Lithium, as was requested by MTV brass for an awards show performance, and launched into the verboten Rape Me from 1993’s In Utero, before, we guess, changing his mind?
Watch: Nirvana – Lithium Live at the 1992 MTV Awards (Rape Me Intro)
6. Kurt and Eddie Vedder: likes the man, hates the band
Kurt and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder were men of the hour, skyrocketing to stardom on grunge fuel. While the two were always friendly, Kurt didn’t make it a secret that he despised PJ for their complex instrumental interplay and prominent guitar leads. Y’know, their sound.
Watch: Kurt Cobain on Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam
7. Nirvana shift some units
Once again Kurt packages a tidy little ‘Fuck you!’ in one of his songs, and while this one may not be as well-known or, let’s face it, overplayed as In Bloom, it is a precise and calculated attack on what he, a die-hard punk rock fan, felt the music industry had unfortunately metastasised into.
Watch: Nirvana – Radio Friendly Unit Shifter
8. Kurt tells MTV where he keeps the awards they gave him
Remember how Kurt didn’t exactly make it a secret that he didn’t hold MTV in particular reverence despite their help in promoting his own band? Well here he is, fresh off an MTV stage, explaining to network journos how he keeps his Video Music Awards in the myriad toilets of his Seattle home.
Watch: Nirvana Interview at the 1993 MTV VMAs