I enjoyed the luxury of a few days off in a row there over the Xmess break. I spent a lot of that time reading a book called “Come as You Are,” about the Washington-based alternative band “Nirvana.” It was tough for me. I’ve had the book for a while, but I’ve been reluctant to read it because the personal, selfish pain I felt at the suicide of front-man and songwriter Kurt Cobain, a suicide that took place nearly twenty years ago, still lingers to this day.
Kurt Cobain connected with me. I never met him, never got to see the band play live, but when I heard his music, it opened up a part of my brain I didn’t know was there. He has that incredible voice that can convey so much anguish and pain, but for me it was his guitar playing that really stood out. His solos were fairly primitive, simplistic, and drenched with ear-drum piercing feedback. It didn’t rely on fast, intricate finger-work, like most of the guitar gods I had heard before, but Cobain’s sonic guitar parts communicated the energy of his songs as clearly as his voice.
He’s the only artist I really ever felt that connection with. I had plenty of bands that were heroic to me, mostly over the top metal bands. Cobain though, he wasn’t someone I felt like I had to look up to, but more like he was one of us, he understood and could articulate things I could only feel. I went so far as to write Cobain a fan letter, telling him how much I loved his guitar playing.
I was working at a nursery in San Diego when I learned of Cobain’s suicide. A callous co-worker who probably had no idea how I felt about Nirvana, told me about the loss in probably the least sensitive way it could be explained. It floored me. I must have turned white; I retreated to the back of the nursery, dropped to me knees, and sobbed. It felt like a piece of me was gone.
So yes, I was reluctant to read the book. Heck, I have not even listened to Nirvana’s music since that painful day. That was tough – music that had spoken so clearly to me no longer brought me any joy.
But the book had been there awhile, and I needed something to read, so I read it, and I’m glad I did. The author Michael Azerrad put the book out in 1993, before Cobain’s death, but the edition I have includes a “final chapter” added after Cobain took his life. It details the bands inception, and gets into the background of the members. It goes a long way towards humanizing the entourage, and painting a picture of a young man who was tortured, physically and mentally, all his life. It captures the horrors that come along with extreme fame.
Anyway, maybe it wasn’t exactly cathartic, but reading that book was a good thing. Today I’ve even been playing a little Nirvana on the radio, and the sadness is still there, but maybe a little bit of the joy is starting to come back.