Still in the Dark?

It’s now been twenty seven years since a walking legend, a cult leader, a “spokesperson for a generation” (as he hated to be called), a way of life for many people who felt just the same as him, grunge rocker Kurt Cobain, had died.

While the music, the attitude and mentality that he and Nirvana had, and the grunge legacy they established speak for themselves, the grey area emerges when things come a bit closer home and personal: the equation between Kurt Cobain and his wife, controversial Hole rocker Courtney Love.

Let’s chalk things out in very brief:

Kurt was a volatile person going down the path of destruction.

Courtney was a volatile person headed down the path of destruction.

That’s all it was.

Courtney hung on longer than Kurt, and that’s all there is. Kurt let go, while Courtney persevered and is somehow still here today, 20 years later.

It seems to be that some people vilify Courtney for this very reason. That she stayed on, and is alive, while Kurt petered out. Some suspect she had something to do with Kurt’s “death”. Because Kurt was the vulnerable, sensitive candle flickering in it’s last flames, the smallest nudge the wrong way from the wind could set it off. Apparently Courtney, however similar to Kurt, was made of stronger stuff than wax. And it’s as simple as that.

Many don’t see it that way.

Let’s flip the situation, hypothetically, and reassess.

Suppose it had been Courtney who’d petered out, while Kurt had somehow found the will to live.

Somehow, I feel that Courtney would never have been the martyr legend that Kurt became. The same anger and suspicion some have for Courtney may not have been there for Kurt. Courtney could never have been raised to the legend Kurt was. And is that simply because while Kurt was the fragile, vulnerable man, done in by the evil woman who supposedly wanted to leave him and was “thinking of” cheating on him anyway, Courtney the biblical Eve leading the man down the path to ruin?

I try to imagine a scenario where a vigil would have been held for Courtney Love. I try to imagine people talking about what a fighter she was, what a hypocritical world she fought and rebelled against. I try to think of where people would shake their head and say, what a shame, Hole’s first album was almost out, and she gave up… Always was such a flame in a wind…

But somehow, that’s not really the scene that sets in naturally, does it.

What I really imagine is, ah, that was bound to happen, she lived too dangerously for her own good. Poor Kurt, left like that to raise his two year-old daughter all by himself, could it ever have lasted? (No, I don’t recall Courtney getting that concern from anyone.)

There are even some, who think Courtney so crude, they may have said, good riddance, or something on those lines.

Courtney was just someone who happened to be involved with Cobain at a point in his forever uncertain, low-melting fuse box of a life. Many say Kurt would have taken his life at some point regardless. That after so many failed attempts, he simply had this coming. Some close to him will even point out that Courtney’s presence may have prolonged Kurt’s life this little bit.

But tell that to those who subconsciously hate Courtney because she was a woman who stood up and made some noise in a man’s world. She may not have always been right about everything, but she was strong when it mattered, and she had it in her to give it one more shot.


(P.S. I am still a big Nirvana, and a Cobain fan.)

(P.P.S. The reason I don’t believe Courtney had Kurt killed lies in simple psychology, for those still unconvinced. Because no matter how different individuals may be, basic psychology still applies to almost all humans.

It’s been more than 20 years since Kurt Cobain died. (This year would have been his 50th, had he been alive.) Those many years can do some serious damage to people. Suppose Courtney had done what they suspect. Doesn’t one suppose that she’d think of it at times, and over the years, the guilt would have grown? She lived to see their daughter’s face everyday, the living legacy of Kurt Cobain; how could 20 years of living with it not have broken her down to the point where she’d have to tell someone? Confess to the world? It would be a tortured existence! If she really had done it, she would have confessed in three, maybe five, maybe ten years. It’s been twenty years. By her standards, Courtney Love is in fine mental health. She didn’t do it.)

No One Sings Like You Anymore.

R.I.P. Chris Cornell.

Another one in our long line of beloved warriors who braved the world, braved the mainstream, the rut we’re forever stuck in, fought our ordinary, boring lives, and gave us something to look forward to, bites the dust.

Another grunge legend stops in his tracks. Just hours after a Soundgarden Detroit gig concluded.

Another Seattle hero joins Cobain in oblivion. Gone but never lost. The influence lives on forever.

R.I.P. Chris Cornell.

Is Rock Music Really Dead?

A very common misgiving I hear around me is “There’s no good music around anymore.”

There are people out there who are so dissatisfied with the music scene, if there is any, as they’d tell you, that they have given up all hope for the future and try to satisfy themselves by burying their heads in heaps of better records, from 40 years ago, to block out the noise. (Case in point: rock music.)

Now, I have seen some pretty sick indicators, including a T-shirt on someone that said, “Rock isn’t dead, it just went ‘pop’.” (Which is pretty sick). But that doesn’t mean it’s wiped out like the dinosaurs. It endures. Like the microorganisms that quietly, in their own corners survived, and are still here, while the larger monsters died out in a headline-worthy tale, rock music has, and will, endure.

Ask any hardened listener, and they’ll affirm that giving up the resistance and joining the stream is not an option. Not with the kind of music that’s blasted out commercially, that’s almost a punishment for not being deaf. (Or having a mind for that matter. A study done a few years ago found that popular music is just getting dumber. About 2 minutes of a four minute long song was just ‘filler words’, the ‘aaa’s and ‘ooo’s and ‘oi’s and ‘baby’s and ‘yeah, yeah, oooo,… you add on. It’s a legitimate study that I’m not making up, I’ll just have to dig it up from my stash of newspaper cutouts.)

The only real solutions to our “problem” are, either to pick up a guitar, start making the music you want to hear, and stop whining, once and for all, or to support the artists that are trying to.

Most people will agree, the good music is NOT in the mainstream. It’s underground, but we’ve stopped looking. I don’t know, typical human fatalist nature. (Which, before you get me wrong, is no reason to become complacent on climate issues. Summers are touching 45 degrees celsius here, and I’m talking about March temperatures.)

I, for one, am brushing up my skills, and hoping to provide some relief to the many “tortured” souls who’ve been forced to listen to, well, real bad music, for the sake of decency of language, in every mall or eatery they’ve been to in their life. (Except it will still be a long time before McDonald’s is going to be blasting Black Sabbath to accompany ice cream cokes.)

I am also trying not to make it look like there’s nothing to look forward to anymore, and the rainbow-coloured bubblegum pop is really blacker than death metal because it ate away at our Rock’s very essence, or whatever many may make it out to be. There is still decent music out there. I almost believe again.

Most forms of rock, particularly derivatives of alt rock do have something interesting to offer, each with their own new ’10’s-sound. I know of bands making some downright listenable noise in hard rock, grunge, funk rock, blues, garage rock. (I will admit that I can’t talk as optimistically for classic rock. It seems the elaborate, once-standard form of making a rock song has been hit by a punk movement of a new kind: time crunch. But I will keep looking, everyday could bring a new opportunity?)

One thing the disillusioned mentioned is indisputable: whatever and wherever this good new music is, it’s not on the radios. It’s not on the music channels. (To be honest, music itself isn’t, these days.) It’s not on the mainstream airwaves. And before we make the familiar dreaded connection between the terms ‘mainstream’ and ‘sell-out’, let’s make it clear: anything that’s good should get circulated, heard. That’s what it used to be during Alan Freed’s time. And for our argument here, let’s keep it that way.

A few people are listening in on a YouTube or a SoundCloud. You pass by a park with decent noise. A pal tells you, the cynical rock-fatalist, that’s there’s something out there you might like. But fearing a bad dose to the ear, you won’t listen to it, because nothing’s good anymore, or you hear it, feel it’s decent, but can get better, but you really can’t be bothered to follow up with it.

Remaining non-committal to the scene can be as big a killer as promoting the pop bubblegum noise. (Here you nod: “Now we know where you stand.”) I get that time and exhaustion are bigger factors than they ever were before, but a new artist might need it.

Obviously the reason why a Justin Beiber has 10 billion views on YouTube is not because he’s good. It’s because he has dedicated fans out there ready to stand behind his every song (*gags*… Sorry.), to support him and spread the word. Maybe that’s one thing we can learn from the kids. (And I never said that last part.)

Many of these artists still have day jobs to support themselves. And there’s only a point till where artists can support themselves and each other. Their fans are their biggest assets, in the end. (I would just want to add, perhaps not more than a cracker riff, but even there, it’s those listening who need to appreciate it.) Those who once helped the stars of the decades gone by need to remember how they did it: they bought the records, they followed them live, supported them in every way they could. And maybe we need to stop holding every new artist before the light of a great established band. They are ‘established’ for a reason. What makes Led Zeppelin so unique and legendary is that there was no one like them, and there won’t be either. Maybe we should make peace with that fact. Accept and support artists based on their potential, and they’ll grow to make you proud. They’ll grow and the rock scene will awaken again. A mismatch of attitudes and intentions is all that’s keeping it stuck in a rut so far, and both sides mean well. One thing we can do, as people did in the past, is to get out there, and go join the scene. See an artist for yourself. Support them, like the old times. And you’ll find yourself being carried back, carried back, carried back, to the scene where you come from. And you’ll find yourself saying, man, it’s been a long time since I rock and rolled. And is it good to be back.