Being something of a social outcast and one who has long since fallen into the habit of – culturally speaking – bitterly disapproving of almost everything that passes across my line of sight, it doesn’t take much to turn my lightsaber from blue to red. Stuff irritates me all the time; every time I turn on the TV, in fact, or most of the time I browse Social Media.
But when I came across a news item about the statue that has been erected of Kurt Cobain in his childhood home town of Aberdeen, Washington, I almost felt physically sick. When I looked up pictures of said travesty I felt sicker. And when I read that it was part of the town’s ‘Kurt Cobain Day’ I almost turned into Mumra the Everliving – such being my utter disgust at the notion.
Firstly, the statue is horrible, even just aesthetically. And the idea of having a ‘tear’ falling from his eye just turns the stomach. A statue? To commemorate someone who shot himself – and a tear falling from the eye to represent a man who was so depressed that he ended his own life? This, no doubt being meant as some great poetic statement; but actually it’s just the tackiest shit imaginable.
And a ‘Kurt Cobain Day’ in Aberdeen, Washington (held to coincide with Kurt’s 47th birthday), was surely nothing more than the town’s attempt to draw attention, even visitors; perhaps an understandable strategy, as Cobain is the only thing that ever put that place on the map. However, Cobain loathed that town; his own comments over the years couldn’t emphasize enough how much he hated the town he’d grown up in, how much he’d wanted to get away from it. There’s something perverse about it now being the Nirvana Mecca it has become.
“Yeah, I was run out of town. They chased me up to the castle of Aberdeen with torches. Just like the Frankenstein monster. And I got away in a hot air balloon. And I came here to Seattle.”
– Kurt Cobain, Monk Magazine (1992)
But what aggravates me too as both a long-time Nirvana fan and someone who likes to think of himself as being sensitive to and sympathetic to Cobain’s sensibilities is watching utterly clueless people who have no idea what Cobain was about simply milking his memory for the sake of tacky nonsense that is so un-punk it’s painful. All the while trying to portray it as some kind of fitting tribute.
What next? Public readings of the suicide note, accompanied by interpretive dance?
All of the tackiness aside, what bothers me is knowing how much Cobain himself would despise all of this; the notion that there would be a statue of him anywhere, much less in the town he hated; as if he’d become some tacky Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson type figure, much less that the statue would try to capture him as a sad, miserable figure, as if taunting, even glorifying his very manner of death. The very idea of hero worship was anathema to what Kurt and Nirvana were about.
We now have a situation where the most punk-rock-minded, “alternative” inclined rock star there was – a guy who viciously mocked the very idea of “stardom” and of traditional “rock god” notions whenever he could – is now himself being turned into a tacky, Elvis-like memorial industry, with statue, museum, and all. It’s enough to make you want to give up on society.
Aberdeen’s Mayor Bill Simpson has even been quoted as saying he hopes the Aberdeen Museum of History, which is where the Randi Hubbard statue was unveiled, will become “as big as Graceland”.
How dispiriting to think that the man who wrote the ‘In Utero’ album now has a “day”; a perversely ironic part of his memory. How would Kurt feel about it? He’d hate it. He’d feel like Jesus would’ve felt if he’d come back and been shown the Vatican.’Kurt Cobain Day’ would’ve made him wish he was never born! It’s just horrible. It does remind me though of the fictional Seattle ‘Frasier Crane Day’ in Frasier; but, no, that reference aside, it’s not funny.
Speaking personally, yes, I’m quite precious about Cobain and his legacy. I was not only – and still am – a massive fan of his band and his music, but he was my foremost cultural icon; someone who had a massive influence on me both as a musician and in many ways as a person. I’d hesitate to use words like ‘hero’, because that’s almost as shitty as the statue; but the love I’ve had for his art and the respect I’ve always had for him as a personality and for what he spoke for makes it very irritating for me to have to watch his legacy being made into a sick joke, being made into a farce.
The ocean of Cobain worship on-line, which often seems more like a cult of personality than an appreciation of music, and mostly by people who weren’t born yet when ‘In Utero’ was released, is often irritating enough. But the weeping statue is just a travesty; a crime against taste and a transgression against a brilliant artist’s memory.
Even Nirvana being inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in April this year fails to move me, as it seems again like something Kurt would’ve been uninterested in or might’ve even regarded as very unpunk.
I remember that Krist Novoselic said, the week of Kurt’s death in 1994, that if they ever erected a statue of him he’d personally go and smash it down. Perhaps Krist was on some level foreseeing way back then what was to come in twenty years…
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