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Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck—the first officially sanctioned Kurt Cobain documentary, which makes its televised premiere on HBO on May 4. Courtney Love and his family opened Cobain’s private archives to the director, as well as providing candid interviews, alongside Krist Novoselic and Kurt’s former girlfriend Tracy Marander. Frances Bean Cobain sits in as executive producer.
Noisey: Recently you said you feel the next generation will make a Kurt/Nirvana doc that’s different from yours. How do you feel my generation’s perception of Kurt differs from yours? Being that he wasn’t alive when I listened to Nirvana…
Brett Morgen: Well, I think that it’s only a cultural difference, because we experienced Kurt at that time as someone who ushered in this sort of shifting cultural landscape. It’s like, Nirvana showed up, and then Bush and Reagan were swept out of the White House, then Kurt died and the Republicans took over. But the reason why he resonates with us is the same reason he resonates with your generation. Kurt will always provide comfort and be a sort of flagship for the freaks, the geeks, the disenfranchised, the beaten and down trodden, and the underdog.
Kurt was able to express his experience as a teenager through music, and articulate it lyrically better than anyone in the last 40 years of culture at least. Possibly ever. There will always be kids who feel alone. It helps that he’s absolutely gorgeous, and is never going to get a day older, and the music fucking kicked ass. He had an amazing ear for songs. You put that all together… I mean, one thing nobody would ever say about Kurt is that he was a sellout. He wasn’t. There’s a purity to him that is rare in pop music, because generally to make pop music involves a certain creative compromise. That wasn’t part of Kurt’s vocabulary.
So you think Kurt wasn’t chasing fame—that his intentions were more pure than that?
Kurt was really after acceptance. He sought it out initially through family, and then through the band, back when he started putting together bands. Then through Tracy, his girlfriend. And then with Courtney. I think he was ambitious and he also sought acceptance through fame, but he didn’t know what that meant. The bottom line is, if you don’t feel good about yourself, having the whole world tell you you’re beautiful and you’re amazing, doesn’t really make you feel better. In fact, it makes you feel worse. It’s like, Kurt’s deal with fame was that he didn’t know what that meant. In his mind, the ceiling for a band like Nirvana was 200,000 albums, like being Sonic Youth. So, he didn’t know—there was no scenario or plan to sell 600,000 albums in a week.
There are so many misconceptions about Kurt, which is especially clear after seeing the movie, what do you think is most misunderstood about him?
There are certain people who dismiss him just because they feel like we shouldn’t even be talking about him. In their minds, he only did three albums, and why are we still talking about him? Those who dismiss him as a whiny white guy who got all this fame and complained about it, it’s like, “Shut the fuck up, dude.” Hopefully when the audience sees the movie, and they arrive at the point where Kurt adopts some of those beats, they’ll greet it a little differently. See, what you get with the concept of the film is, it’s not a guy who’s just being abrasive to the media to be punk, or because he’s a whiny white guy, it’s that he’s an artist, and he doesn’t really want to explain his work. He’d rather people experience it. At the point where he’s selling 600,000 albums in a week, I don’t really think Kurt felt the need to sell any more. So the idea that he would schedule an interview to promote something like that—he doesn’t need any more promotion. It started to make music feel like a job for him. It wasn’t pure anymore. That’s just my sense.
Rivers Cuomo: At 18, I moved to L.A. with my heavy metal band Avant Garde, which was very much influenced by Metallica. At 19, I got a job at Tower Records, and everything started to change very quickly. I started listening to the Velvet Underground, Pixies, early Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and also earlier music like the Beatles. Around that same time, Weezer started. I met them through co-workers at Tower and, one by one, we cut our hair and stopped doing the sweep picking and two-handed tapping. And we came up with The Blue Album.
But if I have to choose one song, it’s gonna have to be “Sliver”, because this other guy I worked with named Howard said, “Rivers, we’re going to play you this song by this new band Nirvana and we think you’re gonna like this.” It was just one of those things where, by the time it got through the first chorus, I was just running around the store. The music turned me on so much. It had the simplicity of the Velvet Underground in the structure and the chords and the lyrical theme—it was talking about family issues from this very innocent perspective. It had the melody and the major chord progression of the pop music I love, like ABBA, but also this sense of destructiveness that I had in me, and it came out in this new hybrid style.
Pitchfork: Did you ever cross paths with Kurt Cobain?
No, not once. When Weezer was making The Blue Album, that was right around the time In Utero came out. He died in April , and The Blue Album came out in May. We were on the same label, and it’s possible he could’ve heard it, but he probably had never even heard the name Weezer. It’s sad for me, because he’s probably my all-time hero, but at the same time, I’m kind of relieved, because he probably would’ve scorned us.
While working for Cobain’s wife Courtney Love, Tom Grant, best known for his unproven theory that Kurt Cobain was murdered, was given access to Cobain’s suicide note and used her fax machine to make a photocopy, which has since been widely distributed.
After studying the note, Grant believed that it was actually a letter written by Cobain announcing his intent to leave Courtney Love, Seattle, and the music business. Grant asserts that the lines at the very bottom of the note, separate from the rest, are the only parts implying suicide. While the official report on Cobain’s death concluded that Cobain wrote the note, Grant claims that the official report does not distinguish the questionable lines from the rest of the note and simply draws the conclusion across its entirety. One of the biggest ‘what if?’ questions in music, Grant believes there are far more questions than answers.
And so it goes.
Speakings from the tongue of an experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complainee. This note should be pretty easy to understand. All the warnings from the Punk Rock 101 Courses over the years, it’s my first introduction to the, shall we say ethics involved with independence and the embracement of your community has been proven to be very true. I haven’t felt the excitement of listening to, as well as creating music, along with really writing something for too many years now. I feel guilty beyond words about these things, for example when we’re backstage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowd begins. It doesn’t affect me in the way which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love and relish the love and admiration from the crowd, which is something I totally admire and envy. The fact is, I can’t fool you, any of you. It simply isn’t fair to you, or to me. The worst crime can think of would be to pull people off by faking it, pretending as if I’m having one 100% fun. Sometimes I feel as though I should have a punch-in time clock before I walk out on-stage. I’ve tried everything within my power to appreciate it, and I do, God believe me, I do, but it’s not enough. I appreciate the fact that I, and we, have affected, and entertained a lot of people. I must be one of the narcisists who only appreciate things when they’re alone. I’m too sensitive, I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasm. But, what’s sad is our child. On our last three tours, I’ve had a much better appreciation of all the people I’ve known personally, and as fans of our music. But I still can’t get out the frustration, the guilt, and the sympathy I have for everybody. There is good in all of us, and I simply love people too much. So much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad little sensitive unappreciative pisces Jesus man! why don’t you just enjoy it? I dont know! I have a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy, and a daughter who reminds me to much of what I use to be. full of love and joy, every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point to where I can barely function. I can’t stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable self destructive, deathrocker she become. I have it good, very good, and I’m grateful, but since the age of seven, I’ve become hateful towards all humans in general. Only because it seems so easy for people to get along and have empathy. Empathy only because I love and feel for people too much I guess. Thank you from the pit of my burning nauseas stomach for your letters and concern during the last years. I’m too much of a neurotic moody person and I don’t have the passion anymore, so remember, it’s better to burn out, than to fade away. Peace, love, empathy, Kurt Cobain.
Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your altar.
Please keep going Courtney
for her life which will be so much happier without me.
I LOVE YOU. I LOVE YOU!”
Director Brett Morgen’s long-gestating documentary on Kurt Cobain has found a home at HBO.
It is the first documentary to be made with the cooperation of Cobain’s family and will include never-before-seen home movies, recordings, artwork and photography, plus material from his personal archives, family archives and songbooks. The film features dozens of Nirvana songs and performances as well as previously unheard Cobain originals. Cobain committed suicide 20 years ago at the age of 27.
Cobain’s daughter with Courtney Love, Frances Bean Cobain, is an executive producer with Larry Mestel and David Byrnes.
On April 1, 1994, Kurt Cobain walked away from a rehab centre in Southern California, hopped in a cab, went to their airport and flew on a Delta Flight 788 to Seattle. On April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle, the victim of what was officially ruled a suicide by a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head.
On that same flight was Duff McKagan of Guns ‘N Roses. Skip to the 9 minute mark to watch McKagan talk about it for one of the very few times.
Find yourself submerged into the voyage depths of hell, and deep into the mind of Kurt Cobain. The tape was made on a 4-track cassette recorder grabbing cuts from Cobain’s own record collection, the radio, band demos and sounds he made or recorded himself and uploaded by Vimeo user SpaceEcho (who claims Cobain gave the tape to him personally). Presenting the full version of Kurt Cobain’s “Montage Of Heck” mixed-tape from 1986.
Kurt Cobain’s “Montage Of Heck” from SpaceEcho on Vimeo.
Montage of Heck Track List:
“The Men In My Little Girl’s Life” by Mike Douglas
“The Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” by The Beatles
“A Day In The Life” by The Beatles
“Eruption” by Van Halen
“Hot Pants” by James Brown
“Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” by Cher
“Go Away Little Girl” by Donny Osmond
“Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver
“Everybody Loves Somebody” by Dean Martin
“The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr.
“In A Gadda Da Vida” by Iron Butterfly
“Wild Thing” by William Shatner
“Taxman” by The Beatles
“I Think I Love You” by The Partridge Family
“Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?” by The Barbarians
“Queen Of The Reich” by Queensryche
“Last Caress/Green Hell” covered by Metallica
“Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin
“Get Down, Make Love” by Queen
“ABC” by The Jackson Five
“I Want Your Sex” by George Michael
“Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden
“Eye Of The Chicken” by Butthole Surfers
“Dance of the Cobra” by Butthole Surfers
“The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave” by Butthole Surfers
“New Age” by The Velvet Underground
“Love Buzz” by Shocking Blue
Orchestral music from 200 Motels by Frank Zappa
“Help I’m A Rock” / “It Can’t Happen Here” by Frank Zappa
“Call Any Vegetable” by Frank Zappa
“The Day We Fall In Love” by The Monkees
“Sweet Leaf” by Black Sabbath (intro)
Theme from The Andy Griffith Show
Mike Love (of The Beach Boys) talking about “Transcendental Meditation”
Excerpts of Jimi Hendrix speaking at the Monterey Pop Festival
Excerpts of Paul Stanley from KISS’ Alive!
Excerpts of Daniel Johnston screaming about Satan
Excerpts from sound effects records
Various children’s records (Curious George, Sesame Street, The Flintstones, Star Wars)
Legend has it Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain wanted to call this song Heart-Shaped Coffin, and the lyric of this rough demo features that very line. This demo is pretty close to what would be slightly cleaned-up for their In Utero album when he decided to call it “Heart-Shapped Box” instead.
Listen for the swapping “I wish I could catch your cancer” to “I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black” for the official version. You’ll also notice Cobain humming along to the music – something more than a few artists do in the studio before committing to actual lyrics.
From Spin Magazine:
In April of 1992, Nirvana had topped Billboard, scored a platinum record, appeared on the cover of SPIN, and were being held without bail for instigating some sorta slouchy, shruggy, shouty sea-change in American popular culture. But, as legend has it, frontman Kurt Cobain didn’t actually realize he’d “made it” until Yankovic lovingly satirized their biggest hit. In Yankovic’s hands, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became “Smells Like Nirvana,” a song about the hilarious reality that the supposed voice of a generation was actually impossible to understand beyond a groaned bargle nawdle zouss. Yankovic seizing the moment was not only fortuitous for Nirvana, but Weird Al experienced one of the biggest of many “comebacks,” scoring his biggest chart hit since “Eat It,” and ultimately retaining his jester’s throne for another 20 years and counting (all recently documented in the coffee table tome Weird Al: The Book). The whole “Nirvana” ordeal was even dramatized in the 19th season of The Simpsons, when Homer’s grunge band Sadgasm got a Weird Al parody of their own.
“Weird Al” Yankovic: It was hard on my vocal chords. In the studio, oftentimes I’ll be singing for eight to 12 hours a day. And when you’re doing a song like “Smells Like Nirvana,” that’s a lot of screaming. Try screaming for 12 hours and see where that gets you. It’s tough on the vocal chords. I do have a memory of there actually being cookies in my mouth when I did the “bargle nawdle zouss,” unintelligible-mumble thing. I wish I could remember the brand. Some kind of Hawaiian Fig Newton, some kind of weird, off-brand exotic cookie.
Jay Levey, manager and video director: With the “Nirvana” video, all the stars aligned. We were able to track down and book the same soundstage. The soundstage, in essence, is four bare walls, so you could be in any soundstage and not know it was the one. But from a karmic standpoint, it was pretty heavy to be in the exact same place where they shot theirs. The vast majority of the fans in the bleachers were from the original Nirvana video. And the janitor, of course, was also the original janitor. I don’t know that he even knew a thing about Nirvana. I believe he was a real janitor.
Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz, drums: Skating legend Tony Hawk was one of the kids in there.
Levey: Who knew at the time, right?
Yankovic: We got a couple of the same cheerleaders.
Levey: [Securing those details] was nothing more than talking to the folks who produced the Nirvana video. They were totally helpful because they knew that Kurt was on board. I will say with the extras, it was really quite poignant and moving in a way because those kids had a deep, deep connection with Kurt and with Nirvana. The seismic waves that Kurt and that band had created in pop culture, and in music, can’t begin to be understated. Their vulnerability and their hesitation was palpable in the room, but they knew that Kurt was on board with this.
Yankovic: Dick Van Patten was an 11th-hour addition. We wanted a random celebrity, and on the day of the shoot, we were like, “Does anyone know a random celebrity?” And someone knew Dick Van Patten.
Read the read of the story at Spin Magazine
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will unveil a new exhibit highlighting the 2014 Inductees and air the 2014 Induction Ceremony on HBO on Saturday, May 31. Honored this year are Peter Gabriel, Daryl Hall and John Oates, KISS, Nirvana, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, the E Street Band, Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham.
Included in the exhibit:
• Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein’s diaries
• Contracts and other documents related to Andrew Loog Oldham’s management of the Rolling Stones
• Clothing and instruments from the E Street Band, including the tenor saxophone played by Clarence Clemons on the Born the Run album and the guitar played by Steven Van Zandt in the “Glory Days” video.
• A Peter Gabriel costume prop worn at the 1993 Grammy Awards
• Cape and boots worn by Peter Criss of KISS during publicity events and photo sessions while promoting KISS’ Dynasty tour.
• Clothing and various items from Nirvana, including a Dave Grohl handwritten setlist, a Kurt Cobain handwritten note, and a Kurt Cobain knit cap and cardigan sweater.
• A jacket worn by Linda Ronstadt on the cover of her 1978 album Back In the U.S.A.
• The guitar Cat Stevens played during his performance at the 2014 Induction Ceremony
• Guitars from Daryl Hall and John Oates.
The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will air on HBO on Saturday, May 31 at 8pm ET/PT. Held at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York on April 10, this year’s ceremony featured appearances by Chris Martin, Glenn Frey, Michael Stipe, Questlove, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Lorde, Kim Gordon, St. Vincent, Joan Jett, Peter Asher, Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris, Tom Morello and Sheryl Crow.
The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee exhibit will remain open through 2014.
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