On April 5th 1994, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain pointed a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Unlucky for him that it was loaded. Two days later a workman – a man visiting Cobain’s home to do some work – discovered the grunge pioneer’s mashed-up head, still mostly attached to his body, and alerted the authorities. With the bullet-aided bursting of Cobain’s head and brains, it signalled the death-knell for grunge, the Seattle-spawned musical movement that was typified by fuzzy guitars, angst-ridden lyrics, and guys in checked shirts who didn’t wash their hair, and thought that absurd half-beards made their chins look cool.

A sort of more po-faced and “earnest”, 90s version of heavy metal, bands like Silverchair and Pearl Jam ditched the fire-spewing cod-pieces and songs about “Trapping beavers with my big ol’ beaver-trapping stick” and “Let’s do it, baby, in my big ol’ Buick”, for lyrics that “kept it real”. Songs were about messed-up schoolkids biting teacher’s breasts, and about how futile it was to be in a grunge metal band. Most grunge bands wanted their fans to think they themselves were messed up – witness Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder hilarious attempt to “keep it real” by writing on his arm in marker pen during the band’s MTV Unplugged performance… at least that missing twat out of Manic Street Preachers used a knife when he attempted something similar during an interview. And Jesus, Eddie – five year olds scribble on themselves all the time, and it doesn’t make them any more dangerous or radical.

However, the difference with grunge pioneers Nirvana is that they were messed-up. Well, frontman Kurt Cobain was at least. Big style. A habitual heroin user along with his repellent wife Courtney Love, Cobain wrote songs about how awful it was to be alive, how awful it was to be in a grunge rock band, and how awful his fans were. He could’ve retired if things were that bad. Instead he chose to slip a gun between his teeth and shoot his tonsils out.

Suffice to say this was the fire to the powder for Cobain’s hypnotised acolytes, who were quick with the eulogies, establishing him as some sort of hygiene-free John Lennon for the 90s. Thousands of unwashed youths kept tearful vigils around the Cobain home in the days following his death. And then, on 16th April 1994, Cobain’s widow spoke to the crowds, reading aloud from Cobain’s suicide note – which was addressed, inexplicably “To Boddah pronounced” – vocalising her own messed-up and rambling footnotes as she did so.

It’s easy to laugh when someone famous shoots themselves, but somehow there’s also something really unsettling about Cobain’s note. It’s readily apparent that this was a man suffering from severe, drug-induced mental illness. The fact that he left behind a young daughter makes it all the sadder. So… here’s that note in full (and which one of you arses shouted “Ambulance chasers”?):

“To Boddah pronounced,

“Speaking 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, since my first introduction to the, shall we say, ethic involved with independence and the embracement of your community has proven to be very true. I haven't felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music along with reading and writing for to many years now. I feel guilty beyond words about these things.

“For example, when we're back stage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowds begin, OT doesn't affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love, relish in the love and adoration from the crowd which is something I totally admire and envy. The fact is, I can't fool you, any one of you. It simply isn't fair to you or me. The worst crime I can think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I'm having 100% fun.

“Sometimes I feel as if 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 its not enough). I appreciate the fact that I and we have affected and entertained a lot of people. It must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things when they're gone. I'm too sensitive. I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasms I once had as a child.

“On our last 3 tours, I've had a much better appreciation for all the people I've known personally, and as fans of our music, but I still can't get over the frustration, the guilt and empathy I have for everyone. There's good in all of us and I think I simply love people too much, so much that it makes me feel to sad. The sad little, sensitive, unappreciative, Pisces, Jesus man. Why don't you just enjoy it? I don't know!!

“I don't have a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy and a daughter who reminds me too much of what I used to be, full of love and joy, kissing 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, death rocker that I've 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 that have empathy. Only because I love and feel sorry for people too much, I guess.

“Thank you all from the pit of my burning, nauseous stomach for your letters and concern during the past years. I'm too much of an erratic moody baby! I don't have the passion anymore, so remember, It's better to burn out then to fade away.

Peace, love, empathy,
Kurt Cobain”

Silly sod.

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1.  What is the name of Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl’s new band?

2. What was the name of Nirvana’s second album?

3.  What was on the cover of the album?

4. Which of these striking images did not feature in the video for Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box?

5. Which David Bowie song did the band cover for their MTV Unplugged performance?


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