Marking 20 years since the death of Kurt Cobain

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So this Saturday will mark 20 years since the short flame of Kurt Cobain burnt out. Suicide or Murder, either way the word tragedy struck more of a chord for masses of Grunge and music fans in general when Kurt joined the famous 27 club.

However reluctant, Kurt Cobain was a star, a visionary an icon. Kurt Cobain, Nirvana and with them the Seattle music scene which, came to be known as Grunge, shot to the top of popular culture over night, it was an explosion. Nirvana’s second album Nevermind changed the music business irreversibly on its release. They weren’t the first but Nirvana certainly spear headed the new scene coming out of Seattle breaking down the gates forever and an apathetic, angst filled Generation X seemed to relate to Nirvana and their front man more than the majority of their contemporaries and in a much deeper, spiritual and obsessive way than the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.

However, as with most artists who become overnight celebrities, the fame, the attention, the responsibility was just too much for this tortured soul. Profoundly effected by the divorce of his parents at a young age and their eventual rejection of him (Kurt used to sneak back into his mothers basement as somewhere to live). Kurt occasionally suffered from bouts of mental illness (Bi-polar disorder) and a famous drug and alcohol addiction. Kurt was already quite sensitive and fragile; the spotlight and intense scrutiny because this new found famed tortured Kurt and caused his energy and enthusiasm for the music and therefore (in his own eyes) his integrity to burn out. He felt that he could not go on lying to fans who had come to expect so much from him. Heart, soul and above all else a sense of connection. Things that Kurt felt he could no longer provide.

On April 8 1994, Kurt’s body was found in his home with a shotgun wound to the head. It is believed that Kurt committed suicide on April 5, three days earlier. This explanation has been challenged with some believing that Kurt was actually murdered. I am not going to go into this argument on this blog but there is plenty of information supporting both explanations if you want to look for them on the web. The shock wave this caused cannot be underestimated. The announcement of Kurt’s death was one of those “I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news” moments approximately seven thousand people attended a public vigil in Seattle on April 10 but millions more around the world mourned his passing.

20 years after his death Nirvana continue to sell millions of records and Kurt is still seen as an icon, a messiah and even martyr whose every word or lyric is analysed by fans new and old. Nirvana will be inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame on their first year of eligibility five days after the anniversary of his death.

As previous readers will know, I have a radio show on Friday nights where my co-presenter Ross and I get to hand pick two hours of rock for your (read our) entertainment. Given that this falls on the eve of the 20th anniversary, we have decided to take this opportunity to launch a new monthly feature focussing on a particular rock sub genre by having a 2 hour History of Grunge special in honour of Kurt Cobain. The circumstances of Kurt’s death and his and Nirvana’s status at the time has led to this one band (with a small collection of others) overshadowing an entire music scene. For many Nirvana is all they know about Grunge for more Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains will be the only Grunge bands they have heard of or are at least familiar with yet the Seattle Sound was a rich and massively varied collection of bands started long before the hey day of the early 90’s that most people know.

It is because of this that Ross and I will be spending two hours looking at the hidden history and progression of Grunge music starting with what you know then moving through the first real Grunge bands followed by those that influenced them. We will then be looking at some of the other lesser known contemporaries of those mentioned above. We will then be ending the show by looking at some of those bands directly inspired by the sound coming out of Seattle. After all Kurt never accepted his position as a spearhead for the movement and would have much preferred the spotlight to be on the other great bands that were around and inspired him.

I am really looking forward to this show, there are so many overlooked bands from this incredibly influential genre that came out of the bleak logging towns of the American Northwest. Bands such as Green River, The Melvins, The Screaming Trees, Mother Love Bone, Tad, Mudhoney, L7, Fastbacks and countless more as well as those who inspired them, Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Pixies, Dinosaur Jr and again many many more. Two hours is no where near enough but Ross and I have tried to put together the best playlist we can from what we have available and I am sure it will be two hours that any serious music fan (ok maybe not Hair metal fans) will enjoy.

We plan to do this every month with a different rock sub-genre so look out for specials on Southern Rock, Stoner Rock, Thrash, Punk, Nu Metal and others. If you get any ideas for a sub-genre you want us to focus on, let me know in the comments. 

You can tune in this Friday at 10pm by going to http://www.hcrfm.co.uk or looking for HCR104fm on the TuneIn app on your smartphone or tablet and if you are local to Huntingdon, UK, you can tune in on 104fm.

Turn on, Tune in, Rock out!

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