Love Will Tear Us Apart
New Musical Express, August 29, 1992
As 'Nevermind' zoomed past Bono and Jacko, so the rumours started: Kurt Is Dead... Kurt and Courtney and heroin... As the bulldozers continue to gather up the money, will NIRVANA survive the madness of mega-success? But more to the point, will they survive Courtney Love? Keith Cameron waits patiently for an audience and soon spots that all is not well in their domain. 15 minutes of frame: Steve Double.
Imagine a wedding without a bride and groom. Or a banquet without the food, a candle without a flame, a film without a star. A mother without a child. It's not right - it's not ready. It can't happen. They aren't here yet.
So, somewhere deep in the pristine recesses of Madrid's Velodrome, we have to wait. And wait. Hey, don't worry, we've got really good at waiting over the last couple of days. Have a coffee, eat some food, do a I little pacing up and down. Oh yes -waiting, we know how to do it.
There's a slight commotion in the distance and A eyes turn at once. Here they come! She leads him by the hand, and from a distance they resemble those drawings of Chrisopher Robin dragging Winnie the pooh along the ground.
As they get nearer, though, the vision fades. Christopher Robin was never this female, never this pregnant, and pooh never wore such a sappy grin or had a blood red lipstick welt on his right cheek. She looks angry. He looks cute. Everyone else looks relieved.
Ladeeez an' gennullmen....I give you King Kurt and Queen Courtney, newly crowned monarchs of the former Republic of Nirvana. Pray silence for her Majesty!
"Here he is!" she shrieks. "Here's everyone's little investment!"
God, don't you just hate royalty and their bad jokes?
I HADN'T seen Nirvana since December'91, when they'd played the Transmusicales Festival in Rennes, France. It was the band's last date before cancelling the rest of their European tour due to Kurt Cobain's ravaged voice and, although messy in places, their performance still heaved with a sometimes dangerous, sometimes carefree sense of abandon, enough to be a vivid reminder of just why this band had meant more than any other for years.
In the dressing-room afterwards, all were exhausted. Chris Novoselic rolled a cigarette with the deliberate, weary motions of a man three times his age, while Dave Grohl sat motionless for ten minutes with a towel over his head, every now and again moaning, "I think I'm about to die".
Kurt, however, was remarkably animate, clearly happy it was all over, and talked enthusiastically about how much he'd enjoyed touring with Shonen Knife and was now just looking forward to going home for a rest. Considering his band had clocked up four months on a promotional treadmill that had become steeper and faster the more 'Nevermind' sold, he looked A pretty good shape.
See you next year, Kurt He smiled. "Sure."
Next year turned this year, 'Nevermind' zoomed past Jacko, Bono and AxI. Nirvana did Saturday Night Live, the Rolling Stone front cover, landed the Reading Festival headline slot, the whole shebang, and suddenly ghoulish rumours concerning the health -physical and otherwise - of the frail genius at the centre of what was now the Nirvana Phenomenon started to become commonplace.
It got harder to laugh at the weekly brace of 'Kurt Is Dead' stories when various credible sources were whispering about Cobain and partner Courtney Love doing heroin together, about them being completely out of it all at their wedding in Hawaii, about them going into detox and then quitting. About how the band were on the verge of splitting up. About Courtney doing junk while pregnant....
As far as the tabloid music press were concerned, Nirvana were just too good to be true. Rarely had the rollercoaster dynamic of rock'n'roll been so extreme - unknowns shoot from nowhere to top of charts with incendiary musical formula. The all-important twist? They didn't even try! They don't want to be successful! Brilliant. And now, with the accountants still hiring bulldozers to gather up the money, they've begun to blow it al I via smack, the biggest sucker punch of the lot. From nobodies to superstars to f--ups in the space of six months?! That had to be a record.
Nirvana Inc battened down the hatches and made to ride out the storm. It was business as usual. The band were taking a break from each other, but they'd be working on some new material soon with a view to releasing a new song as a single to coincide with Reading. Everything was fine, really it was.
During this rest period I interviewed Chris by telephone and asked him how the wedding of the year had gone. "Oh, quiet." Masterful diplomacy. Chris in fact hadn't been at the wedding, since Courtney had refused to let his wife Shelli attend. Meanwhile, Kurt repeatedly and vehemently denied taking heroin.
As stonewalls Is go, this all highly impressive. Sure, the rumours continued, but while Nirvana weren't actually doing anything it wasn't hard to dimiss this as nothing more than the idle tittle-tattle that was the inevitable lot of a multi-million selling rock band. Then came the time to really pick up the slack once more. A two week tour of Europe was organised for late-june/july in order to make up for the shows cancelled at the end of last year. After the gig at Belfast King's Hall, Kurt was rushed to hospital suffering from acute stomach pains.
"Ulcers," sez Nirvana. "Oh yeah," yawns everyone else.
Could so much have changed in six months? Moving round the archways of Valencia's bull-ring where, that night, Nirvana would give Spain its first in-the-flesh taste of what this nonsense was all about, it was almost a relief to greet Kurt Cobain once again, a paler, bleached -haired, bespectacled Kurt Cobain, but recognisably the same lovable scruff who late last year turned rock'n'roll upside down with a song named after a deodorant. Chris Novoselic ambled up to say "hi" and bemoan a chronic hangover -the inevitable punishment for a late-night sesh with support band Teenage Fanclub- and Dave Grohl soon emerged from down the rampway that led to the sun-baked arena, all smiles as ever.
Hmmm, I thought. This doesn't seem so bad. OK, so I've never seen Kurt look quite that pale before, and I'm not sure it's such a good idea for Courtney to be zipping about with Kurt on that hired motorbike while seven months pregnant but, hell, it's not as if anyone's dead.
No-one is dead. That much we can take away from this latest close encounter with planet Nirvana without fear of contradiction. But death - specifically heroin-induced - has been a talking point amidst US underground circles recently. During the New Music Seminar, NYC noise harbingers Unsane lost their drummer Charlie Ondras to an overdose, then the following week Stefanie Sargent from Seattle band Seven Year Bitch died in similar circumstances. What year did you say it was?
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