from Live Through This. Virgin Publishing Ltd, London. 2001.
…Oh, and of course Kurt left a great narcissistic suicide note behaind, one that would ensure he’d be remembered for a fair few years yet. That Neil Young line he quoted in his scribbled handwriting – ‘It’s better to burn out than to fade away’ – what a great way to take that final stage bow! He did us proud with that one, and also with the use of a shotgun to literally put a hole through his head. Say what you like about Kurt, but he certainly had a sense of occasion. (p 64-65.)
gun – camera hole – hole (buried sun) head – leader of an organization
The photo was taken by Kurt Cobain and appears in Charles Cross’ Cobain Unseen. It shows Kurt’s purple and pink polka dot pajama bottoms, striped socks, and green shoes (untied). On the wall is a poster of a man holding a gun, pointed toward the photographer, Kurt. The man has a bullet hole in his head, as if he and Cobain were having a standoff. On the man’s lapel is a K Records logo. On the man’s crotch it says “Freemans” and beneath that it says something like “Police Combat Tactics.” The baby (Francis, presumably) has her hair gelled up like the Heat Miser in Year Without A Santa Claus, a Christmas movie that came out in 1974 and played on television (ABC) every year for all the Gen X kiddies like us.
A gun is a camera. Green is a sun color. Babies also represent the sun, and so does fire. This photo is further evidence that K Records is directing the surveillance against us, and that this illegal activity has been actively protected and/or supported by police.
“Affliction (Malheur) hardens and discourages us because, like a red hot iron, it stamps the soul to its very depths with the scorn, the disgust, and even the self-hatred and sense of guilt and defilement that crime logically should produce but actually does not. Evil dwells in the heart of the criminal without being felt there. It is felt in the heart of the man who is afflicted and innocent.” – Simone Weil
Monkeys, The Monkees, Apes, and Chim Chim come up a lot in Kurt Cobain’s album art and personal storytelling. For example, when he and Courtney first met (in the version that takes place at Satyricon in Portland, not in Everett True’s version of the story), supposedly he gave Courtney a sticker with Chim Chim on it.
Similarly, when an anonymous commenter named DJ was arguing with me on Collapse Board, he kept comparing Chris’ music to that of The Monkees. This was obviously some kind of in-joke and supports my idea that Kurt Cobain’s references to monkeys, apes, and Chim Chim are related to Chris Newman.
Chim Chim is a monkey sidekick in the Speed Racer cartoon. The Chim Chim which appears on the back of Nevermind album seems to have a battery pack on its back with wires attached to its head, and it’s holding onto a monarch butterfly.
I believe that with this particular image, Kurt Cobain was making a reference to the Monarch Mind Control Project.
In Charles Cross’ (beautiful) book, Cobain Unseen, there is photo of Kurt Cobain’s monkey collection. One of the monkeys appears to be pouring poison into another monkey’s ear. This reference recalls the method of murder used in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But what it really means is that the people closest to “the monkey” – Chris Newman – have been feeding him flattery, lies, deception. Since “they” (and by “they” I suppose I mean Illuminati, or whoever it is that calls themselves “France”) also call Chris “dead,” it makes me think that Shakespeare was also being metaphorical when he wrote about Hamlet’s father being murdered with ear-poison. Because this stuff goes back a-ways.
The Gravedigger’s Song is the opening cut from Mark Lanegan’s 2012 album Blues Funeral. The song, and most songs on that album, incorporates the lyrical iconography common to that particular family of bands: Mudhoney, Nirvana, Hole, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Babes In Toyland, etc.
The video for the song adds more symbols which in turn add context and meaning. The song and video interlink with other songs and videos about the same situation, in particular the videos for Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box and Alice In Chains’ Grind.
Blues Funeral is similar to Hole’s Nobody’s Daughter and Nirvana’s In Utero in that every single song on the entire album touches on the same topic, one way or another. That topic would be secrets kept by a small circle of recording artists and their label – two secrets in particular. Blues Funeral takes a more fatalistic stance than Nobody’s Daughter.
The final song on the album, Burning Jacob’s Ladder, hints at the forces holding the truth at bay. “Rage untethered – The soul a stony desert – I’m afraid I might fade away.” It echos the line from Kurt Cobain’s suicide note which in turn echoed a line from a Neil Young song. The fears are not unfounded, if Chris Newman’s fate is any indication.
The album cover suggests the subject to anyone familiar with the common symbols. Red roses (Seattle) spread over a black background, and in the lower corner is one sprig of white roses (Portland). Blues funeral may be Lanegan’s attempt at drawing closure to the situation.
Prematurely, I hope.
The Gravedigger’s song sung to somebody – my best guess is Courtney Love, due to the fact that the subject is addressed directly as “Love.” (“Love, is the medicine good?”) It is about someone who is honest (this is touched on in two ways, first with the allusions to “sharp teeth” – tooth = truth – and also with the line, “honest, it’s true” – though this last one may be a twist (get it?) on Everett True’s name. Courtney Love tries to tell the truth, but she has been painted as a liar. I believe this is one of the things the song is saying about her. In an interview, Lanegan describes it as a “Love song.”
Who is the gravedigger? I think it is Courtney Love, Mark Lanegan, and pretty much anyone who uses this symbolic lexicon. Who is in the grave? Chris Newman (buried alive). And there are others, including Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley, who have literally left our world.
The lyrics in the song use the typical symbols (teeth, love, dog, stars, rain, sleep, etc) to muse on the drama, and as with the videos for Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box and Alice In Chains’ Grind, the video uses additional visual iconography to flesh out context. I mentioned before that often, in Nirvana and Hole songs, written lyrics are different from the lyrics which are sung. In this video, there are contradictions as well in that some of the images in the video seem to contradict the lyrics. For example, when Lanegan sings “through my heart flows sleep” the little girl in the video appears to wake up.
On a personal level, this video was hard for me to deal with at first. The image of the wrapped body (presumably Chris’ body circa 1986-today, and as described in Hive Dwellers’ song Pine Shaped Box, and as pictured on the cover of Alice In Chains’ album, Dirt, and etc) was particularly painful. Chris’ life and catalog has been kept as a private secret, wrapped almost like a spider would wrap a fly (reminding me of the allusions to parasites in Nirvana’s lyrics). Later I understood that the video also shows that the story is unresolved. The mummy-wrapped body can still be set free, and helpful spirits wait in the shadows.
THE GRAVEDIGGER’S SONG
With piranha teeth
I’ve been dreaming of you
And the taste of your love, so sweet
Honest, it’s true
Through my heart flows sleep
And the dark, heavy rain
Where the gravedigger’s song is sung
You’ve been torturing me
Tout est noir, mon amour
Tout est blanc
Je t’aime, mon amour
Comme j’aime la nuit
Love, is the medicine good?
Is the crow flying eight miles high
Over wire and wood?
Shovel down six feet
With a head heavy pain
The magnolia blooms so sweet
And it fades just the same
To the stars, my love
To the sea
To the wheels, my love
‘Til they roll all over me
Oh love, I’ve been thinking of you
With razor white teeth, so sharp
Honest, it’s true
In my blood flows sleep
And the dark heavy rain
The magnolia blooms so sweet
Only torturing me
To the stars, my love
To the sea
To the wheels, my love
‘Til they roll all over me
imagery in the video
The opening scene shows an old country home. Seven seconds in, the camera flashes to an image of a wooden fence with barbed wire across the top, and a scene showing what looks like high desert. On the fence hangs a white mask. To me, this suggests the image of heads lined up along the fences around Kurtz’ home in the novel Heart of Darkness and/or the movie Apocolypse Now. It also suggests a line from a Dylan song that Lanegan has covered, Man In The Long Black Coat: “when she stopped him to ask if he wanted to dance he had a face like a mask.” And it reenforces something that I sense from the entire album: Lanegan himself is on the fence.
The scenery around the mask suggests the American west, and the costumes and setting of the video appear to be from the Victorian era in America.
At 00:14 there is another shot of the fence, this time with the sun poking its rays through the slats. The sun represents Chris Newman (lexicon), and though the song itself suggests the sun is setting, by the quality of the light, it appears to me that the sun is actually rising in this scene. (I like to think so, anyway.) If so, it is one of a few places where the images shown actually contradict the lyrics.
The camera then suggests walking up stairs (stairs/ladders are a common theme, maybe alluding to the ladder of success, Jacob’s ladder, etc) and into a room with a bed and a cold fireplace. At 00:24, as he sings “Through my heart flows sleep, honest it’s true.” there is a shot through a doorway – maybe two doorways – and a sun-filled window in the very back. Just beneath the window is an empty wheelchair. The wheelchair of course connects with the empty wheelchair in the heart shaped box video which connects to the wheelchair (containing Kurt Cobain) that Everett True pushed out on stage at Reading 1992. The sunny window with the wheelchair beneath illustrates a link between Chris Newman with Kurt Cobain. “Though my heart flows (sleep = deception), honest it’s true.” This is a liar paradox. When these lines appear in the song, the video footage runs backwards.
The image switches suddenly to an image of the bottom of a dress worn by someone who appears to be hanging above the bed, suggesting suicide. It isn’t clear whether she’s hanging or standing, weirdly, on something behind the bed – but the suggestion of suicide is very much there and comes up again later in the video too, except that later the body appears to be floating, or falling very very slowly. The window behind the girl is black, suggesting night.
Then come the lines in french “Tout est noir, mon amour / Tout est blanc” – and the image is another girl, the palms of both hands placed on a portrait hanging on the wall, swinging her head (and hair) around backwards, presumably toward the mummy-wrapped body. In French he sings, “Now it’s black, now it’s white.” Now a spotlight appears to move around the room. Red braids hanging over white curtains. You see the mounted trophy head of a buck (stag).
the fisher king
The Fisher King was charged by God with guarding the Holy Grail, but incurred an incapacitating wound for his sin of pride. A simple-minded Fool asks the King why he suffers, and when the King says he is thirsty, the Fool gives him a cup of water to drink. The king realizes the cup is the Grail and is baffled that the boy found it, as demonstrated in the closing exchange: “I’ve sent my brightest and bravest men to search for this. How did you find it?” The Fool laughed and said “I don’t know. I only knew that you were thirsty.” (wikipedia: The Fisher King (movie))
The stag’s head is a hunting trophy. It may also suggest the stag’s head given by Perceval to the daughter of the Fisher King. The Fisher King is an archetypal symbol from Arthurian mythology. Charged with guarding the Holy Grail, the Fisher King who has been crippled by a leg injury. He spends his time wandering around the grounds of his castle, fishing in a nearby stream (wikipedia: Fisher King). Meanwhile, the kingdom falls into ruin, and stays in that condition until someone can heal the King. Gus Van Sant’s film Last Days also alludes to the Fisher King myth, showing the rock star spending his last days watching television or swimming in the creek behind his home.
Later in The Gravediggers Song video, you see that there are actually two stag’s heads on the wall, perhaps echoing the two ghostly figures who appear outside the home at the end of the video.
When Lanegan sings “Je t’aime, mon amour / Comme j’aime la nuit” (I love you, my dear / How I love the night) we see a tall, but slightly bent man standing in front of that same sun-drenched window, in place of the empty wheelchair, his head and body covered, ghost-like, with a sheet. I’m troubled by the line, “J’aime la nuit.” But at the same time, I understand it. “Let sleeping dogs lie,” right?
Next we see the three older girls sitting around a dining table, a bouquet of red roses at the center. There is a close-up shot of two women’s faces in profile, a middle-aged woman face to face with a teenager. It could suggest youth and wisdom, or perhaps the passage of time, as looking at one’s younger self in a mirror. (Courtney Love’s video for the song Samantha also suggests a rolling back of time as Courtney, dressed in a wedding dress, looks more and more like her younger self.)
When Lanegan sings “Is the medicine good?” We see a girl dressed in a white dress with black piping, holding an old fashioned sickle, suggesting harvest and/or the “grim reaper.” When Lanegan asks “Is the crow flying eight miles high” the image shown is a dark red pool, probably red wine, suggesting blood. Either one or both of these could be – and probably is – a drug (heroin) reference.
The red wine/blood imagery comes up a lot in these songs and videos. Mark Arm holds out a goblet of red wine in recent Mudhoney photos. The little girl in the Heart Shaped Box video has a drop of blood appear over her heart. Courtney Love has a tattoo circa 2010 that says “Let It Bleed.” Alice in Chains has a song called Bleed The Freak with lyrics that may provide additional insight.
At 1:16 Lanegan sings “shovel down six feet, with a head heavy pain” – and the image shows the hanging/floating/suspended girl again, this time seeming to rise up behind the bed. Next we see an image of the dresses standing before the fireplace, but the bodies inside them have vanished. Now he is singing “The magnolia blooms so sweet, and it fades just the same,” and we see the girl watching the wrapped body again, now with her hair covering her face completely. And now we see the writhing, impotent legs of the mummy-wrapped living body.
Legs (crippled or otherwise) are a symbol that comes up in these songs a lot. Alice In Chains had a three legged dog named Sunshine. Sunshine was featured on the cover of Alice In Chains’ third (self-titled) album.
Legs show up in other ways. In Samantha, Courtney sings “watch her wrap her legs around the world.” In The Priest, They Called Him, the piece Cobain recorded with William Burroughs, the narrator describes a finding a leather suitcase containing a pair of severed human legs, and he describes the process of removing the legs from the suitcase in order to peddle the suitcase for dope money. I believe that “legs” signify mobility, movement, and strength. Broken/crippled/wounded legs are wasteland symbols: an allusion to the wounded king.
In the Gravedigger’s Song video, the mummy’s legs are bound up with the rest of him. He struggles, but he can’t move. The girls watch him, coldly.
I don’t know if it is deliberate, but I keep noticing that I can see the striped mattress beneath the white sheet under the wrapped body. And I notice stripes do show up a lot. For example, Kurt Cobain is wearing a striped t-shirt beneath the silvery overshirt in the Heart Shaped Box video.
Anyway, in the next scene, the body, now wrapped with another sheet, seems to be falling, softly, in the hall, in front of the sunlit window. The empty clothes stand in front of the fire place, the faces and bodies within emerging slowly. The girl facing the wall turns back, her long hair twisting around her face. The hanging girl hangs vertically next to the dark window, and the mummy thrashes on the bed.
One thing I have noticed is that in every one of these videos, songs, whatever – there are at least two bodies, and two apparent crimes. In this video, there are three bodies. There is the vertical “hanged girl” body; there is the horizontal, wrapped, slowly falling body; and there is the mummy wrapped body writhing on the bed.
In this video, I believe Kurt Cobain is symbolized by the vertically floating body – the one that alludes to “hanging” – hanging not just in the sense of “suicide,” but also in the sense of “something waiting to be resolved.” The crucifixion. The hanged man.
The horizontal, wrapped, slowly falling body is hard at first to understand, except that later in the video, there are two (male) ghosts standing together. Because of the song’s subject matter, I think of Layne Staley.
The body that’s thrashing, the one wrapped like a mummy on the bed? That’s Chris. He’s still alive, surprisingly. But he’s struggling blindly. He’s not able to be heard, and he’s not able to move.
At 2:22 as Lanegan sings “Oh Love, I’ve been thinking of you” the girls around their table join hands as if at a seance, and the roses come into focus. You see the opening of the petals, and in that “hole” are sharp, white teeth. They look a little like dogs’ teeth. A “flower with teeth” is a line from my song, Bad Pam, but Vagina Dentata is a common symbol associated with dangerous women. In Hole songs, I believe “Rose Red” symbolizes Mark Arm and his Seattle “tribe”.
Next, Lanegan sings “in my blood flows sleep,” and there is a thick, dark, oozing substance on a prone woman’s head. The substance is not oozing out, its oozing in (more reversed camera). And as he sings about the sweet magnolia blooms torturing him again, a woman’s face rises out of the reddish liquid, chin first, as if she’s been hanging upside down.
Now he sings “to the stars my love” and there is a little girl in a black dress is holding a baby doll by the hair. (I think the baby is Kurt and Courtney’s representation of the small clone, and Chris Newman.) Now we see a person sitting in the wheelchair, in the sunlight. He is blurry at first, then he comes into focus. His face is covered by the mask that was sitting on the fence at the beginning of the video. A girl is watching him, sadly, it seems.
3:07 the spotlight swings around and you see two stag’s heads this time, and then, a man in a mask, maybe with a crutch, in and out of the shadow. Then another man in a mask. Two men now. Now we see the girls feet, suspended above the bed now, falling almost imperceptibly slowly.
Now the scene is outdoors. Now the two men in the masks are walking around in the dying sunlight. Now one seems to be sitting in the wheelchair, the other standing supportively behind. Now the sun has set, but the sky still shows traces of light. Now the man in the wheelchair is holding a light that looks like the sun flare through the fence at the beginning of the video. He shines it toward the house. It makes me think of a line from Nirvana’s Dumb: “The sun is gone, but I have a light.”
The next scene shows the exterior of the home at night, the windows lit from inside, and the camera moving back down the stairs, and away into the night. The men are still standing there, presumably, in the night, with the light shining toward the house.
Here is what I think about that final scene. The man in the wheelchair, the one with a light, represents Kurt Cobain. The man standing behind him behind him represents Layne Staley. Through their songs, lyrics, videos, they shine a light to help Chris find his way out. But Chris is still wrapped up in that weird room house with the ghostly girls (one of whom wants to help him, another of whom watches to ensure no one helps him) and toothed flowers.
Mudhoney are less known for their rapey lyrics and better known for witty onstage banter.
They also love to gloat.
One way that Mark Arm gloats (and gives himself away), is in the way he introduces songs onstage. This is illustrated by the following videos.
The first video was taken in Berlin 2009. Before playing Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More (a song I believe is for Kurt) Arm comments, “It was very nice to see Kurt Cobain up here a little while ago. Welcome back Kurt. You’re shorter than I remember.”
The second video is from a performance in Sheffield, 1992. Before playing Blinding Sun (a song I believe is about Chris Newman – though I think the “you” in the song is Kurt Cobain), Arm tells the audience they sound like a bunch of “British Walruses.” (Steve “Instant Newman” Turner finds this hilarious.) And just before launching into the song, Arm says, “We don’t understand why you’re calling us ‘fat.'”
In Part I I made some general observations about overlapping songwriting conventions in four bands: Nirvana, Hole, Babes In Toyland, and Mudhoney. In Part II, I drew up a lexicon of symbols and what I think they mean. Now I will use some of those concepts, along with my understanding of the relationships between the songwriters, to analyze a song.
Malibu is a single from the 1998 album Celebrity Skin. The single’s B-side was a song called “Drag” which is thematically similar to Malibu (The main point being: “Drive away to Malibu”).
It seems like a lot of things happened in 1997 and 1998. Kurt & Courtney was filmed in 1997 and released in 1998. Kurt & Courtney was a mostly privately-funded movie in which Nick Broomfield, a U.K. based film maker, paid a bunch of people cash up front to dish dirt on Courtney Love. Many of the informants were known junkies. This of course, is a completely unethical way of making a documentary and makes the whole thing bunk. Still, it hurt people.
Another thing that happened in 1998 is that Everett True flew in from England to become music editor at Seattle’s weekly The Stranger. According to True’s Wikipedia page, his tenure lasted one year. He then returned to England and wrote a book called Live Through This.
A third thing that happened in is that Portland songwriter Chris Newman (Napalm Beach) was arrested for heroin possession. While trying to escape prosecution, he lost his apartment. By 1998 Chris and his wife Valarie were living homeless on the streets of Portland.
Malibu: the back story
“Love wrote the lyrics to the song based on her late husband Kurt Cobain’s stay at a rehabilitation clinic in Malibu, California while receiving treatment for his heroin addiction prior to his suicide in 1994.”
why the back story is probably false
It is possible that Kurt Cobain stayed at a rehabilitation clinic in Malibu – but I can’t find any evidence of it. He did stay at a clinic in Marina Del Rey, 40 minutes away. So, maybe. Still, the words of the song don’t quite fit the scenario. In particular lyrics like “How’d you get so desperate? How’d you stay alive?” and “Get well soon – please don’t go any higher – how are you so burnt when you’re barely on fire?” – just don’t make sense in that particular context, especially considering this song came out a full four years after Kurt Cobain’s suicide.
That’s why I believe that Malibu is not so much for Kurt Cobain as for Chris Newman. The subject’s true identity is further confirmed by the line “come and part the sea in Malibu.” She’s not talking to Jesus, she’s talking to Moses.
That said – maybe a song for Chris Newman is, by proxy, a song for Kurt Cobain. I’m beginning to think that Kurt Cobain desperately needed Chris (or someone) to tell the truth. And I believe it was Bruce Pavitt who said, “Kurt would smash his last guitar to express himself.”
So here’s a truth that I can see. SMASH! Malibu is for Chris Newman.
Except I think one part – “and you knew love would tear you apart” – may have a multidimensional meaning, by which I mean, she may mean it in a couple different ways. The change in vocal tone suggests something different about it.
symbols in the song and video
If you accept the lexicon I wrote out in Part II, Chris Newman is represented by the sun. Here is how the sun appears in Malibu: “And the sun goes down / I watch you slip away / And the sun goes down / I walk into the waves.” Again, this album came out shortly after Chris became homeless.
Another clue is the song’s title and location. Chris had lived on the beach in Malibu when he was in his early 20s and trying to “make it” in music. This is something I learned about him very early on, so it is likely something that Courtney remembers about him, too. Chris also loves surf movies, and has made allusions to surfing in his music (“let’s go surfing on the lake of fire!”) His band’s name, Napalm Beach, was inspired in part by the movie Apocalypse Now. I believe that Courtney was trying to let him know that if he wanted to get anywhere in music, he would have had to get out of the Northwest.
Napalm Beach. The flaming palm trees should have caught Chris’ attention (had he seen the video before last week).
Another interesting symbol in the Malibu video is the painted backdrop and model city. At first it looks like you are seeing an aerial view of a nice cul-de-sac, but then the sense of perspective is shattered by the dried up palm leaf which points to the wheel of a car, and there is Courtney standing on the hood of the car. The cul-de-sac is a model, not a real neighborhood. The hood of the car under Courtney’s feet is painted with red and white stripes (maybe an allusion to divided/combined loyalties? rose white/rose red?) She’s playing her guitar and behind her is a painted backdrop of a city, similar to something you’d see in a theatrical production.
As Hole sings “don’t lay down and die” a hole begins to burn in the fake backdrop. By the time the chorus begins, the hole has opened up wide and the backdrop has fallen. As Courtney sings “drive away FROM Malibu” the little fake village is destroyed by a wrecking ball (sans Miley). For (him) to stay alive, the backdrop (myth) has to be destroyed, and vice versa.
When the chorus comes around again, the words change to “drive away TO Malibu… oceans of angels… oceans of stars” and we see a phalanx of blonde beauties clad in fire-red 1980’s style french cut bathing suits. They stand at attention, facing the setting sun. In addition to the french cuts showing “a blanket of ass,” the red suits suggest the television show Baywatch. According to the Wikipedia article on Baywatch, “Saving people from drowning tended to be one of the most typical situations used in the (Baywatch) shows.”
I believe that the imagery here suggests a few different things. First, there is more red and white imagery. Courtney is in white. Second, the bay watch babes suggest an ocean of angels sent to save Chris from drowning forever. Third, they cradle the baby dolls under their breasts, almost maternally, suggesting nourishment and protection. The baby-as-Small Clone allusion is in there too. And perhaps also the idea from Kurt Cobain’s song, Francis Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle: “come down like fire – burn all the liars – leave a blanket of ash (ass) on the ground.” The “blanket of ash” imagery also suggests Mount Saint Helen’s which erupted in Oregon in 1980, coating the northwest in ash, making streets look like a beach. Napalm Beach.
Also, in this part of the video, there are flashes of Hole band members making “scary faces.” I think this is meaningful because you also see these scary faces in other places. For example, at the end of the original version of the “Heart Shaped Box” video. Dave Grohl is making scary faces, pulling down the skin on the bottom of his eyes. On the insert of the In Utero CD, there is a photo of Kurt Cobain making a similar face. I think these scary faces have something to do with Chris and Napalm Beach. (Update May 2014: yes, it’s the left-eye of Horus)
Here is what you may be wondering: Why on earth would a bunch of famous rock stars be so obsessed with a completely “unknown” musician? And/or, as Chris himself asked me, “are you out of your mind?”
I would consider how fast Nirvana went from being “one of us” to becoming the biggest rock band on the planet. Kurt Cobain was a musical and literary genius, and he became very famous, and he was one of us. If it is true (and it is) that “grunge” is a game in which an older genius, Chris Newman, is considered untouchable, isn’t that likely to cause Chris to also become an object of fascination? Like a monster? (One of Chris’ better known songs is called “Monster” – it appeared on a 1987 Seattle compilation called Bands That Will Make Money.) Isn’t the forbidden fruit the sweetest? You know, “don’t think about pink elephants!”
Meanwhile, both Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love had a connection to Chris which they were not able to express, apparently, except covertly through their art. So everything is in the lyrics. Hidden in plain sight. No doubt Kurt and Courtney’s pure punk rock natures (they were and are punk rock) made them want to subvert the grunge paradigm, especially considering how divisive that paradigm has been.
The end of Malibu is beautiful. “I can’t be near you, the light just radiates.”
When I first understood this song/lullaby/prayer was for Chris, it made me cry. Chris and his wife Valarie went through hell during the six years they were homeless, but miraculously survived and even more miraculously, recovered. I had already sensed that Chris is surrounded by guardian angels. When I saw this video, I understood how much it all matters.
I feel like Kurt Cobain’s description of Courtney in his suicide note as “a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy” is apt. I see this song, Malibu, and the associated video as a beautiful gesture among many that have been made. I also understand that these gestures – messages seemingly sent into a void, and which may have gone unrecognized forever – may have had serious consequences for those who made them.
All of it matters.
I began to understand how the false back story to Malibu would have backfired on Courtney, especially in the Kurt & Courtney era. Because Love claimed the song was about her deceased husband, listeners may have believed that the words “I knew love would tear you apart” were directed to Kurt, as if it were some kind of admission of guilt. No, no, NO. That’s a misreading forced by The Grunge Myth.
Malibu is a beautiful song infused with love, hope, and courage.