Tag Archives: Courtney Love

Alien Sex Fiend vs. Kurt & Courtney at Portland, Oregon Satyricon

2000-2009

When I moved to Portland, Oregon in August 2000, I was a single mother with a four-year-old daughter. I moved to Portland to work as a website developer, but I also quickly got involved in the poetry and music scene.

In 2001 I volunteered to make a website for a rock club called Satyricon. Continue reading Alien Sex Fiend vs. Kurt & Courtney at Portland, Oregon Satyricon

Number 9

Tarot Moon XVIIIAs I wrote out my POP lexicon, it became clear that multiples of 9 are important, and especially the number 99. Multiples of 9 are unique in that when you add the two numbers of the product, they will add up to 9 (or to another two numbers which when added together, make 9, depending on how big of a number you start with). So there is a sense of confinement in multiples of 9, a sense of always circling back to 9.

Another thing about the number 9 is that it suggests the end of a cycle. After 9, you begin the numeral cycle again. This connects the number 9 with the number 360 (a multiple of 9 and a full circle) and the clock imagery that is so prevalent in pop (especially hip hop) music.

One of the most common numbers to pop up in songs is 99. Like 9, 99 signals the end of a cycle. But 99 is special also because, not only is it doubled (twins), but when you add 9+9 you get 18: the Tarot Moon card. Similarly, a circle represents the “hole” – and is 360 degrees. 3+6=9.

I believe that it is for this reason that 99 is such an important number. I believe that it is a nod to the mythology of the “night club” aka the “27 club” (2+7=9). I believe that when songwriters use the number 99, they are evoking the Moon Card, thereby saying, “we reflect the sun.”

They “hang” and reflect, the sun.

99 in lyrics

99 – Toto – 1979
I remember when this song was on the radio. I was 11 years old when it came out. According to Wikipedia, the song was written for George Lucas’ film THX 1138, a film that “depicts a dystopian future in which the populace is controlled through android police officers and mandatory use of drugs that suppress emotion, including sexual desire.”

Wikipedia also says that the budget for this film, THX 1138, was $777,777.77. 8 times 7. 8 means vision and strength.

http://youtu.be/IZZQJIajVzA

1999 – Prince – 1982
Can’t find a good video for this, but the lyrics are important. The lyrics suggest that when “2000” comes (number 2 is a sun number), the party is over because we’ll be “out of time.” Prince goes on, “I was dreaming when I wrote this. So sue me if I go too fast.” He mentions having a lion (lyin’ and/or a symbol of royalty) in his pocket, as well. The song ends “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?”

99 Luftballoons – Nena – 1983
This song was at the top of the pops when I lived in Germany back in 1984. 30 years ago. The scenery in the video – evergreens, mist, and sawmills – is very evocative of Oregon.

Mono – Courtney Love – 2004
I love, love, love this video. And the song too. The video stands out to me because it came out at a time when you didn’t see a lot of women kicking ass and taking names in music videos. Older Hole videos show Courtney more often expressing distress, sadness, maybe rage. The Celebrity Skin album began a transformation away from that chaos and distress to something more powerful. Mono takes it all to a brand new level.

Mono is here because of the line “99 girls in the pit – did it have to come to this?” A pit is a hole, but it is also right up front by the stage, where the dancing can get intense.

99 Problems – Jay-Z – 2004
Another lovely song, the best part being the part is that one time “99 problems but a bitch ain’t one” is swapped for “99 problems but being a bitch ain’t one.”

1 Percent – Rich White Ladies – 2012

Polly: matching rape songs by Mudhoney, Hole, and Nirvana

I met Kurt at a club in L.A. right before Nevermind came out. We took a picture and he said, “Come on, let’s give the finger!” So we did.
– Iggy Pop, Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Artists.

(Note: Run your pointer over the boldface words for more info if your browser is equipped to display definitions or additional information in “title” attributes.)

It’s difficult to start writing about rape, and all the time it shows up in grunge lyrics, and especially, videos. And by “grunge” I am talking about a specific community of musicians who got their start in the Pacific Northwest during the 1980s.

It’s difficult in part because everyone (even me – a little bit) wants to stay in denial, but more so because the rape imagery is so pervasive. It’s pervasive enough to make me think that a literal rape occurred. And that the victim was Kurt Cobain.

If this is true, Cobain’s 1994 suicide doesn’t make everything “ok.” Even if you don’t think the dead deserve justice, there are related crimes which continue to this day, including the continuing exploitation of Chris Newman (who is not, in fact, dead), the decade-plus smear campaign against Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, and the fact that Cobain’s daughter Francis has to live, without a father, under a cloud of lies. From my perspective, the truth is vital.

I already wrote a bit about two of Hole’s songs, Burn Black and Dicknail. Maybe the next logical thing to do is to go straight to the source and write about Nirvana’s rape songs, especially since Kurt Cobain went to such lengths to finger someone.

The key to Nirvana – and Mudhoney – rape songs is the song “Sweet Young Thing” by the Monkees.

http://youtu.be/jjZGexqKbVU

In the TV performance of the song, the Monkees perform “Sweet Young Thing,” (1966) elderly people dance around, take turns in wheelchairs, etc. In the circus mirror, (uninitiated) innocence is represented by old age.

More notable are the lyrics:

And it’s love you bring,
No that I can’t deny,
With your wings,
I can learn to fly,
Sweet young thing.

People try to talk to me
Their words are ugly sounds
But I resist all their attempts
To try and bring me down.
Turned on to the sunset
Like I’ve never done before
And I listen for your footsteps
And your knock upon the door.

21 years later, in 1987, Mudhoney wrote a song with the same title (Sweet Young Thing), though this time the hook was “sweet young thing ain’t sweet no more.” It’s a snarly, sinister-sounding song about the end of innocence, shown by the lines “mommy’s little pills spilled all over the floor” and “mama can’t handle her on her own, she said ‘you just wait ’till your father gets home.'” It might be worth noting that the word “pills” sounds like “bills” on the Superfuzz Bigmuff version of the song. (Sweet Young thing full lyrics) Indeed – when you’ve got dogs, pigs, and ducks chasing you, you know there are big bills involved. (Ask Lady Gaga.)

Another contemporary Mudhoney song (also on the Superfuzz Bigmuff EP) which seems related is “Sliding In And Out Of Grace.”

Cry for mercy, relieve my hate
Sliding in ‘n’ out of grace
Spill my seed, suck my waste
Sliding in ‘n’ out of grace

Oh God, how I love to hate
Sliding in ‘n’ out of grace
Save me Lord, and fuck the race… etc (full lyrics)

Songs performed later, mainly by Courtney Love, suggest that “Sliding In And Out of Grace” was specifically about Kurt Cobain. The word “grace” comes up in a couple of her songs which I believe are about Kurt, most notably “Northern Star,” but also “Happy Ending Story” and in some of the live performances she’s done. In fact, I believe that “Northern Star” matches Courtney’s more recently penned “Honey.” I believe that both of those songs were written not about twins, but about triplets. Three other songwriters: Kurt Cobain, Chris Newman, and Mark Arm.

Anyone who really pays attention to Courtney’s lyrics, videos, and live performances would have a hard time missing the subtext she’s been weaving in since day one. But the ringleaders work hard to re-direct your attention anywhere but where you should be looking. That is, I believe, the reason for the seemingly never-ending smear campaign against Courtney Love.

Around 1990 (same era as Hole’s songs “Dicknail” and “Burn Black”), Kurt Cobain wrote two very important songs dealing with rape and abuse. One was written from the perspective of a kidnapper and rapist experiencing what seems to be dissociated shreds of empathy, and appeared on the 1991 album Nevermind. It is called “Polly.” The other was written, sarcastically, from the perspective of a rape victim. It was called “Rape Me,” and though, like Polly, it was said to be written around 1990, it didn’t appear on an album until 1993’s In Utero. There is a third song that is connected, which I’ll just mention in passing, and it is “Negative Creep.” Negative Creep, with it’s chorus of “Daddy’s little girl ain’t a girl no more” is clearly a response to the Mudhoney song “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More.” The fact that every single rock critic has missed that most obvious point for the past quarter of a century ought to suggest that something is really fucking stinky in Denmark. And everywhere else, too.

In any case, I believe that in all of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love’s songs, “Daddy” is Mudhoney’s Mark Arm. (With or without a “twin.”)

The name “Polly” means “parrot,” going back to the 16th or 17th century (OED), and the classic phrase “Polly want a cracker” makes the parrot reference undeniable. The distinctive characteristics of parrots are imitation. (They also tend to be yellow and green – “sun” colors. – see lexicon) Because the “night club” reflects and imitates the sun, and because the grunge myth is tightly controlled (everyone has a script from which no one ever deviates) Cobain was forced to “parrot” the party line. “Speak at once while taking turns” is the way he described it in a later song, Radio Friendly Unit Shifter. The parrot reference is the reason I think that Polly is specifically about Kurt Cobain, written from a place of dissociation. Dissociation is what happens when you experience severe abuse. Though Polly is also a “mirror” song. I couldn’t call it a “twin” song because there are multiple images in this mirror. It’s a POLY-MIRROR. (See how Kurt does that? EVERY. WORD. MATTERS. and sometimes every letter.)

The poly subjects are all crime victims and/or perpetrators: Chris Newman (as usual); and the 14 year old girl (who’s name was not actually Polly); and Kurt Cobain. Also the perpetrator/s of the respective crimes. I believe there are 5 subjects in Polly. And by that I mean that I believe that the crimes against Kurt Cobain and Chris Newman had the same perpetrator.

I also believe that Kurt Cobain was using the news story upon which he based the song as a metaphor for something that had happened to him (very possibly an actual rape), and something that he wanted to happen: escape from an untenable situation, and ultimately, justice.

Friend had picked her up near the Tacoma Dome in his car after she had attended a rock concert. She was able to earn his trust and sympathy by convincing him she enjoyed it. She managed to escape when he stopped for gas. She got out of the vehicle and made a scene attracting attention from surrounding people. – from Wikipedia Polly_(song)

Polly was saved, I guess because the “surrounding people” had no investment in her continuing captivity and/or silence. Kurt Cobain was and Chris Newman is in a different situation.

The perpetrator of the incident that inspired the song “Polly,” Gerald Friend, was thought at the time to be the Green River killer. (Wikipedia: Gerald Arthur Friend)

Green River, of course, was name of the first band to sign with Sub Pop, fronted by Mark Arm. In 1988 Green River essentially split into two bands: Pearl Jam and Mudhoney.

In terms Kurt’s “other” rape song, Rape Me, there are lines like “my favorite inside source, I’ll kiss your open sores” (suggests someone with a hidden heroin or other syringe-drug habit), “you’ll always stink and burn” (recalls a Sylvia Plath line “turn and burn” which in turn recalls the position of the hanged man, which is the sun), and then there are some very notable lines, like “rape me – hate me – waste me – taste me.” “Hate me” reflects a line from Mudhoney’s aforementioned “Grace” song, “Oh God how I love to hate.”

If you listen carefully to the song, Rape Me, Cobain is singing “I’m not the only one,” but he’s also slurring into “I want the only one.”

01 Magician - ONE ABOVE ONE BELOW

5zvk2

Drown Soda (Hole)

“…hand grenades, the top comes off. You just pull out the pin and it explodes. So, if you take away someone’s mouth and their eyes and their senses and their brain, they explode. I saw a grenade in my head, I saw taking out the clip, and then I thought of a human body and what happens if you take out the clip.”

Drown Soda appears as a live cut on Hole’s My Body The Hand Grenade, a collection of various live and studio cuts recorded between 1990 and 1995. My Body The Hand Grenade was released in October 1997.

Lyrics in Drown Soda allude to deception, addiction (“just you wait until everyone is hooked”), and rape. And there are jabs – first toward Minnesota (Courtney had various connections to Minnesota), then Ohio (Jonathan Poneman is from Toledo), Illinois (Bruce Pavitt is from Chicago), and finally, Seattle. Except when Seattle comes up, the subject changes. So it’s: “I want to bomb the whole state of Minnesota… I want to fuck the whole state of Illinois… I’m gonna fuck the whole state of Ohio… She’s gonna fuck the whole city of Seattle.”

I’ve always thought Drown Soda was a weirdly titled song. I couldn’t see what anything in the song had to do with “soda,” until this morning when Chris pointed out that “soda” is another word for “pop.” Then I remembered how members of my maternal family who live in Minnesota think it’s funny that we on the west coast refer to carbonated soft drinks as “soda” while they call it “pop.” Soda = Pop. And Sub(merse) = Drown. Drown Soda = Sub Pop.

I think it should be pointed out that there are actual complaints in the song, not just threats. There are complaints about being taken away from one’s life, complaints about lies, and complaints about rape (framed ironically: “just let him rape you”).

DROWN SODA
Oooh, yeah, she wants to take you
Take you away from your life
Oh, yeah, he wants to take you
Take you away from your lies

Ooh, yeah, he wants to take you
Take you by the hand
Oh, god, just let him rape you
Baby, I think you’ll understand

Just you wait ’til everyone is hooked (4x)

Oooh, yeah, he wants to take you
Take you by the hand
Oooh, baby, let him break you
And I think you’ll understand
Are you gonna sit and watch me
Watch me while I go down
Are you gonna sit and watch me
Watch me while I DROWN

Oh, god, he wants to take you
Take you away from your life
Oh, god, he wants to break you
Take you ‘way from your lies

Oooh, yeah, he wants to take you
Take you by the hand
Oooh, baby, let him break you
And I think you’ll understand

Are you gonna sit and watch me
Watch me while I go down
Are you gonna sit and watch me
Watch me while I DROWN

Woah, god, he wants to take you
Take you ‘way from your life
Woah, god, he wants to break you
Take you ‘way from your lies

I sit in the corner and I drink Drown Soda
I want to bomb the whole state of Minnesota

Yeah, baby, ohh

And it’s been a while & I’m little annoyed
I want to fuck the whole state of Illinois

Yeah, baby, ohh

And I point at the shit, he’s got no place to go
I’m gonna fuck the whole state of Ohio

Yeah, baby, ohh

She sits on Broadway with a rattle
She’s gonna fuck the whole city of Seattle

Yeah, baby, ohh
Baby, ohhhhhhhhhh

January 6, 1989 – Mudhoney with Nirvana in Portland at Satyricon

January 6, 1989. My friend David Ackerman took these photos 25 years ago today here Portland, Oregon at the Satyricon. David’s photos are the only ones which have been published from this show. Mudhoney was headlining, Nirvana was opening. It was Nirvana’s first out of state show. Courtney Love can be seen in two of the photos. In one photo, she’s posing near the stage as the bands are switching. In another, she’s watching Mudhoney play. (I’d love to identify the rest of the people in the audience shots – drop me a line if you can help.) The photos are available for licensing or as fine art prints (contact me). They should not be used without permission or credit.

“We know that Mary lied”

[UPDATE June 16, 2014: When I wrote this article more than six months ago, I felt pretty betrayed by the writer who calls himself Everett True. I am still not very happy with him, though he has done some nice things for me in the past. My main problem with him is that he repeatedly lied to me, and engaged in psychologically destructive acts like gaslighting. So unless something significant changes about his approach to non-fiction writing, I do not think he should be considered a trustworthy source.]

Why are so many people motivated to lie? Fame, attention, money? All it takes is one good lie, blown up big and repeated often, to destroy the truth, especially if the truth-teller’s character has already been smeared and defamed.

Did Mary Lou Lord lie?

from Hole’s 2009 song, SAMANTHA (Nobody’s Daughter)

So you think that you could save him
And we know that someone died
Oh, an unkindness of ravens
And we know that Mary lied
And through villages of ether
Oh, my crucifixion comes
Will you sing my hallelujah?
Will you tell me when it’s done?

In Everett True’s 2006 book NIRVANA: The True Story he reports the Mary Lou Lord “relationship” as if it is factual, claiming that she has “almost been written out of the Kurt Cobain story” as if writing her out of the Kurt Cobain story would be some kind of travesty – and – knowing what I know now? That is some funny shit.

Mary Lou Lord has a very detailed account of her supposed time with Cobain, and yes, I definitely think she has lied and exaggerated, and that Everett True certainly knows it. But here’s what Everett True does when he wants you to believe a story that is false. He lets you in on what Kurt Cobain told him “in private.”

Courtney long ago invented a scurrilous story about how Kurt was once disturbed in the middle of receiving oral sex from a Boston girl in the back of a van – and how this was the only time they met. Yet I have a strong memory from around this time of meeting a besotted Kurt going on and on about this girl called Mary Lou Lord, how in love with her he was, and how he was going to move to Boston to be with her.

Fantasy perhaps, but he believed it at the time. – Everett True, Nirvana: The True Story p 299

Fantasy, yes. Everett True’s fantasy.

The story sounds like a tall tale, Mary Lou Lord’s descriptions of personalities seems off. It’s a soap opera plot, with soap opera characters. It doesn’t ring true.

Also, there’s this note faxed to the Boston Phoenix in August 1993.

cobain-fax-marylou

Of course Ms Lord insists Kurt had lied to Courtney, and that Courtney “forced” him to lie in that fax. etc, etc. Uh, no. Mary Lou is simply not a reliable source, and Everett True knows it. In fact, he pretty much gives himself away on page 302 directly after Mary Lou Lord’s overly detailed yarn. Everett True loves to gloat in front of Courtney Love when he thinks he’s kicked her ass.

I love rock n’ roll, me.

…You think that part of me didn’t enjoy this strange new power I had in the wake of Nirvana’s success? You’re crazy. I relished it, reveled in it, rolled around in the dirt with it, and got good and mucky…. I was Everett True. I was untouchable. Hate me or love me.. that didn’t matter. At least someone was paying attention. – Everett True, Nirvana: The True Story p 302

Besides the obvious narcissism, this is a big “In your face!” to Courtney. “I love rock n’ roll” is the first clue. Those are his fighting words. To Everett True, rock ‘n’ roll is a game and a war. And True can be a dirty fighter. That’s what he means when he talks about rolling in the dirt and getting good and mucky. (He couldn’t say “muddy” – that would be too obvious.)

I like how he worked the word “untouchable” in, too. Ha ha.

Oh yeah – but why is this important at all?

Here’s why:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgxkAXqP6kY

“Courtney Love is the best fuck” could have been just for Courtney – why not? But Everett True wants you to think it is for Mary Lou Lord. Was it for Mary Lou Lord?

I do sense the edges of a triangle, but not with Mary Lou Lord.

I believe the invisible third party is the primary subject of the song Skinny Little Bitch, but I don’t believe it’s Mary Lou Lord. And I think the LET IT BLEED tattoo is related to him as well. That’s the whole reason she made this video. To show the tattoo, and to remind someone about Kurt’s “best fuck” comment. And… maybe even to get my attention. Because it did get my attention, how much it looked like my video for Bad Pam.

Good one, right?

In conclusion, I believe that Mary Lou Lord lied about having a relationship with Kurt Cobain. And that Everett True has knowingly encouraged and supported this lie. I believe that Everett True misled us in order to stop an uncomfortable line of questioning as to whom the “best fuck” quote was directed. Why else would Everett True devote so much energy toward propping up this particular lie?

If what I say is true – why, you (should) ask, wouldn’t Courtney Love “out” the real third party and demolish this Mary Lou Lord tale completely?

That is the million-dollar question, isn’t it.

 one million dollars

DICKNAIL – Hole in Melody Maker June 1991

The following article was published in Melody Maker in June 1991. HOLE had released DICKNAIL – a 7″ single on Sub Pop. The B-side was Burn Black. (Update: “Burn Black” is related to the phrase in a Beatles’ song “4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire.” They are both very angry songs. Once seems to be about rape, the other about betrayal.

Burn Black’s images of a person (and a set of keys) floating “over my dead body” seems to pair up with the Mudhoney song Final Course from Vanishing Point (2013). At the end of Final Course, the singer describes how, at the end of a huge banquet, he’s choking the life out of a woman (“shrew”) and then someone comes up from behind and bangs him on the head with a frying pan. Next he’s floating above his (presumably dead) body, as everyone around him tries to figure out how to dispose of his body so as to avoid having a trial. The implication is that they eat him.

Hole’s single, Dicknail / Burn Black was released March 1, 1991. It was Hole’s first, last, and only Sub Pop release. Babes in Toyland had a similar track record at Sub Pop. One single in 1990, nothing more.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here, big time. My opinion only. In Burn Black, the “dead moon” is Chris Newman, and the “drunken seed” is Kurt Cobain.

Why? Dead Moon = black hole (inverse of sun) and also of course Dead Moon is a Portland band who played a lot with Napalm Beach. Drunken Seed = read the lyrics to Mudhoney’s Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More which, for a million reasons, I believe is about Kurt Cobain.

Spoiler alert: Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More is not a nice song.

hole-in-sidelines-15th-june-1991

DICKNAIL
Hey daddy….
come over here, yeah.
Got something for you.
Dicknail.
She liked it.
You know she liked it.
Well, she was asking for it.
Dicknail.
I said, I said,”Stop.”
I did what you said.
I did what you want.
I was a good girl.
I was a good girl.
I said, I said,”No.”
Hey daddy – one thing’s for certain, baby.
You have my guarantee; you won’t forget me.
I said, I said,”Stop.
I did what you said.
I did what you want.
I was a good girl.
I was a good girl.”
I said, I said,”NO”
Do you remember Christmas morning?
You know it’s real because
Well, here comes Santa Claus.
Well she liked it; you know she liked it…..
I’m on your fat claw.

BURN BLACK
Now you complain and say you want the keys
Over my dead body, baby, that’s where they’ll be
Forget the knots around your neck
You say you remember, baby, you forget

Hey hey, this much is true
I never trusted you
Hey hey, this much is true
Now I’d burn black for you

And I try just to forget
Never, I won’t – Never, I won’t
Never, ever, never

Saying things that you can’t hear
My dumb mouth to your deaf ear
Gushing lump, a violent smear
My dumb mouth to your deaf ear

Hey hey, this much is true
I never twisted you
Hey hey, this much is true
Baby, I’d burn black for you

No, I won’t go down to it
Never, I won’t – Never, I won’t
Never, I won’t Never

Crawl right up the wall
Up the stairs and down your hall

Now you beg and you want me
Over my dead body, baby, that’s where I’ll be
And you laugh at my disease
While sugar runs from my arteries

Hey hey, this much is true
I never bothered you
Hey hey, this much is true
Baby, I’d burn black for you

And I try just to forget
Never, I won’t – Never, I won’t
Never, I won’t
Never

Starts out like magic, some sick religion
That ain’t no vulture, that’s a fucking pigeon
She’s got vultures in her hair
And blood and feathers, they are everywhere
You want retreat, filthy and deep
A dead moon, a drunken seed
Baby, there is a room full of death and whores and truth
And I am waiting in that room
And I am sorry I did that for you
It’s all whores, it’s all pain
It’s all disease, man, it’s all the same
My little Judas, my little twin
Where you start, that’s where I begin
She said, “I want it NOW!”

How to decode almost any POP song: Part IV: HOLE Malibu

Hole - Malibu - CD single coverIn 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.

white roses painted redAnother 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.

Malibu video - flaming palm trees

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.

Malibu video image - the backdrop is on fire

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.”

malibu video scene: beach beauties face the setting sunI 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.

Car buried in Mt St Helens ash

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.

Alice and the two queensI 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.

An open letter to Courtney Love Cobain

“I’ve always been a paranoid person by nature anyhow, and now I have all these people so concerned with what I say and what I do at all times that it’s really hard for me to deal with that… If I could have predicted what was going to happen to me a few years ago, I definitely wouldn’t have opted for this kind of a life-style.”
– Kurt Cobain, “The Dark Side of Kurt CobainAdvocate interview (February 1993)

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/1062930″ params=”color=116297&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”320″ iframe=”true” /]
Dear Courtney,

I have never met you or spoken with you, but I know you and my sweetheart Chris had a flirtation when you were still a teenager.

I now see so much of what you have been put through for so many years and I am so sorry.

I want all artists to be able to speak freely, to be able to tell their own truths, you and me included. It seems like this is a big problem for someone. And I need for Chris to not be invisible anymore. This, too, is a big problem.

The only way out that I can see, is for me to try to understand, and speak, the truth. I know I have to piece it together like a detective since when it comes to deviating from the script, insider’s lips are sealed.

Good thing I have a skeleton key.

Visible Woman antique toy

Last month Mike Leach uploaded a Napalm Beach bootleg recording for “Into The Sky,” a song I had never heard before. Chris had never put it on an album.

The recording is from 1982, and the photos from 1984, both in Seattle. The guitar tone in heavily infused with both Electro-Harmonix Small Clone and Big Muff, Chris’ sound of that era. As I mentioned in my original article on Napalm Beach, Mark Arm of Mudhoney carefully examined Chris’ amp and pedals at the Vogue in spring 1986. By 1988 the Fender Twin/Big Muff tone became a big part of Mudhoney’s signature sound, and soon the Small Clone became Nirvana’s signature sound (Nirvana seemed to use the Big Muff mostly in the studio – I hear it all over In Utero). This in and of itself wouldn’t be so remarkable – except for the fact that by 1990 Chris and his music had dropped off the map in Seattle and was frozen out of anyplace connected with Seattle (like the U.K.). Chris continues to be deleted from his own history while others accept accolades for inventing some kind of “Seattle sound.”

When I heard the 1982 bootleg, it immediately became clear that Nirvana’s Very Ape (1993) lyrically links “Into The Sky” (1982) with Mudhoney’s song Mudride (1987). I saw that “Very Ape” was a message to, and about Chris and Napalm Beach. It began to confirm some of my suspicions as to what had happened between Mudhoney and Napalm Beach. The lyrics to “Mudride” are very telling, as are the lyrics to “Burn It Clean” from the same album, Super Fuzz Big Muff.

While I didn’t mention it directly in my first Napalm Beach article, I do sometimes wonder why Kurt Cobain never mentioned Napalm Beach or Snow Bud. While it may be easy to fool newcomers and outsiders, every old school punk rocker between Portland and Vancouver B.C. ought to know that it was slightly odd that Cobain would shout out to almost every northwest underground band except Chris Newman’s bands, especially considering how Chris had been so connected to Seattle, not to mention certain sonic/songwriting connections that I’ve noticed.

In fact, the omissions are so glaring that Chris believed that Kurt hated him. They had met backstage at Satyricon around 1988 and had an argument in which Chris stated that women were not good rock singers and Kurt begged to differ. (This is kind of funny since in 1986 Chris wrote and recorded an entire album for female vocals, but he can be a contentious ass when he’s drunk.) That all seemed to work itself out, but Chris thought that maybe that encounter, along with possible jealousy because of your earlier connection with him, added up to the long-term freezing out.

When Chris saw you with Francis backstage at No On 9 in 1992, you looked right past him. And when Bohemia After Dark television interviewed Krist and Kurt, asking them about their favorite Portland bands, they said Poison Idea, Hitting Birth, and the Wipers. And this is how it’s been, ever since Sub Pop launched their plan for world domination in 1987. Glaring blank spots.

All these years Chris has believed that all the Sub Pop associated musicians hated him. Now I believe there has been a distortion campaign, a string pulling campaign, and some kind of cruel game in which he is untouchable. No matter what they claim, the reality is that this game was designed for one simple reason: to destroy his reputation, bury him, and promote the idea that Sub Pop’s Seattle based bands invented the wheel.

I’m not saying it isn’t brilliant – I’m just saying it is wrong and very harmful, and I need these aggressions to end. I also want amends in the form of positive recognition.

Courtney, I think you may also be the target of a long term distortion campaign, but with a different motivation. In your case, I think that some people feel guilty over your husband’s suicide. Was there some bullying going on? What about issues of control? Because it sure seems like this narrative (myth) is tightly controlled, and those who tell the truth (even someone relatively unconnected, like me) are threatened and/or punished. And in Kurt’s interviews and music I sense shadows of serious trauma, guilt, and and suppression – something beyond the “legendary divorce.” Is it possible that someone wants to make you look as bad as possible to avoid scrutiny of their own behavior?

To me, the most frustrating thing is that they refuse to stop the game. Sub Pop, K Records, and the aptly named Kill Rockstars seem to be splitting up the back catalogs of Portland bands who were friends and contemporaries of Napalm Beach, and positioning themselves as experts and archivists – which is great! – except that so far, they continue to bury Chris and his music. They still have the nerve to snide about Portland “pot smoker jeans bands” and to dismiss Chris’ vast catalog as unimportant.

Nirvana - Heart Shaped Box  directors cut

It felt like such a blessing last month when I saw and understood the message to Napalm Beach in “Very Ape.” When I went to bed that night the most amazing full moon positioned itself directly outside the window stayed there all night, bathing us in silver light so bright it kept waking me up. I took it as a positive sign.

Into the sky / a white fire light / only for me / only for me / wipe my eyes

Then I tried to write about it. That was the beginning of my being censored.

According to Collapse Board editor Everett True, the man who created the MYTH of grunge, my Masters Degree in English – along with being a guitar player, a songwriter, being exactly one year younger than Kurt Cobain, and growing up in a very similar logging/fishing town on the same Pacific coast highway as Aberdeen (Astoria, Bandon, North Bend etc) – does not actually qualify me to analyze or interpret Nirvana’s lyrics. At all.

At first I assumed True was somehow stuck mourning the death of Kurt Cobain. Like, it’s been almost 20 years and he’s been sober for a while, yet he is still stuck in this deep strangling grief? So much that no one else can touch Nirvana?

No, no, no. It was another smokescreen. THIS reality dawned when I noticed an image in the directors cut of Heart Shaped Box.

I saw that in this brand new version of the video, the little girl in the Ku Klux Klan robe is pushing an empty wheelchair towards Kurt Cobain’s unconscious body in the poppies while the overweight (visible woman) angel with dirty wings looks on with disapproval. It’s a striking moment for many reasons, one of them being it’s the first time the angel seems to be truly aware of her surroundings.

When I tried to ask Everett True about these things, he got very icy and started gaslighting me. Actually, he’d been gaslighting me for months, but now he turned it to 11. So Everett True and I broke off contact.

Then I noticed this:

HONEY is beautiful and amazing and this performance brings tears to my eyes every time. It told me that the parallels I had been seeing were real.

I now understand why Everett True dismissed Nobody’s Daughter. He didn’t want anyone else take it seriously. Because in fact there is a great deal of honesty and courage in those songs. I see the album as a compliment to In Utero, and the two albums together, along with the knowledge that I already have, tell a fairly clear story. I know you overcame some serious obstacles to record and release Nobody’s Daughter, and I can detect that someone wants to bury it, too. The patterns are becoming familiar to me.

Nobody's Daughter - Live To Air Review - Everett True - Bust Magazine

I want Nobody’s Daughter to be heard, and I want it to bring good things.

I see that Hole, Babes In Toyland, Mudhoney, and Nirvana all were writing songs that interweave, using coded language and common symbols. I am going to address this.

Love,

Erika / BOO FROG

NAPALM BEACH – Into The Sky (1982)

I try not to forget
what I’m running from
It hasn’t got me yet
I think about it some
Into the sky
a white fire light
Only for me
Only for me
white fire light
Now let us see
won’t you let me see

I haven’t lost my mind
I know it’s someplace safe
I wonder what I’d find
if I could see

well, into the sky
a white fire light
only for me
only for me

yeah white fire lies
now let us see
won’t you let me see

Well into the sky
wipe my eyes

only for me
now let us see

Nirvana - Heart Shaped Box

Introducing Napalm Beach: The band that taught Seattle how to rock

Sam Henry and Chris Newman - Napalm Beach

I’ve tried to write this story, or something like it, a few times, but always got mired. Then, on July 11, something about the way two contrasting images cut across my brain – the 25-year-old daddy-band Mudhoney surfing across the blue skies of Seattle, while the 33-year-old granddaddy-band Napalm Beach says farewell from deep inside the Star Theatre – made me think it’s time to finish. Continue reading Introducing Napalm Beach: The band that taught Seattle how to rock

Introducing the band that taught Seattle how to rock…

SamHenry_ChrisNewman_NapalmBeach

By Erika Meyer

I’ve tried to write this story, or something like it, a few times, but always got mired. Then, on July 11, something about the way two contrasting images cut across my brain – the 25-year-old daddy-band Mudhoney surfing across the blue skies of Seattle, while the 33-year-old granddaddy-band Napalm Beach says farewell from deep inside the Star Theatre – made me think it’s time to finish. Continue reading Introducing the band that taught Seattle how to rock…