â€œBirds scream at the top of their lungs in horrified hellish rage every morning at daybreak to warn us all of the truth but sadly we don’t speak bird.” ~Kurt Cobain
Do you remember where you were? Â Friday, April 5, 1994?
If you were in high school back then maybe you were driving around aimlessly with friends looking for something to do to fill the hole of boredom. Â Maybe you were hanging out in your bedroom and scribbling in a journal wishing you had friends to drive around aimlessly with. Â Maybe you were on a skateboard kicking up speed in your Chuck Taylors and heading to band practice. Â Maybe you were busing tables to buy a guitar. Â Maybe you were zoned out in front of Mtv when the news hit home that Kurt Cobain was dead.
It’s surely a night I’ll never forget. Â I worked my usual afterschool shift that day at the shitty fast food restaurant.Â Â My friend and I goofed off in the drive-thru and joked with our co-workers to pass the time, waiting for the clock to make 7PM appear.Â We passed out bags of greasy food through the window and chatted amongst ourselves about going to the Hibernianâ€™s later that night, a local hall that hosted garage bands.Â We lived 35 miles north of Boston in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where the options for entertainment as a teenager were pretty much limited to sitting in Dennyâ€™s drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes endlessly, hanging out at the mall, or listening to music down at the boat docks, staring out at the river. It was all pretty unremarkable.
While on her break that day my friend spoke to her father on the phone.Â â€œMy dad said some rock star killed himself, but didnâ€™t hear who it was,â€ she announced when she returned to her shift. Â We quizzed some customers to see if any of them had any information on it, but they were all oblivious. Â I made some crack about it being some washed up member of an 80â€™s heavy metal band.Â It seemed like decades ago that I traded in cdâ€™s of Skid Row and Motley Crue for those of Nirvana.Â Â I recently had traded a stack in for a double bootleg cassette of both acousticÂ and live Nirvana. Â It would be a couple more years before they would be officially released as â€œNirvana Unplugged in New York,â€ and â€œFrom the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah.â€
Around the time I started high school I started going through a musical identity crisis.Â I was getting a little bored of the metal I had listened to since junior high. Â A friend of mine was always loaning me tapes of mellow indie rock but I couldnâ€™t quite get into them. Â To make the leap from Guns Nâ€™ Roses to the Cure and REM was pretty drastic. Â I wasn’t ready for anything quite that melancholy yet.
One night my friend called me up, Â â€œListen to this,â€ he said to me as the now infamous strumming of the first beats of â€œSmells Like Teen Spirit,â€ traveled through the receiver.Â Â Â We spent the next hour or so listening to bits and pieces of â€œNevermind,â€ over the phone and to the primal screams of their leader Kurt Cobain, while he played along, teaching himself the songs on guitar.Â I loved what I heard and made him promise to bring it to school the next day so I could borrow it.Â I took it with me to a boring family birthday party that weekend and listened to it on headphones over and over, drowning myself in the distorted sound, wishing I was someplace else. Â This was exactly the kind music I had been looking for, and it turned out so were Â millions of young people across the country.Â Â It was only a short time before the album dominated the airwaves across the country and Mtv. Â This raw, profound voice filled with great humanity knocked plastic heavy metal right out of the spotlight.
When we arrived at the Hibernianâ€™s that night in April there were more kids than usual hanging outside on the front steps smoking cigarettes. Â Â Everyone looked down and out and no one was really talking.Â A band inside could be heard doing a cover of â€œPennyroyal Tea.â€Â We spotted a friend of ours and went over to say hi, and when we got closer we could see that he had been crying.Â He embraced us with the grim news, â€œDude, Cobain is dead.â€Â For the rest of the night and for years to come, we all shared the shock and the anguish of that sad news. Â A camaraderie ensued that night and Â every band that played on stage paid tribute to the man who put them there, playing one if not multiple songs from the band that was a big part of the soundtrack of our lives.
Nirvana and other bands of that time influenced me so much I made a short film about it called, “Before We Get To Seattle.” Â Jon raved about in the previous post. Â We’re putting the finishing touches on it right now and hope to have it in festivals by next year. Â Please check out our Facebook Fan Page and join us!! It’s time we wax nostalgic about what an important time this was in music and culture. Â Most bands wouldn’t exist on the radio today without the following song: