20 years ago and four days after Kurdt Kobain’s corpse was found above his garage, Hole’s second album Live Through This was released. I couldn’t. It was way too soon.
On April 8, 1994, a Friday, I was listening to my walkman while walking home from Dodson Junior High just after 3 p.m. I had the radio tuned to KROQ when I heard a phone recording which I thought was an odd intro to a song. It was the King County Medical Examiner that positively identified the body as Kurdt’s. I stopped dead in my tracks. You know how people talk about how they remember the moment they heard about JFK’s assassination? MLK’s assassination? John Lennon’s murder? Well, now, I have my moment.
As the final words were uttered by the doc, KROQ launched into Tori Amos’ cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, but I was in too much of a state of shock to process any emotion. It wasn’t the same feeling as finding out a year before that my uncle was shot in the head during a robbery attempt of his liquor store, but it was sure close to it. I felt tears starting to come out, but I couldn’t. Kurdt wasn’t family, and here I was in public just having turned onto Western Ave. from Toscanini Drive. So I trudged on home and spent the weekend processing things.
On Tuesday, after the teary recitation of his suicide note, after going out to the mourning fans gathered right outside of their house and giving away pieces of his clothing, the new Hole album came out, Courtney Love front and center. Maybe it was because I didn’t have cable and the internet was confined to those being geeky on BBSes, but I managed to avoid the album. I didn’t want to hear it for fear of some emotional reaction. The fact I managed to avoid it for so long is quite surprising since I did listen to a lot of KROQ back in those days.
It wasn’t until sometime late that summer as I was preparing to go to Narbonne that I finally heard “Miss World”. Holy shit it was genius. Before that I never heard anything from Hole. Having read articles about the band, I expected something more like Babes In Toyland, something a lot more punk and screechy. But “Miss World” was polished yet still raw, defiant with a hint of saccharine. I went out and bought the album.
Two songs jumped out at me immediately: “Violet” and “Rock Star”. There has never been a more fitting abstract to an album than “Violet”: blistering guitars, great hooks and Courtney Love screaming “Go on take everything/Take everything/I dare you” then sweetly teasing “I told you from the start/Just how this would end/When I get what I want/And I never wanted again.”
Then the album ended with “Rock Star”. It wasn’t until recently that I found out that the song is really called “Olympia”, that a last minute change after the art work was completed contributed to the misnomer. I knew there was a music scene in Olympia, but I still had no idea what all that entailed. All I know was the Courtney felt boxed in, and this was her form of rebellion. Besides, which tenth grader doesn’t like to rage out to someone screaming “Don’t! You! Please! Make me sick! Fuck! You!”?
It would be a couple of years before I would finally be able to deal with being gay. But Live Through This was something that helped me get to that point, to help me be true with myself and deal with having to live through whatever I would have to end up living with.
It was odd seeing Courtney being a whirling dervish of drug use and drama during this period. She embodied chaos in 1994 and 1995 with punching Kathleen Hanna, interrupting Kurt Loder’s interview with Madonna after the VMAs in ’95. I guess I should have connected the Courtney doing all of this shit and the Courtney who created this wonderful piece of art. But Kurdt’s death helped me start separating the artist and the person. Also, I was 15-16 at this point, not 11 when I first heard Nirvana.
So no matter the heinous things Courtney did, the stupid things she would say, I will always love her for Live Through This.
Flavorwire posted a feature where musicians and writers wrote about the 12 songs on the eve of the album’s 20th anniversary. That’s what got this started, although I really didn’t intend this being as wordy as it has turned out.