I decided to make the time to sit down and watch the documentary on Kurt Cobain this week. Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck was an interesting documentary to say the least. And although was good, there were many bizarre moments in the film as well. Early on as I watched the film I thought “This isn’t so great. Am I really going to sit through this thing?” But as the film progressed and once I had seen it entirety it all made sense. As a whole, Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck was an excellent view into the life of rock’s most misunderstood and highly beloved stars, Kurt Cobain.
I still remember when Nirvana made it huge with Nevermind. When “Smells Like Teen Spirit” first came out on MTV (that was still the way we got the bulk of our new music) it struck me like something I had never heard before. That was mostly due to the fact that it was something I had never heard before. Nivana and the bands that followed had created a whole new world of music for me to explore. And while I still loved the glossy metal bands that had ruled my high school years, Nirvana and similar bands were providing me a new outlet. Their music had deeper meaning. Their music had power. Their music let me feel in a way the party songs and power ballads of Poison and Warrant didn’t allow. This wasn’t music about a 24 hour party; this was music about releasing your rage and expressing yourself on a much higher level. And it was absolutely brilliant.
Seeing the old home movies of Kurt as a young child and hearing the stories of how he was kicked from house to house to house to live with relatives for weeks at a time certainly shed a new light on how he ended up the way he did. I have a deeper understanding of why Kurt turned to drugs. I still don’t condone it, and I still think that it was a waste of his brilliant talent, but I do understand it a little better. The peek into his personal journals and the home movies with Courtney Love were an added treat as well. Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck is brilliant in the manner of how the story unfolds. There is no narrator doing a voice over. 90% of the film is old home movies, band videos, interviews, and existing film footage. It was an interesting approach and one that worked well.
There is one scene in the movie where Courtney Love is reading a piece of hate mail from a fan calling her a talentless pig and proclaiming that she is ruining the genius of Kurt Cobain which made me laugh aloud. I remember hating Courtney Love that much. I remember feeling the exact same way about her. I remember calling her the Yoko of our generation and really getting mad when her name came up. Heck I wouldn’t even pay money for her albums, even though I thought it was pretty darned good. I just could not stand her, and that moment in the film took back to the early nineties and the memory of when that was actually deemed important in my life.
Without a doubt, Nirvana changed the face of music forever. The running joke will always be that they killed hair metal and those of us who love glam rock and heavy metal should hate grunge, but that’s simply not true. Glam rock had its moment in the sun and life was a luxurious party. But when Nirvana and grunge came on the scene, life became more. It had a deeper meaning. I could spend hours listening to Nevermind, dissecting the lyrics and interpreting their meanings. And the music was much more complex as well. With Poison or Cinderella the dissection was relatively simple. This song is about getting laid. That song is about trying to get back together with your girl. And those songs were great, when I was high in school. As I grew into a college student with a lot of questions about life, Nirvana arrived with Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam right behind them. They all appeared at the right moment in my life and made a huge influence on me musically.
For whatever reason, I either forgot, or did not know, that Kurt Cobain attempted to commit suicide via pills a month before he actually committed suicide. He was in a coma due to an overdose of Rohypnols. He had ingested 67 of them and was in a coma for days. He miraculously survived that meeting with death, but it would not matter. One month later he was found dead in his Seattle home. The little girl that he loved, the one that would go on to make this documentary about him, was left without a father. And the fans were left without one of the most brilliant musicians of our time. And even though I have a much better understanding of the life he led and the challenges he was going through, I still don’t understand why he would commit suicide.
Kurt was a musician who had everything a hard working musician could want. Fame. Fortune. Talent. A band that got along with no egos. He had it all. This is what most anyone who picked up a guitar, or played music, would kill for. And Kurt was overwhelmed by it all. And then he got saddened. And once he had the means, the drugs were aplenty, with heroin being the drug of choice. It would ultimately lead to his early departure.
Years ago I read Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross. It was a magnificent introspective biography of Kurt Cobain where the author had actual access to Courtney Love. Montage Of Heck had a similar feel. The documentary was a real introspective look into the life of a genius, just as the book was years before. And both provoked the same response from me: disappointment. Not in the material or the finished product, but the subject matter. I still don’t fully understand how someone could take their own lives, especially when they have everything they ever wanted. To me it just seems selfish.
I’ve always been curious about what would have happened if Kurt were still alive today. Would Nirvana have stayed together? Perhaps they would be doing reunion shows after a long hiatus? Would Foo Fighters have ever existed if Kurt still lived? Would he still be making brilliant music? I think the answer to that last question is a resounding yes. Kurt Cobain was one of the most gifted musicians I ever had the pleasure to listen to and I think he would have continued making music for as long as he was able.
If you get the chance, check out Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck. It’s currently airing on HBO and will be available on Blu Ray and DVD this September with additional footage.