Monday, June 1, 2015

Kurt Cobain

According to Cross’ biography, when still a child Cobain would ride a bike around the small yard behind his Aberdeen house. As a 14th birthday gift, his uncle let him pick between a bicycle and secondhand guitar. Maybe choosing wheels would have changed his destiny, dead at 27 from drug abuse, fame pressures, and suicide gunshot. Pedaling dispels nervous energy more positively than huffing and vandalizing. Happy until his parents’ divorce, he’d soon be on Ritalin to cope at school. In Nirvana’s song Sliver (Rolling Stone rated it group’s 3rd best) from Incesticide, 1992, Kurt’s lyrics speak to those times, “Grandma, take me home. She said, ‘Well, don't you start your crying. Go outside and ride your bike.’ That's what I did. I killed my toe. Grandma, take me home!” Grandparents apparently heightened child’s anxiety: incest suggested by album title? Suffering from ADHD, probably he’d rather be home poking holes in and stenciling Led Zeppelin on his bedroom walls. "I wanted to be a stunt man, [Evel] Knieval was a big influence on that. I’d jump on my bikes, and I took all my bedding and pillows out of our house, and put it on the deck, and got up on the roof, and would jump off."

HBO’s new biopic Montage of Heck (2015, dir. Brett Morgen) comes (as you are) after two decades of “27 forever” in a culture obsessed with “dead voices of their own generation”, much like Hendrix, Joplin, and Morrison. Cobain, enduring bully shame, despair for prospects, and family rejection bouncing from home to home, never finished high school or reckoned on fame, just wanted to earn a cool $3 million to buy drugs and escape drudgery. Sadly, cycling crazed Seattle is close to Canadian border, beyond which ibogaine can legally be used to treat heroin addiction. Sadder still, drugs he detested but used anyway flow without interdiction over same border to area addicts. Teen anger punctuated his diary, poetry and songs, an impressive canon given less than a decade of adult production. Barriers and inabilities frustrate. When kids don’t try things for themselves because parents don’t care enough or get overprotective, their resultant incompetence undermines can-do attitudes. Nevertheless, he was notorious for do-it-yourself, damn the training, yet questioned “ethics involved with independence”. His journal makes a manifesto, “Punk is musical freedom. It’s saying, doing and playing what you want. In Webster’s terms, ‘nirvana’ means freedom from pain, suffering and the external world, and that’s pretty close to my definition of Punk Rock. Art is sacred... right to express is vital. Anyone can be artistic.” He provided a downtrodden world with another embattled but incorruptible artist with whom to relate.

Can only speculate about the implications of educational disenchantment. The late Alan Watts asked, “Doesn’t it really astonish you that you are this fantastically complex thing, and you’re doing all this, and you don’t have any education in how to do it?” Instincts derive from genetic code of nature, skills rely on society’s nurture, but stunning genius explodes onto scene from seemingly nowhere, then just as suddenly self destructs, thus depriving fans once again. Or is it that audiences only discover what they were looking for, and elevate at intervals one practitioner over others out of a need to impose order in chaos? Public wants what it wants when it wants. Consequently, entire generations get skipped and wonderful out-of-sync art goes unnoticed, though it might someday stick, so merits whatever effort and pain it took to produce.

Group’s bassist Krist Novoselic tweeted about practicing Nirvana songs prior to last’s year Hall of Fame induction, “It's like riding a bike... Nothing like finding that groove again.” Trio’s drummer Dave Grohl, who survived to form award winning band Foo Fighters (2015 Brit for evocatively monikered Sonic Highways, and multiple Grammies), admits he mountain bikes 5 days a week. Their song, Let It Die? seems a question addressed to his former frontman.

First Breed, Bike Life (Kurt Cobain Mix) [NYC hip-hop], Shawshank Redemption (compilation with other artists), 2013, mentions the disturbed icon while musing about cycling.

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