How NOT to write about music – 143. Kurt Cobain


Here is the original transcript.

Seattle, 1994

I’m walking through an airport, a bag of vinyl records under my arm.

I’m watching the lights sparkle and twinkle over the city of Seattle – my favourite sight in the world – as tears crease down my face, and I’m wishing I was anywhere but.

I’m in a hotel room, incoherent rage coursing through me and just as rapidly dying away again. I make a great show of pouring the remains of my whiskey bottle down the sink but it’s meaningless. “Have you heard the news,” cipher after cipher asks me on the phone. “Have you heard the news?” Oh, is the news important then, all of a sudden?

I’m dully asking the check-in desk whether they have any cheaper flight tickets because I have to get some place and I have to get there now. They find me cheaper flight tickets, half price death special.

I’m talking to my friend Eric on the telephone. He’s in LA and I’m in Ohio, and he’s telling me that he and his party want to meet me at the residence. Need to meet me at the residence. I want to know what to do and he’s telling me that I should go there. Now. I want to know what to do, and in the background behind his airport pay phone I can hear a babble of voices, many raised. He says he’ll send a limousine for me. He says that’s what will happen. I want to know what will happen. He says he’ll send a car for me. He’s in LA and I’m in Cincinnati. We don’t talk about it.

I’m walking through the airport to the departure lounge and Steve’s taken my records from me and I have nothing with me, no hand baggage, just a passport and an old pair of jeans.

I’m in Mark’s apartment and I’m looking at my jeans and saying something about how maybe neither of us care – and he certainly wouldn’t have given a damn – but it feels disrespectful. It’s not raining outside. It’s fucking beautiful and Mark says something about that, about how weather changes moods. I cut my toenail badly, clipping it with an unfamiliar tool. The TV is on momentarily. Loads of sheep baaing in the field. We switch it off.

I’m on the plane and Seattle is twinkling and I want to stay circling the city forever. I think of all the people who’ve met me in Arrivals over the years. No friends are meeting me today, just a chauffeur who refrains from talking. The first time I landed in SeaTac it was snowing so thickly we couldn’t see the ground until the wheels hit the tarmac and even then we couldn’t see the ground. The tears spiral around my face, dried on there by the years. I’m on an airplane going nowhere. I have nothing to listen to.

I’m in a limousine and there seems to be some kind of roadblock up ahead, a scrimmage of reporters and police officers. We’ll never get through that. We’ll have to go round, won’t we? The driver turns round and looks at me, almost for the first time. “That’s our destination, buddy.”

I’m up in a bedroom and people are crying.

I’m standing by a winding staircase, and people are crying and shouting.

I’m hugging myself. I’m talking on the telephone to my mother, wondering how she’s managed to track me down to a telephone booth in an American airport. I’m missing my lost friends, badly.

I’m in a corner, and the opposing factions try and talk to me. I have nothing to say, no bag of records to show everyone to enthuse them with, to make them laugh or something. I have no stories or funny vomiting acts. Mark comes over, and says nothing.

I’m in a hotel bathroom, watching the remains of the bottle disappear down the sink.

I’m standing outside a fast food joint, looking at the sun.

I’m wondering if anyone’s ever going to want to listen to stories again.

Illustration: Vincent Vanoli

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How NOT to write about music – 101. Melody Maker


Inspired by Allan Jones’ tremendous collection of rock’n’roll war stories Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down – I have no idea how he recalls such detail: my life is like black marker pen has been scrawled across it – I have decided to reprise one of my own. This is taken from The Electrical Storm, a copy of which can still be had by sending £12.99 to me ( via PayPal.


University of London Union, London 1990

The trouble starts earlier, when Carol’s intern turns up holding his draft card.

“I’m not having that!” she commands. “Everybody down the pub – NOW!”

So off we dutifully trot – it’s 11.30 so I’ve just got in – to our new drinking haunt, having been banned temporarily from our regular. Strong American beers are ordered, and tequila. Much bluster is had on our part, railing against the injustice of an American system that can allow poor honest hard-drinking student interns to be called up for military duty. I wave my walking stick at the imaginary foe: “You cannot take our Daniel! We will not allow it!” In the middle of this hubbub, Daniel grabs a lighter and – with a minimum of ceremony – sets light to his draft card.

An awed silence falls on our assembly.

A few hours pass. Someone suggests we should go to a gig. My friend Don’s new band is playing at ULU near Goodge St. At the venue, he’s nowhere to be seen but the main band is playing – old friends from my Creation years. I clamber on stage and ask the singer where Don is. He looks at me oddly – and points in the direction of the dressing rooms. “Thanks,” I say. “Nice show.”

I discover Don and his band-mates drinking the last third of a bottle of whiskey. I grab it, affronted that it took so much effort to find them. “Oh, sorry,” I say, as I finish it. “Was that your only bottle?”

“Not to worry,” Don replies. “I have another one here.”

I drink it.

Later, outside, a new Melody Maker writer is excitedly telling her friends that Everett True is at the show – she’s never met him, but she’s looking forward to it. “And, um, here he is now…” she says as her group leave the venue, pointing to an inebriate crawling on his hands and knees in the gutter. A friend – half my size – rescues me and gets me on and off three buses back to his place.

I wake in a room I am unable to recognise and realise I’ve lost my battered copy of Anna Karenina, and I howl.