"You're going to owe me some pretty good Pink Floyd tickets for this one," a voice told KXRX's Marty Reimer at about 9:40 on the morning of Friday, April 8, 1994. It was the dispatcher for a local electric contractor, responding to reports from employee Gary Smith who had caught a glimpse of a body through a window at the house in Denny-Blaine where he was installing a security system, calling in to notify the media after calling the police.
Thus was the world ushered into a world without Kurt Cobain. In many ways nothing could have been more appropriate. Welcome to the '90s. If Nevermind didn't push you blissfully into the Endtimes Decade, Kurt Cobain's suicide dragged you kicking and screaming. Already, for better or worse, April 8, 1994 is a day as indelibly branded into the memories of millions as November 22, 1963, August 16, 1977, or December 8, 1980. People remember where they were, what they were doing, how they felt, and what others said with an astonishing clarity. And the year since Cobain's death has only served to emphasize the scope of his impact and his self-inflicted death. On one level, people will not stop talking and arguing about it, and for good reason. As the old saw goes, truth is stranger than fiction, and not even monkeys typing randomly could have created a story as bizarre as the death of Kurt Cobain, riddled as it is with weird coincidence, aching drama, and shocking bolts of emotion. Among other things, it turned out to be a pretty damn good test of computerdom's much ballyhooed information highway, as people around the world turned to their keyboards and their modems to express their sadness, their outrage, their anger.
And they're still at it. On the Internet and America Online and other points electronic, much band-width continues to be sacrificed to Cobain and Nirvana and Courtney Love--home pages and folders all over the place. The Internet news groups (alt.music.nirvana and alt.fan.courtney-love) are enormously active, with dozens of postings every day (of which, sadly, only a very few are actually interesting).
On America Online, Courtney Love has become something like cyber royalty, with a series of flaming posts that may or may not have originated from her (verifying authors of computer postings is still virtually impossible.) Whoever wrote them, they're not for the faint of heart:
"...i had a block on my phone 'unless my husband calls' i cannot stress the importance i placed on that last statement--i checked every shift--every few hours--so at 8:54 he called from our phone-for over 6 minutes he tried to get through my block. If you knew him, trust me its hard to imagine Kurt arguing w/anyone for six minutes, but he did, and he failed, all i can think is that he thought my block was for him-that i blocked HIM...i imagine him sitting on our bed, just thinking, she's not even taking my calls, ok, that's it. I'm gonna do it. and he did. i hate that Hotel, its nothing but flies, whores entwined w/Spelling look-alikes-they just used my photo in an LA Times piece to emphasize they're 'glamorous' image--its sick-okay there's a thousand reasons--but I know him and that is the big one. 8:54am... 8:54am... 8:54am.... as for the other i couldn't have sex if i wanted too, unless your in the mood to be called Kurt the whole time, 8:54am.... those pigs..."
This message was posted on America Online on July 28 by someone calling themselves "CMLC."
At the same time, there are plenty of people who want everyone to just shut up about the whole thing. They continue trying to cast Kurt's final exit as little more than a minor blip, a relatively uninteresting tabloid story in a year of great tabloid stories. I have been continually surprised by the people who earnestly buttonhole me to insist that Cobain was nothing--he was no Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix (overlooking the fact that the period of fame for all three was the same), let alone John Lennon or Elvis Presley--he was dirty, he was noisy, he was annoying, he was just a bad kid with a bad attitude (this from the principal of his former high school), he was a drug addict, he killed himself, for God's sake, he abandoned his wife and baby. Perhaps critic Greil Marcus best caught this willful looking away from the scope of Cobain's achievement and tragedy when he noted the coverage it garnered on the radio: "On Your Favorite Oldies, Best of the '70s, Lite Rock, not to mention country, adult-contemporary or hip-hop stations, Kurt Cobain didn't die, and neither was he ever born."
Or perhaps Erik Lacitis--the Seattle Times columnist who wrote an insensitive piece on Kurt's death some five days after the discovery of the body arguing that Cobain should have been happy because he was rich-- spoke best for those who had no sympathy or understanding. Today he says: "It seems longer ago than a year now, for some reason. I think that's because things happen fast in our modern digital world, and things just kept coming along to replace it, like O.J."
Then Lacitis pauses for a moment, and asks, in a tone of baffled sincerity: "Is there really still that much interest in Kurt Cobain?"
That's a good question to address. We all remember April last year, the month that wouldn't end: The bawling fans, the stupefied movers and shakers, the clueless media, tabloid and "legitimate" alike ("What was the name of their hit? How many were in the band?" more than one television reporter desperately needed to know), the horrifying four-color image of Cobain's body splashed across the front page of the Seattle Times, the public memorial service that turned into a riot of joy and grief, the Newsweek cover only three days after the discovery of the body, the news of the arrest of Courtney Love on drug charges in Beverly Hills and the release of her band's album, Live Through This (the promotion for which included a haunting before-the-fact cover story in Spin) Andy Rooney and Rush Limbaugh in a dead-heat foot race for who could miss the point the most completely, MTV broadcasts of Nirvana's "Unplugged" set practically every hour on the hour.