Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of a Seattle electrician discovering the dead body of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in a small room above the musician's garage. The man who busted indie and punk out of their respective undergrounds had killed himself days prior, with a shotgun that Earth frontman and doom legend Dylan Carlson had bought for him. Cobain's death on April 5, 1994 put an end to a chapter in the nascent national grunge scene and laid the groundwork for almost a generation of corporate imitators seeking the secret to Nirvana's magic formula. What could very well be decades of tributes and cultural canonization continues unabated to this day. As the years pass and all of us of that generation age, our memories of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain grow fonder and ever more vibrant. We've begun to lose our cynicism about the band's legacy and sickening afterlife. We start to forget the batshit widows and awful "modern rock" bands trying to pilfer Nirvana's sonic blueprint.
Those in the Houston scene reminisce about things like the band headlining a bill with the Breeders and Shonen Knife at the AstroArena in 1993, or their first Houston gigs at the Vatican and the Axiom before MTV lionized them. Photographer Jordan Graber listed over a dozen of his favorite Nirvana memories, the likes that only devoted fans could ever share. Each riff and lunge during the band'sLive Tonight! Sold Out!
concert video, Cobain's gear, and his vocal tics live and on record stick with Graber to this very day.
While he doesn't subscribe to the Cobain cult, local garage photographer Ron remembers hearing of the singer's love for Houston-area legends Jandek and Daniel Johnston, and trying to reunite Brazilian freak-rockers Os Mutantes around the time of his death.
The Rocks Off staff remembers the day that Cobain's death was announced very differently, since we're about ten years apart in age. Rocks Off senior was a student in Austin and spent his day listening toNevermind
and sullenly walking the Drag. The younger Rocks Off woke to watch his Saturday morning cartoons only to find MTV's Kurt Loder on an endless loop telling the sad tale and replaying every Nirvana concert and music video MTV could find. That Monday morning, his elementary-school counselor was concerned Rocks Off's Nirvana T-shirt might lead to his own suicidal thoughts. Cobain's suicide and his reasoning for ending his young life at age 27 is almost an alien concept in this day and age. He found the pressures of fame to be too heavy of a load, and his stomach ailments and heroin addiction didn't help matters.
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In an era when lead singers post blogs about their bowel movements and Twitter every step of their lives, and everyone in rock seems to lust after the spotlight, killing yourself due to overexposure and pressure is sadly laughable and implausible. In the end, Cobain left for selfish and ridiculous reasons, and his daughter Frances Bean grew up without a father.
Cobain today remains as polarizing as he was back in the '90s. Tons of music fans see him as just another dead, drug-addicted pop star and a pathetic example of corporate rock hijacking youth culture. Others see him in league with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin as dead rock royalty. His personal relevance will forever be debated, but his band's stamp is indelible on everything that's followed in its wake.