In November of 1993, while Nirvana were in New York recording their Unplugged performance, Groove Neuter and I were working for a college radio station in our hometown. A few months later, when the performance aired, Groove came over to my house and we spent a few hours rigging a VCR and a cassette recorder to the t.v., bootlegging the entirety for our radio show.
A short while after that, I came home to find my dad listening to the radio news. "Hey son. Did you hear that Nirvana kid shot himself?"
"What?" I ran to the phone and called Groove at the station.
He laughed, the way he always does when there's something emotional he doesn't want to deal with. "Yup. It's true." He said, then read me the story straight off the news wire. I hung up the phone and went back to the living room where my dad was waiting.
"Jesus, Dad. You just don't know how this feels."
"Yeah, probably about the same way I felt when Elvis died." That was enough to jolt me out of my shock. That my dad, who was never to really appreciate the grunge and punk that I loved, could never-the-less empathize because of his own musical idol's self inflicted deification penetrated the fog in my head. I got back on the phone with Groove and we started planning our Nirvana hour, a combination tribute and mourning.
The funny thing is, I had not even liked Nirvana when I first heard them. A friend had a copy of a copy of Bleach and I thought it was a mess. Back in 1989, Guns 'N' Roses was still the be all and end all of my musical universe. I had grown up with an aunt, who, at only eight years my senior, built my early musical tastes. I listened to Adam and the Ants, later Clash, the Pretenders, and other early 80s New Wave. By the time I hit junior high school I had abandoned all that for the pop metal tastes that my friends preferred: Poison, Warrant, Bon Jovi, Ratt, Cinderella. And then I heard Guns 'N' Roses and my tastes shifted again. By the time high school started I was into Metallica, Iron Maiden, and other, harder, metal.
My sister gave me Nevermind for Christmas the year it came out. Another gate opened and now I began adding grunge albums into my collection, from there punk, from there…Nirvana changed their sound. They did an Unplugged show, with several covers by bands I had never heard of (Vaselines), or from people my mom liked (David Bowie). And now the gates were hanging off the hinges and I was grabbing any kind of music I could. I got into the Ramones and the Clash and even Bowie.
And perhaps I'm not explaining it well, but Nirvana's acknowledgment of their influences made it ok for me to like things outside my chosen genre; the performance made it acceptable to have diverse and eclectic musical tastes.
And then he shot himself.
Groove and I carried on with our radio show for another year or so before moving on to other things, but for years after, whenever there was something untoward happening, one or the other of us would look at the other and just say, "fucking Kurt" as a way of summing up whatever fucked up situation had just arisen
My last trip to the U.S. I bought a copy of the just-released DVD of Nirvana's Unplugged performance that I hoped Groove and I would have a chance to watch together but, the way things go, we did not have that chance. We chose to spend our limited time hanging out and finding new things to bullshit about, new situations to bitch about, new things to bond over. That's a good thing of course, but I do wish we had had a chance to reminisce over this performance, especially as I sit here now with the DVD playing in the background.
My dad called me up a few years ago for no real reason other than to tell me he had just gotten Elvis' Comeback special on DVD. I get that now.