Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I never really liked Nirvana. Of course, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was a catchy radio/video hit, but grunge didn't do too much for me after a late 1980s/early 1990s high school soundtrack of Public Enemy and the English Beat. Dressed in thrift store threads and band t-shirts, I found the Seattle-based rockers negative and whiny. In 1991, I broke my back jumping off of a 40-foot cliff at Whistler mountain and landed in VGH's GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre for a couple of excruciating weeks. Thankfully, my friends and family were very supportive. I even got a MASSIVE get well card from my Centennial Grade 12 classmates, though I still felt like an outsider after having moved back to B.C. from Ontario prior to the start of Grade 11. Another gift was a copy of Nirvana's Nevermind on cassette, which arrived in the mail from my old pal and ski buddy Lany Jaros. This was in the days of the Sony Walkman so I proceeded to give the tape a spin. Barely making it through to the end, I put the case on my bedside table and never touched it again. The music, for me, was so depressing during a time when I needed a positive mental attitude and a healing spirit. Unfortunately, the songs of Kurt and company weren't gonna cut it as therapy. As I recovered from my injury, music certainly played its part, and once back on track health wise, it became more and more of a passion for me. A few years and another Nirvana album later, Kurt Cobain killed himself. Even though I wasn't a fan, I acknowledged their importance in the pop culture landscape and Cobain himself as an inspiration to many people my age. I even bought a copy of the Rolling Stone magazine that came out after his passing during a regular trip to New Westminster for a meal at Hon's Wun-Tun House. Thinking back to the candlelight vigils held in his memory, his passing easily had the impact of John Lennon's assassination to the 1990s generation. But as it does, life goes on... That same year, I was lucky to get a job at HMV #852 in Coquitlam Centre, a mall notable for its angular interior design and as one of the key filming locations for Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains. During the height of the CD boom and with minimal corporate interference, a few music loving staff and I were able to create a virtual music library there for our research and enjoyment. Yes, we sold discs to the public too. In fact, we sold TONS of them, but for me, it was mostly a place where I immersed myself in the breadth of recorded music: independent new age, underground rap, dub reggae, jazz, soul, R&B, post-punk, 1970s German rock, 1960s psychedelia, not to forget the latest UK imports. But back to Nirvana. On November 1st, 1994, DGC Records released the group's MTV Unplugged in New York CD. Needless to say, in the wake of Cobain's suicide and leading up to the impending Christmas rush, it was a huge success. The performance, recorded a half a year before Cobain's death, featured stripped down versions of Nirvana hits and a selection of covers including David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World." Without the layers of electric guitars, throbbing bass, and pummeling drums, you could really hear the songs. I finally got it! And though I didn't buy the album, I always enjoyed hearing it played over the store's sound system, on radio or television. By then I was immersed in the post-Stone Roses sounds of Oasis, whose Definitely Maybe debut had just been released in August of that year. More recently, it gave me a chuckle to hear that Cobain's daughter Frances Bean was more of an Oasis fan than a Nirvana one. I understood. Still, the latter's Unplugged set will no doubt serve as a continued revelation for me as the years go by... It's something I look forward to returning to.

*The sweater that Kurt wore for the MTV Unplugged in New York event is currently being auctioned