Kurt's Favorite Music
by Justin Farrar | April 5, 2014
I really don't feel like imparting any sappy or deep thoughts about the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's horrible, miserable suicide. After all, there's nothing I can say about the guy's legacy that Courtney and her proposed musical couldn't say better. (And yes, that statement drips in '90s-bred sarcasm -- my native tongue.) What I do want to touch on is, quite simply, Kurt the Fan. After all these years, the thing about him that still sticks with me is how he seemed to enjoy listening to rock music just as much as he did creating it (maybe more so, actually). In band interviews, both in print and on MTV, Cobain always appeared the most enthused and animated when talking about his favorite bands and records. In fact, he seemed to prefer that to any inane parsing of his lyrics or delving into what Nirvana means to the youth of America (Wipers reference, people). Hell, he even made his own band tees and, as the publishing of his Journals in 2002 proved, enjoyed scribbling lists of his all-time favorite albums in cheap spiral-bound notebooks.
That's true rock fanaticism. Best of all, he never did any of it in a pretentious, "I know about stuff you don't" manner. In other words, he never came off like the jerk-off record store clerk who believes he's hipper than Iggy Pop because he owns a first pressing of The Vaselines' Dying For It EP. Quite the opposite, actually. Cobain appeared to genuinely enjoy turning his fans on to the artists that had turned him on. Music meant the world to him, and he wanted to share it, plain and simple. This made him seem very down to earth and very real, as if he wasn't a bigger-than-life rock star, but rather just some cool, slightly older dude living down the street, whose awesome record collection plays a pivotal role in shaping (corrupting?) the tastes of the neighborhood kids.
I was an impressionable high school student for the majority of Nirvana's existence, and I can say with certainty that when Cobain referred to a particular record, name-dropped a specific group or wore his homemade Flipper shirt (screw you, Forever 21), it inspired kids to head down to the local record store and begin exploring the bins. Thanks in part to Cobain -- whose tastes were absurdly expansive, it should be noted -- I made the transition from clueless consumer of mainstream rock to hardcore music nerd obsessed with all manner of killer stuff, including Leadbelly, The Jesus Lizard, Daniel Johnston, The Frogs, Bad Brains, Beat Happening, Gang of Four and The Raincoats to name just a few. And let's not forget: This was before the rise of the Internet and digital everything. Actually scoring a copy of, say, Gang of Four's [Entertainment!] LP was the equivalent of discovering gold nuggets in your parents' backyard. With profound care, you pulled that sucker from the record bin and held on to it for dear life as you marched up to that jerk-off clerk to make your purchase.
Now, I know I swore off any sappy or deep thoughts, but I guess you could say my Kurt's Favorite Music playlist is something of a thank you letter for radically expanding my sonic horizons in the early '90s. It's not much, granted. But hopefully, there are some kids out there who, upon reading these words, will get turned on to this music the way I did. Thanks, Kurt.