sep 24

Here We Are Now, Entertain Us

I had a dream last night, and I'm going to tell you about it, even though no one ever wants to hear other people's dreams. I dreamt that 14 years after he supposedly committed suicide, Kurt Cobain came out from hiding and I was the first person to interview him. My first question: "So, whattup?" We chatted while he was performing a surprise show at a hotel bar with a capacity around 500 people but only 50 were there (dreams are weird). He had black hair and still looked boyish. My next question was "Who knew you were alive?" followed by "Where have you been hiding?" Answers: Courtney Love didn't know, and somewhere in L.A. This dream goes on for a while, and you don't care, but I mention it because I just read that Nevermind was released 17 years ago today. You can tell a lot about people by which historical events they choose to insert after the ellipses in "I remember where I was when...." Mine includes knowing my exact location when I first saw the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video. Load up on guns...


Other parts about the dream:

+ It wasn't an official interview. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Our relationship was initially celebrity/fan. But I started asking journalist questions, and there was immediately a tension between us. The dream analysis here is about as transparent as it gets.

+ I woke up after the third question. It was one of those dreams where you try to go back to sleep so you can get more. I never got more.

+ I'm sure DFW is implicated in this, somehow.

posted by Rex at 12:58 PM on September 24, 2008


So, is it just me getting old, or does it seem like "mainstream rock" has been stylistically stagnant since the early 90's?

It's like Rock had this creative burst from around 1966 to around 1992, and then nothing. When I turn on rock radio today I don't hear anything that couldn't have been recorded 15 years ago.

There's LOTS of innovation of course, but it's on the fringes. I don't know how you classify Grizzly Bear, the Unicorns, and Annimal Collective, but they're sure not mainstream rock, and it seems like that branch of music is the only thing going in terms of creative rock music.

(Not to say that today's mainstream rock doesn't have good songs, just that it's stylistically flat.)

posted by alesh at 1:11 PM on September 24, 2008

I like to say that rock (especially indie rock) is dead to me now. But then I remember how much I enjoy Wilco, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, White Stripes, Hold Steady -- those are all "mainstream rock" acts.

But the best things happening in music are in the seams between genres: MIA, LCD Soundsystem, Santogold, Kanye, TV on the Radio, Danger Mouse.

posted by Rex at 1:22 PM on September 24, 2008

Seeing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was one of those exact-location-remembering-moments for me, too. Basement, old TV, not supposed to be watching MTV, and then suddenly there was this strange music, and it was weird and angry and beautiful, too. I didn't know what to make of it but I was fascinated.

posted by scott at 2:06 PM on September 24, 2008

I remember where I was when JFK Jr's plane went down. What? I have a thing for dark hair!

posted by katiebakes at 2:50 PM on September 24, 2008

Thanks for the diversion. I just spent the last 30 minutes reading about the making of the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video.

Two nuggets I found:

First, the rough edit by Samuel Bayers that Kurt didn't like is up on YouTube.

And this great first-person story of someone in the video:

"I was actually in the Smells Like Teen Spirit video (pan of crowd, girl playing with her hair in the middle-ish row). A couple of things I'd like to correct from above: The mosh pit didn't develop at the end of the day. It started at around the second take of the crowd's actions and disintegrated from there. In fact the director (Sam Bayer) make a huge gaffe in that he did a "practice run" but didn't film it. During the practice run the crowd on the bleachers actually made a pit on the bleachers themselves. This was never repeated because by the second or third take all that kept happening was camera hogs running up in front of the camera to ensure on-screen time. So that whole thing about the kids getting angry because it was a long day and then wanting to destroy the set because of their anger is B.S. I didn't see anyone who was angry. Just rambunctious. It's not like they didn't feed us. Additionally, the set was comprised of a sweep, drum kit, a basketball hoop, and bleachers. It's not like you could really destroy anything other than the drums. The hanging from the basketball hoop was encouraged because it was good film -- not because teen angst got in the way. Another thing that's mistaken above is that I believe the cheerleaders were just regular actresses (not strippers). The tattoo sleeves were makeup. This was really cheesy. It would have made more sense to have had L7 as the cheerleaders, but maybe they were on tour at the time. On the what's true side of the equation, flyers for the shoot were handed out at the Roxy show and Chaka was a very well known graffiti artist at the time."

posted by Andy Baio at 4:03 PM on September 24, 2008

Freshman year dorm room. Walking in and hearing it on the radio. Stopping. Looking down at it. It reached out and grabbed ahold of my core. I was like, "wooogh... ... ... ... ... Wooogh!... ... ... ... ... WOOOGH! Holy shit, what IS this?! YAAAAAAGH! RRRRRAAAAH!" I would later crank Territorial Pissings on 10 and do an extended primal scream after my chem final. Then I went across the hall and met my friend's parents, who seemed kind of reluctant for some reason. Squares!

17 years? Holy shit, what have I done with my life? No wonder shop girls call me Sir now. Fuck.

posted by Eric at 12:22 AM on September 25, 2008

There's a comment in that "fist-person story" that I love more than anything I've read all year:

Sorry to burst everyone's bubble, but when this song was written, everyone was paranoid at the time the song was released about "catching AIDS". Back then, AIDS was a big worry for young people -- like Kurt Cobain. Read the lyrics and you'll see almost every verse is a veiled comment on AIDS. I put the lyric interpretation in parenthesis (like this): Load up on guns and bring your friends (everyone bring booze and drugs to the party) It's fun to lose and to pretend (even if you think youre a loser, pretend youre cool, being cool means "who cares what people think?") She's over bored and self assured (the hot chicks are bored, and want to have sex with bad boys) And all I know are dirty words (Im a bad boy, so I get the hot chicks) "Hello, hello, hello, how low? ("How low" can a person go?) "With the lights out, it's less dangerous (Have sex in the dark without a condom, it seems less dangerous) Here we are now, entertain us (disdain and cynicism for sex education and warnings about AIDS - sneering at the authorities, makes them laugh "entertain us") I feel stupid and contagious (I am horny so I dont think about the consequences that I might have AIDS and might give it to someone) Here we are now, entertain us A mulatto (CIA secret testing of AIDS virus on Africans - look it up) An albino (Albinos supposedly are immune to AIDS - look it up) A mosquito (The AIDS virus was spread in Africa by mosquitoes infected by CIA germ warfare spooks  look it up) My libido (My sexual urges cant stop me from from having sex even though I might have AIDS) I'm worse at what I do best (I'm good at sex, but I might have AIDS so that makes me 'worse') And for this gift I feel blessed (I'm so good, that nobody asks me if I have AIDS before we have sex) Our little group has always been (all my friends sleep around casually) And always will until the end (we have sex until the disease kills us all) "And I forget just why I taste (oral sex) Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile (likes reaction of partner) I found it hard, it's hard to find (male/female sexual organ comparison) "Oh well, whatever, nevermind (casual sex has no answer, its just done without thinking) A denial! (Don't worry, I dont have AIDS and I wont catch AIDS) Kurt was never said to have AIDS, but wrote this song definitely laughing in the face of the heavy paranoia of AIDS and the history of how AIDS supposedly came about. The sleazy hooker cheerleaders and the teenage abandon in the song video backs up this song interpretation. I wrote this interpretation when the song came out, over 17 years ago.

posted by Rex at 12:38 PM on September 25, 2008

Is it possible to feel old and young at the same time? Old because I played this album basically non-stop my entire adolescence. Young because...I was 9 when it came out.

posted by Jake at 2:40 PM on September 25, 2008

Whoa, Rex, that IS pretty impressive.

I wasn't a big Nirvana fan at the time (or ever since, for that matter), but I have two personal stories here: 1) my first time hearing Smells like Teen Spirit was a live cover at a battle of the bands in my high-school auditorium and 2) Teen Spirit, as I'm not sure everyone remembers, was a target-marketed deodorant, which I recall was advertised on book-covers distributed at my high school. I remember being somewhat disgusted with all this at the time, so when I heard Nirvana's version of the song and realized what the title was, I had sort of a "fuck yeah" moment, wherein I realized a) the cynical lengths marketers will go to to sell a product b) that for a pop song to mock something so specific marked a major shift (shall we say a sea change) away from the crappy pop-metal I'd sort of been herded into "liking" up to that point and c) had a sort of glimpse into a future that ended up materializing, wherein a clever idea can go from something you share with a few close friends to something the whole world is in on, which of course with the youtube and whatnot nowadays is the case in a way that is several orders of magnitude beyond what anyone at the time could even have imagined.

posted by alesh at 2:50 PM on September 25, 2008

In the summer of 1992 at Camp Winnebagoe, I and my friend Dini dressed up in flannel and ripped jeans and sang a version of that song about being billets (activity staff members) in the CIT cabin. ("We can't explain what we go through/Each night they keep us up 'til two...") It was very edgy. The boy CIT billets, James Zackheim and Mike Hollend, played air-guitar behind us and Mike wore ripped sweatpants with a hole in the crotch, if memory serves, and rolled around on the ground with his legs in the air, which made for a crowd-pleaser behind us.

The next summer Dini and I were in our own little two-person cabin by the tennis court, and we sang a version of "Lithium" ("We're so happy that we live on our own by the court/Rach and Dini, on the stage and the docks, we cavort..." I was on drama staff and she was on swim. The word "cavort" was an in-joke at camp. You had to be there, it was hilarious).

Was this as fun as Rex's AIDS story?

posted by Rachel Sklar at 7:27 PM on September 25, 2008

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