Tag Archives: Kurt Cobain

Rocks In The Attic #293: Otis Redding – ‘History Of Otis Redding’ (1968)

RITA#293It’s funny how some musicians become saints when they die young, and others are just glossed over. I don’t think I ever want to see another t-shirt with the faces of Kurt Cobain, Bob Marley and Jim Morrison draped in moonlight, but still there they are, in the type of shops that typically attract the fat, lazy and stupid.

Perhaps Otis died too young – he was only twenty six at the time of his death, a year younger than the mythical age that might have guaranteed him a place on those t-shirts.

Redding died in December 1967, and there’s a pretty horrible photo of him being pulled out of the frozen lake that his plane crashed into. There’s an equally horrible set of photos of him, from a couple of days prior to the crash, which show Redding standing next to his new plane outside the aircraft hangar, beaming with pride over his new acquisition. These have more impact than the crash photo, if only because they paint a picture of youth and exuberance that was very soon snuffed out.

History Of Otis Redding was the very first of countless Otis compilations, but the only one released in his lifetime, just a month before his death. I often wonder where he would have ended up had he not died – there are dozens of singers from that era of soul – Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd, William Bell etc – that drifted into obscurity in one way or another. Who’s to say that Otis Redding wouldn’t have done the same thing? The question mark comes with his appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop festival, and his apparent crossover into the pop mainstream. Unfortunately it’s a question that will never be answered.

I’ll just have to keep looking out for a t-shirt of Otis Redding’s’ face draped in moonlight…

Hit: Try A Little Tenderness

Hidden Gem: I Can’t Turn You Loose

Rocks In The Attic #265: Pearl Jam – ‘Ten’ (1991)

RITA#265From the early ‘90s and beyond, Pearl Jam were my mortal enemy.

I’ve always felt that your taste in music is just as defined by the bands you don’t listen to, than by the bands you do listen to, and there was no way in hell I was ever going to listen to Pearl Jam.

My reasons were many: their annoying music wasn’t my cup of tea, I had a big problem with their pretty-boy front-man Eddie Vedder and his stupid voice, and their uniform of shorts, boots and flannel shirts not only made the band look idiots, but made their fans looks like hordes of butch lesbians. There was another reason I disliked them…but I seem to have forgotten it over the years…or have I?

I initially disliked all grunge music – or let’s call it alternative rock from Seattle (because the word ‘grunge’ is pretty pointless, isn’t it?) – but repeated exposure to Smells Like Teen Spirit turned me into an reluctant Nirvana fan. Nirvana spoke to the Aerosmith / Sabbath / Zeppelin fan in me, and so I soon became a huge fan. But I just couldn’t be moved on Pearl Jam. In fact, the early rivalry between the two bands probably put me off Pearl Jam even more.

Over the years I’ve always felt the same. I think I’ve even been to festivals where Pearl Jam have been playing, and I’ve simply ignored them. Why would I bother, right? (Although, there was that time I saw Oasis play at Glastonbury simply to see how bad they were – and my distain for Pearl Jam is nothing compared to the love lost between me and Oasis. That’s a whole other story.)

I think the only thing they had done over the years that impressed me was their stance against Ticketmaster in the mid-‘90s. More bands should do things like that – but as far as I know, Ticketmaster still have a huge dominance of the ticket industry so I’m not sure what permanent good their boycott did. In New Zealand at least, ticket sales are pretty much a duopoly between Ticketmaster and Ticketek, and the two companies are just as bad as each other, charging non-sensical booking fees on top of what are already rapidly increasing ticket prices.

I also felt very sorry for Pearl Jam for what happened at the Roskilde festival in 2000. It always sucks big time when fans die at festivals (or any kind of shows for that matter), and it must really affect the band who are playing at the time. Nobody gets into music to die at a concert, and nobody gets into playing music to kill people, otherwise you’re somebody like Nicki Minaj – very slowly making your audience dumber and dumber until they start walking into oncoming traffic with vacant smiles on their faces.

RITA#265a

Fast forward twenty years and I eventually catch Cameron Crowe’s documentary, Pearl Jam Twenty, on TV. New Zealand television isn’t great so I always catch music documentaries whenever they’re on, even if I don’t like the band too much. I really enjoyed Twenty, despite my feelings for Pearl Jam. By the end of the film, my staunch attitude to them had started to thaw.

I saw the film a second time a couple of months ago, and enjoyed it just as much, if not more. Oh no, I was turning into a Pearl Jam fan…

I’ve only heard their first three albums so far (Ten is far too poppy, Vs. is excellent and Vitalogy sounds far too much like a band slowly going off the rails – Rolling Stone were right on the money in describing them in 2006 as having “spent much of the past decade deliberately tearing apart their own fame.”).

The band seems to have an issue with Ten sounding far too commercial, blaming the high levels of reverb used. Even though the remixed version of the album goes some way to address this (I have the double vinyl copy which has the original album and the 2009 Redux version), it still sounds way too poppy. I don’t think this is down to the production that much – it’s just that there’s a batch of popular songs on the album that are very well-written, with great, strong melodies.

In retrospect, I actually now think that I liked the wrong grunge band in the early ‘90s. Nirvana have a handful of great songs, and one great album (no, In Utero you fools!), but they’re essentially a punk band and as usual that means their guitarist hides behind a range of distortion pedals to compensate for a lack of ability. Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready is a demon on the guitar – a total Hendrix freak – and really I should have been listening to him, not Cobain, when I was learning to play.

And I still think Eddie Vedder is a bit of a douche. There’s a really cringewrothy moment in Twenty where he recounts singing his vocals (for the demo tape that got him into the band) just after a surf with the sand still on his feet. Ugh (although again, my feelings for him have thawed due to his support of the West Memphis Three). His constant whining throughout Twenty about being too famous is one of the least enjoyable aspects of the film. They seem to be doing everything they can these days to avoid sounding too commercial, but there’s still the odd song (like Daughter from Vs., or Better Man from Vitalogy) that makes me think if you don’t want to appeal to a pop audience, stop fucking writing songs that will appeal to them!

Ten does sound pretty dated now. I still don’t like the fact that the song titles are mostly single words – like they were paying by the word for the printing of the sleeve. Thankfully the horrible hue of pink / crimson / vomit on the cover has been replaced by a much less offensive beige for the Redux re-release, and I guess I can just ignore what the band are wearing on the cover.

It’s funny that when I first encountered the band, I was really annoyed with Mike McCready’s clothes – a duster coat and a hat just like Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name. Now, I admire him for wearing that get-up while the rest of the band wore their butch lesbian-inspired uniform.

Some time after I watched Twenty for the second time, and finally admitted that yes, I was a Pearl Jam fan, I watched a couple of their early music videos. Eventually I stumbled on that last remaining reason why I had such a passion to dislike them back in the early ‘90s – the video to Even Flow! This opens on Vedder telling his lighting man to turn the stage lights off, shouting like a spoilt child. I still recoil when I think about it.

So, there you have it. I may be twenty years too late, but better late than never. And there’s still no way I’ll ever change my mind about fucking Green Day. That band really are the scourge of the universe.

Hit: Jeremy

Hidden Gem: Release

Rocks In The Attic #104: Nirvana – ‘MTV Unplugged In New York’ (1994)

Rocks In The Attic #104: Nirvana - ‘MTV Unplugged In New York’ (1994)Released following Cobain’s suicide, I guess this is the first example of Geffen Records cashing in on his death. None of the other contemporary bands that recorded an Unplugged performance on MTV went on to release them on record (except for Alice In Chains and Alanis Morrissette) – the tracks usually found their way onto singles as B-sides (or existed in full only on bootlegs). An Unplugged album was more of a classic rock thing to do – hence the releases by Clapton, Dylan, Bryan Adams and the Page & Plant reunion.

I wasn’t a fan of Nirvana at the time this was released – mostly because I didn’t like that he wasn’t particularly a good guitarist. Learning the guitar will give you crazy notions and put you off bands like that. I later realised that it’s far more important to be a good songwriter than it is to be a good guitarist; a guitar solo is never going to change anybody’s life.

Trying not to like them, and failing miserably as this performance was getting a lot of airplay on MTV, the songs started seeping in and I started to become a Nirvana fan, purely by osmosis.

You know those famous questions – ‘Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated?’ or ‘Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell?’ – the first such question I can remember in my lifetime was ‘Where were you when Kurt Cobain shot himself?’ The answer: travelling home in a taxi, on a Friday night, leaving Middleton and just reaching Chadderton. We asked the taxi driver to turn the radio up, and still shocked, had to explain to the taxi driver who had died.

Hit: Come As You Are

Hidden Gem: Oh Me

Rocks In The Attic #57: Jane’s Addiction – ‘Ritual de lo Habitual’ (1990)

Rocks In The Attic #57: Jane’s Addiction - ‘Ritual de lo Habitual’ (1990)We were the first family I knew of to get Sky TV in the UK. It caught on very fast, but when we first got it installed there was nobody else we knew at the time who also had it. So when The Simpsons started, we would watch it religiously, and then I would go to school and for a short time there wouldn’t be anybody else who I could talk to about it. Part of the fun of being at school is shared experiences – “Did you watch Dr. Who last night?”, etc – but in this respect I couldn’t discuss The Simpsons with anybody else except my own family.

So when I first started listening to rock music – back in early 1993 – the house was already set up to receive MTV, and for a few years I became an addict. I consumed everything. Headbanger’s Ball. Beavis & Butthead. 120 Minutes. Unplugged. The MTV Music Awards, when you’d see great things like John Paul Jones playing bass on Lenny Kravitz’s Are You Gonna Go My Way, or The Beastie Boys playing Sabotage as a little garage-rock three-piece. I watched the breaking news, and the resulting tributes, when Kurt Cobain blew his head off with a shotgun. I even remember being at a friend’s house, steaming drunk, and being elated to see Joe Perry being interviewed live, on the red carpet before one of the awards shows.

The point I’m trying to make is that despite the evil that I now see MTV as – mainly because videos can take away your objectivity about music – it was a big part of my life, and for a few years it supported my burgeoning addiction to rock music.

During this time, there was a music video I would see all the time. My first impressions were of the visual elements of the video – a man, grossly made-up as a pregnant woman, shoplifting in an American grocery store, interspersed with Perry Farrell singing the song looking like a robber, with nylon tights stretched over his face. It was funny. I used to like catching the video whenever it was played, simply because it amused me. Then the music started to grow on me. It was a rock song, but with these weird crashing jazz chords played over the top.

Of course, since then I’ve learnt who Jane’s Addiction are, especially how Perry Farrell was the architect of Lollapalooza. I was also a big fan of One Hot Minute – the sole Red Hot Chili Peppers album which Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro played on.

Listening back, I’m not a huge fan of Ritual de lo Habitual – I love Been Caught Stealing, but the rest of that first side has a very similar sound. That’s okay, it’s just their sound and just like the very early Chili Peppers albums, it’s that almost jokey version of punk. I’m much more interested in the second side – where the songs go a bit more progressive rock.

Hit: Been Caught Stealing

Hidden Gem: Three Days

Rocks In The Attic #18: Stone Temple Pilots – ‘Purple’ (1994)

 

I was always very anti-Nirvana when I was getting into music, in the early nineties. I’m never one to follow hype, and everybody loved them. The band for me at that time – at least the American band for me – was Stone Temple Pilots.

I remember seeing Weiland singing one of the big songs from Core (1992) – probably Plush – on an MTV Awards show, and not being terribly impressed. Yet another vocalist, singing in the style of Cobain and Vedder, I had probably thought. Then when Purple came out and I heard the single Vaseline, I was hooked. I went out and bought the single (the MTV video was in heavy rotation), and probably the album not long after.

Due to Weiland’s drug problems putting the band into hiatus upon the release of their (very underrated) third album, I was never able to see them play back in the 90s. I saw them play in New Zealand last year though (their first time in this country), and they rocked, playing my favourite song from PurpleStill Remains – along with their great cover of Zeppelin’s Dancing Days.

This is one of many coloured vinyls I have in my collection. Needless to say, it’s purple.

Hit: Interstate Love Song

Hidden Gem: Still Remains