Journey into Madness with Kurt Cobain

“Teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old”
Nirvana – Serve the Servant

Kurt Cobain committed suicide on the fifth of April 1994 while I was in the middle of my own mental breakdown. It was around this time that I quit my job and soon afterwards ended up begging on the streets of London. I desperately wanted to follow Kurt into death, but by then I no longer had the energy to commit suicide – you would need to have suffered from depression to understand what I’m talking about here.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain and Me

“Hey wait, I’ve got a new complaint, forever in debt to your priceless advice”
Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box

I’m not going to try to blame Kurt Cobain for my own mental decline – that started long before Nirvana. I felt attracted to his music because he was vocalizing my suffering. There was just something a bit spooky about the way his lyrics summed up my life so well. He even seemed to know the names of my relatives:

“Mom and Dad went to a show, dropped me off at grampa Joe’s. I kicked and screamed, said please, oh no”.
Nirvana – Silver

Kurt knew what it was like to come from a broken home and to feel like this event had set the tone for the rest of your life. The anger and sadness that came with the realization that you have been betrayed and abandoned by the people you love. The complete misery of sitting in what you once believed to be the ‘family car’ only to realize that this was now the car of the ‘new’ family. The despair of being fucked over by those who raised you to believe that anything was possible but then pulled the rug right out from under you. Kurt knew how I felt because he experienced the same thing.

“I tried hard to have a father but instead I had a dad”

Nirvana – Serve the Servant

Kurt Donald Cobain

First Taste of Nirvana

I first heard about Nirvana in 1990 after reading about them in the NME . I didn’t think much of them because they seemed too much like a heavy metal band – I hated heavy metal. It wasn’t until the release of ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ the following year that I paid them any real attention. I bought the album Nevermind, and it completely blew my fucking mind.

I doubt there was ever any band that spoke so powerfully for a generation than Nirvana. Kurt Cobain was the real deal. He wasn’t just some performer going around smashing guitars as part of an act. Kurt didn’t need to fill his songs with swear words because his rage didn’t need any special-effects. He was the embodiment of Generation X – a generation of people who were too fucked up to even pretend to be normal.

The Death of Kurt Cobain

I didn’t feel sad when I heard that Kurt Cobain had blown his brains out – I felt excited. He had just done what I’d been dreaming of doing for months. You know you have it bad when you wake up crying most mornings because you are so disappointed to be still alive. Kurt had just gone and told the universe to go fuck itself in the strongest terms possible. He was even more a hero to me than ever.

Kurt Cobain Didn’t Need to Hate Himself and He Didn’t Need to Die

“I just want you to know that I don’t hate you anymore
There is nothing I could say, that I haven’t thought before

Nirvana – Serve the Servant

I can understand why Kurt Cobain committed suicide. He must have felt that he had no other choice – just like how it seemed to be my only solution at the time as well. I was completely wrong. I later found that it wasn’t coming from a broken home that was fucking me up – it was my perspective. Kurt hit the nail right on the head in the chorus of his most famous song, “here we are now, entertain us”. That was our problem right there.

When you grow up with an unrealistic sense of entitlement, you are doomed to misery. In another post I tried to pin the blame for these expectations on hippy parents, but TV shows like the Brady Bunch were probably as much to blame. When what you are brought up to believe to be normal is actually unobtainable, it is easy to feel cheated by life.

Kurt seemed to spend the last few years of his life trying to fill the hole in his soul. He tried to do this with fame and heroin, but he never stood a chance. That hole could never be filled because it never existed in the first place. Reality was already enough, but it is impossible to see this when you are expecting something more.

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12 thoughts on “Journey into Madness with Kurt Cobain

  1. Nirvana really was one of those rare bands that come around once in a generation. One can only wonder what was going on in KC’s head when he made his decision. He was obviously a lot more troubled than people knew. Its terrible how he must have been suffering, behind all the fame and recognition. I wonder to what extent that exacerbated his personal pains.

    1. Hi Tan, it is impossible to know exactly what was going on in his mind, but I’d imagine that achieving his dream of success and still feeling like shit must have been a hard pill to swallow.

  2. He did leave a note which is probably out there on the web. I loved that tape. I played it over and over until the cassette player in my car ate it. The music definitely eased my suffering at the time somehow, not so much the words which I never really understood. But I can completely relate to the disillusionment of the shattering realization that we do not live on the planet that is shown on tv or in the movies or in most novels. I got to the point where I swore off fiction and was determined to love life as it is and embrace the mystery and keep looking until I found real beauty in life. I’m finding it. It’s turning out more and more to be very simple.

    1. Hi Liz, yeah I remember reading the suicide note, and it was obvious he was in a lot of pain. I agree with you that the real beauty of life is to be found in the simple – it is just remembering that.

  3. Hi Liz. That is great to hear. I am curious, when did you first start your search? Do you think your search has ended? The simple beauty of life — That is something I wish I could have more in my life at times…

  4. Well, about 9 years ago I had my big crisis where I went from just very anxious and depressed to realizing that, as one song says, we want more than this world has to offer. At that point I got really angry and determined to take control and make the most of reality. I was also traumatized and got some therapy for that for a couple years. I tried new things and imagined that there were all kinds of real life stuff just around every corner. Soon I realized that the things I love in life are things I’ve always loved, like guitar and yoga and nature. Recently things have gotten better because now I’m learning to relax and enjoy the moment and really just notice how good the moment really is, like before I am with my family just saying to myself, this is a good thing, that we are together, and then just be happy about that without needing perfection or whatever. A huge key for me is to be able to relax and it took me getting so stressed out I thought I was going to die before I was able to make learning and practicing relaxation a priority. In no way am I done searching but I feel like I’m beginning to break through.

  5. Great post, Paul! And you’re right. In part, Kurt’s suicide could probably be attributed to unrealistic expectations. And so can the reason for depression in so many people. Not having any expectations at all may sound difficult, but it can keep one sane.

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