It seems recently that bits and pieces of Kurt Cobain‘s life have slowly been rising to the surface. Artwork by the Nirvana frontman himself has been discovered and is set for auction by his late wife Courtney Love in the near future. Former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson just released a book of prose and poetry entitled Letters To Kurt, including details about Cobain’s life and death, as well as Erlandson’s relationship with Love. In an interview, Erlandson also revealed that, in the months before his death, Cobain had been at work on a solo album, which he hopes might someday be released to the public. “It would have been his White Album,” Erlandson says in an interview with Fuse.
Courtney Love speculated in a recent interview (“unprompted,” according to her interviewer) about where her late husband would be today if he’d lived (“I don’t fuckin’ know,” she concluded). Now, Love has managed to burn her last remaining shred of dignity, accusing David Grohl, via Twitter, of inappropriate behavior towards her daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. Both Frances and Grohl have of course denied the accusations, with some dismissive words for Love in return. “Unfortunately Courtney is on another hateful Twitter rant,” says Grohl, while Frances says that “Twitter should ban [her] mother.”
In light of what would have been Kurt Cobain’s 45th birthday, how do you think the grunge icon would react to all of this? Do you think his demos are ever going to be released?
Veteran photographer Jesse Frohman isn’t easily fazed. He may have become adept at photographing the “beautiful people” in celebdom, but he first began making a name for himself in the late ’80s by capturing colorful moments on the fly with hip-hop provocateurs. So, when a drugged-up, freakishly attired Kurt Cobain strolled into his shoot three hours late in November of 1993, Frohman didn’t flinch. After all, Jesse Frohman is the man who invited a militant-era Chuck D. into his house and insisted on putting a gun in the Public Enemy mastermind’s hand. Fortunately it was all in the service of an iconic photo.
“That was a funny shoot,” recalls Frohman, “because I told whoever was doing the props at the time, ‘You’ve gotta get a gun,’ because I wanted to do that [Black Panthers founder] Huey Newton-style picture, and he comes back with this grandpa gun, and Chuck D. was like ‘Where’s the Uzi?’” Frohman had some strange but memorable shoots with LL Cool J in those days too. “LL Cool J would say the funniest things, he would just call me randomly and say ‘Okay, I want to get my Pathfinder up in the woods and we’ll put a deer on the hood, and I’ll get camouflage clothes’ [laughs]. Just one thing after another, it was just a real crackup.”
But even Public Enemy’s intimidating image didn’t rattle Frohman. “People really thought these guys were very much that way,” he explains, “and it made me realize they’re putting on a show— they were natural entertainers. When you’d meet them in person they’d drop their guard a little bit. I really didn’t have any problems with anybody, I had more problems with people like Dee Dee Ramone out at my house; he picked up the brass knuckles that he gave me as a gift and tried to use them on me. He was having a bad reaction to some drugs he took.”
Frohman doesn’t even betray an ounce of chagrin when he recalls getting kicked out of a shoot by the artists themselves. “Green Day was a great band to shoot,” he begins. “they get the attitude, they’re zany, they don’t care what they look like, they just want to have fun in the pictures, and they put on a show a little bit.” Then he drops the other shoe, continuing, “The funny thing about Green Day is, a magazine said, ‘They’re on tour,’ would I mind going to the show and doing a few pictures there? I went to the show and Billie [Joe Armstrong] says after the first couple of songs, ‘How about we kick the goddamn photographer out of here?’ I’m trying to say, ‘No, it’s me Billie! We just had this four-hour shoot!’ He either didn’t see me or he didn’t care, and I was kicked out, so I didn’t get concert pictures.” But Frohman wasn’t just fattening his portfolio by banging around with all these enfants terrible, he was gaining combat experience. “They were colorful,” he says of the aforementioned artists, “they were interesting, they were great subjects, and it really set me up for a shoot like Nirvana and Kurt Cobain.”
Frohman sets the scene for his short but momentous Cobain encounter, “I think it was November 15, 1993,” he remembers. “The London Observer magazine asked if I would do a cover story on [Nirvana]. They set up a shoot that we all agreed would be five hours. They were in New York performing at Roseland that night, so we had the late morning/afternoon to do the shoot. When I arrived at the hotel, I met the manager at the lobby and he said, ‘The plans have changed, and we don’t have anything close to five hours now, and we have to shoot in the hotel.’ He had reserved a conference room for us. We were planning on shooting in Central Park and on the street, that’s what I was set up for, and he nixed all that. So that was the beginning of the experience.”
If you’re thinking it got worse after that, you’re right. Nirvana rhythm section Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic showed up for the shoot only to find their fearless leader MIA, so they departed. When they returned some time later, the singer had still not turned up. Finally, a chemically-enhanced Cobain wandered in with only twenty minutes left in Frohman’s alotted time. He arrived with an absurd, garish ensemble including a leopard jacket that looked like it belonged to someone’s grandmother, an earflap-adorned aviator hat of the sort pilots sported in WWII, and a pair of huge plastic sunglasses that would have been better suited to Jackie Onassis. To make matters more difficult, Frohman recalls, “Once he put those glasses on he wouldn’t take them off, so I didn’t get any pictures with his glasses off except when I went to Roseland and shot him on stage.”
Fortunately, Frohman’s luck soon turned around, and he found himself getting some great, soon-to-be-iconic images of the bedraggled rock star. “Maybe not the most flattering pictures,” he allows, “but he was very expressive. He was nice, and he was fine to shoot. It was definitely a partnership in making a picture, but he wasn’t demanding, he wasn’t difficult. He was really very easy to photograph, and that was really my saving grace, because I didn’t have enough time to work with somebody that wanted to change outfits or wanted to take a break—he just walked in and stood up against the wall and he was a happy camper.”
Following the band along to their Roseland gig for some stage shots, he marveled at Cobain’s ability to operate in his impaired state, even though Frohman had no way of knowing how dire the situation really was at that point. “There’s a lot of people out there that have problems or have moments where they’re in that state,” Frohman says, “and he was a rock star, so you just accepted it, and I was really just concerned with my shoot. And then I traveled with him to Roseland and there was no problem, he was fully functioning. He got up and he conducted rehearsal and he performed that night. To me it was remarkable that he was able to do that with such ease. I don’t know how he was able to do it.”
Of course, he wouldn’t be able to do it for much longer. on April 5, 1994, Cobain made the jump from superstar to rock & roll martyr. To memorialize the eighteenth anniversary of that tragic event, Frohman decided to partner with the renowned Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City, famed for featuring rock-oriented photo shows, to present his complete collection of images from that fateful day in ’93. “It was interesting to look at a shoot from that long a period ago,” says Frohman of putting the exhibition together. “There’s lots of memories about the shoot, about the day and what I expected and what I finally got out of it, and I think that some shoots take on a life of their own. It’s really because of him, not me, to a large extent, but it definitely was a partnership. Had I done some snapshots of him at Roseland, or on the street, I wouldn’t have had the shoot that I had, so I’m fortunate that I had to shoot in a conference room and I made the best out of it. It was a twenty-minute shoot, you don’t know that it can become something.”
Even so, the decision to do the show was not an automatic one for Frohman. “I went back and forth,” he explains, “‘Do I want to do this or not,’ then I said ‘I really do.’ I think it’s the time that there’s enough interest in Kurt and it makes sense photographically. I think it makes sense in this time and place to do something like this.” Allowing all of his rare, raw images of the rocker’s endgame to be seen together like this for the first time (the show will be up throughout the month of April) Frohman not only makes a major photographic statement, but marks a strange, sad, stirring juncture in rock history.
The Foo Fighters have been one of the most commercially successful and recognizable hard rock bands of the last decade and a half. However, despite all their success in the mainstream world, they are still well respected by critics and serious music fans alike. The band holds just as much clout in underground communities as they do among the casual music listener. Forming right after the untimely passing of Kurt Cobain and the dissolution of Nirvana, Dave Grohl and company are one of the few bands who have been able to evolve over the years and be able to continue their success after the grunge explosion in the ’90s. The key to their sound has always been their ability to seamlessly meld hard rock agression with big, arena-ready hooks. And here at OurStage we have a similar group that strives to continue this aesthetic, Europa.
The Foo Fighters comparison is easily heard on Europa’s track “Same Old Song.” The first thing you will notice when listening to this song is that Europa’s lead singer Ryan Valiente’s voice shares an uncanny similarity to that of Foo Fighters’ frontman Dave Grohl. Take a listen to Foo Fighters’ song “No Way Back” and then listen to “Same Old Song” right after. If you didn’t know which song belonged to which band, it would honestly be difficult to differentiate between the two singers. Not only are both these songs really similar vocally, but they also share many similarities in more subtle areas; both songs share similar tempos, guitar tones, styles of riffs and drum patterns.
Last Monday, as we celebrated Halloween, MTV gave out their second annual O Awards. MTV’s newest and definitely most unique awards show aired on a couple of different Web sites, as opposed to TV. This aspect of the show was fitting, as the MTV O Awards are all about our favorite Internet fads, celebrities and technology. Most of the categories still have to do with music, but they’re based on how we view and consume this music due to new technology, the internet and social networking sites like Twitter. Celebrities even performed and presented nominees via live feeds from various locations. It was a great way to embrace all of the positive effects that technology has on music. Here are some of our favorite parts and winners from the night!
Everyone loves a good cover song. But when YouTube popped up and gave anyone the ability to post renditions of songs by their favorite artists, there were bound to be ten horrible versions for every good one. Luckily, there are some gems that are so great, they make us forget about rest. Marc Martel won the Best Fan Cover Award when he won us over with his rendition of Queen‘s “Somebody To Love” for the band’s own competition. As soon as he starts to sing the first line, you know it’s going to be incredible. While no one can compare to Freddie Mercury, the resemblance in Marc’s voice is undeniable and the award was definitely deserved.
Every great screen biography of a music superstar needs three key ingredients to really sing: 1) An icon with the greatest story never told. 2) A talented lead actor or actress gunning for an Oscar nomination—singing talent and striking resemblance optional (Angela Bassett didn’t sing a word in What’s Love Got to Do with It, and she looks nothing like the film’s subject, yet she was Tina Turner). 3) Kick-ass songs.
Fantasia Barrino as gospel great Mahalia Jackson is coming soon. The Elton John Story (aka Rocketman) is reportedly finally in the works (I’d cast Justin Timberlake over mentioned favorite James McAvoy and pray that he can nail a British accent), as is Aretha Franklin’s (with or without Halle Berry, the Queen of Soul’s No. 1 choice), Anne Hathaway as Judy Garland and Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury.
Robert Pattinson was announced as a possible Kurt Cobain at one point last year, but it’s hard to imagine that we’d get the true story as long as Courtney Love is around to kill it or put her spin on it. Ryan Gosling has the chops to pull off Cobain, but he’s already in everything and he’s several years older than Cobain was when he committed suicide. Note to aspiring biopic producers: One doesn’t have to cast a “star” as the star. Some biopics (Amadeus, starring Tom Hulce as Mozart; La vie en rose, with Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf) do just fine without huge names.
Now that she’s gone too soon, too, it’s probably only a matter of time before we get Amy Winehouse‘s “untold” story. Note to aspiring biopic producers: Tabloid-era stars are best left alone unless, as with Eminem’s 8 Mile, the focus is on life before they were famous. Otherwise, we’ve already seen the action play out in the pages of Us Weekly and People magazine.
But what about those biopics in various stages of development and non-development? Here are six that I’m dying to see.
1) David Bowie: The star. The spectacle. The songs… Iman. I can’t think of a rock icon whose story is more deserving of the screen treatment. It would be a shoo-in for the Best Costume Design Oscar, and with a star like Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who already played a Bowie-esque figure to perfection in the 1998 film Velvet Goldmine), an actor worthy of the material.