Yesterday I saw the new documentary, Cobain: Montage of Heck on its opening day at the cinema. My thirteen year old self would have been proud; at that age I worshipped Nirvana.
I had all the time in the world to obsess over them, music was my favourite thing in the world and by virtue of that, Nirvana were my favourite thing in the world. I had every album and many bootleg CDs; I read Heavier Than Heaven, the Kurt Cobain biography by Charles Cross; I watched Live and Unplugged every time it screened on MTV2; I had a copy of the Kurt Cobain journals and I even started playing the guitar. I bought the With The Lights Out box set so I could hear all the acoustic, live and demo versions of my favourite songs. In the chronology of things I was obsessed with, Nirvana was heir to the throne of my youth – Star Wars. They were the first band who I truly loved and had to know everything by.
Today, in 2015, I’m now 25 years old and spent the past couple of hours Googling around Nirvana and watching Youtube videos of them. It’s astounding the amount of resource and information there is available to a fan today; it’s so striking to me how different it would be growing up now, and it’s made me question how my relationship with music may have differed if I was thirteen now. This is a continuation of feelings I had whilst watching the film itself, Montage of Heck. It was brilliantly pieced together, sensitive and thought provoking. Watching the infamous footage of Kurt being wheeled out on stage at Reading in front of the gargantuan audience was deeply moving. The crowd was roaring; it was thunderous and the sea of people stretched on for miles. It felt exciting just watching it, you could feel the atmosphere through the screen. I began to question how difficult it is for indie bands to reach that level of stardom now; to have that reverence that Nirvana seem to have had.
My parents are not music fans – I was discovering music all for myself. It was just before the days of having access to the internet. I don’t think Myspace had entered onto my radar yet (it would lead me onto my next obsessions – Saddle Creek records and Elliott Smith, and a veritable wormhole of music discovery). I don’t remember how I “found” Nirvana but if I was to guess, I’d say it was probably that I saw them on TV. I remember so vividly watching the videos for Smells Like Teen Spirit, In Bloom and Heartshaped Box on the telly, and watching the hour long TV documentaries and every time Live and Unplugged In New York was on, I’d watch it. I’d watch it and when it was finished, I’d want to watch it again. Every time I’d watch the moment Kurt inhales before finishing off Where Did You Sleep Last Night, eyes wide and full of intensity, I felt a buzz. Nevermind is probably the first album I really loved start to finish, as a whole piece of work. I remember wanting to know everything I could about the band – but that there were clear and finite limits to that. I could finish a book. I could finish hearing a box set. And then that was it. I wonder if that’s what made the band feel all the more magical to me – because I worked hard to gain all the knowledge I had, to have the collection of Nirvana b-sides and rarities that I had. It made me want more and it also made me cherish everything that I had.
If I was a teenager now, oh boy. I can’t even imagine. From my cursory googling – there is a treasure trove of Nirvana videos to watch, articles to read, photos to look at. Everything is there, all at once. I think I would have had a meltdown! It’s a frightful thought. I do wonder if I’d ever have been able to have been as obsessed as I was, and whether part of the charm was the limits to what I could have, the mystique. As Proust discovers over thousands of pages in his Search For Lost Time, the charm of people and things oft lies in their unattainability; as soon as you can have something, you no longer desire to possess it. I don’t believe that to always be true, but unfortunately (atleast for me) it seems to fairly often be the case. Another thing that makes me question how I could be as obsessed if I had been a thirteen year old Nirvana fan in 2015, is that it is actually very time consuming to be obsessed by something. With me and Nirvana, I focused all my affections and attentions onto them. With the temptation of the whole internet, I wonder if I could be quite as obsessed to the degree I was – or whether my passions would be dispersed over a multitude of bands and other things.
That being said, I still get obsessed by things today, I fall in love and am deeply passionate about the arts. But it’s all in a very different way. The reappearance of Nirvana in my thoughts over the past couple of days has made me nostalgic for that relationship I had with that particular band. Maybe it’s not just the internet, but an age thing; and many other factors. Either way, I’ll always cherish the way Nirvana made me feel. Go see the movie, play Come As You Are on the guitar, listen to those bootlegs and bask in the feeling of love from bygone days!