Discovering Nirvana: MTV Unplugged & Cobain’s Journals

Last night I watched Nirvana’s ‘Unplugged in New York’ DVD for the first time. When the credits rolled, I went straight in to my older Brother’s bedroom and stole his copies of Bleach, Incesticide, Nevermind and In Utero.

After some intensive listening, I managed to narrow down my favourite tracks to Negative Creep, Dive, In Bloom, About a Girl, Been a Son, School, Polly, and Something In The Way. They screamed out something genius to me when I listened to them properly.

I didn’t just steal my brother’s Nirvana CDs, I stole his copy of Cobain’s Journals and was fascinated by Kurt’s neat, yet erratic handwriting. Cobain had great support and empathy for women’s equality and for the gay community, contrary to what some of his songs suggest (Polly, All Apologies and Rape Me). He also had an intense stomach problem which, after colonoscopy’s and examinations, still couldn’t be diagnosed. He said that heroin was the only thing that took away the pain he felt when this problem flared up. Many people hold Cobain up as a God (I am guilty of this; I have his poster on my wall and his face and band logo on my jumper) but after reading his Journals I’ve realised he was an ultra-sensitive young man who was completely torn between the life he wanted and the lifestyle said life unfortunately brought him.

After watching the ‘Unplugged’ DVD, I had that same impression. Inbetween songs Kurt was quiet, bordering on arrogantly silent. When he started to play again, however, he revealed a talent that personally I haven’t seen matched since his suicide in 1994. Immediately after a song had finished and Kurt opened his eyes and realised what he’d just given away; he seemed to withdraw back in to himself, looking as if he regretted sharing his work with people. I watched the whole performance in guilty silence, hoping I had understood it the way he intended (which, I suppose, no-one will ever be able to fully do).

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