Kurt, being a student of rock history, knew that the story of a rock band is essentially a legend—in the sense that there’s some wiggle room in the truth as long as it serves the over-all myth. So Kurt was an unreliable narrator of his own story. That’s nothing new—it would be hard to name any rock star who wasn’t the same. It’s up to the journalist to determine what’s true and what isn’t. But sometimes journalists play along because they’re naïve, lazy, or overworked, or they want to be in on the game because it makes for sensational copy. Whatever the reason, it works to the artist’s advantage. I wasn’t rigorous about investigating Kurt’s mythologizing—for one thing, a tight deadline meant that I just didn’t have the time, and, for another, he had charmed me and I unquestioningly bought a lot of his tall tales—which turned out well for him.
The second night was a repeat of the first: me and a guy reading the book I wrote about him, in a generic little hotel room, punctuated by the rustle of paper and the occasional grunt of appreciation or soft chuckle. He told me it was illuminating to read about his entire life in chronological order. Very few people have that luxury. Sometimes he’d take a break, and we’d stand together by the window overlooking Fourth Avenue and talk, eat cookies, or look down to the street, where little gangs of homeless kids swarmed around taxis stopped at red lights, trying to wangle a few bucks out of the cabbies. During those breaks, we didn’t speak about the book—instead, we talked about people we knew in common, music we were listening to, or politics. Sometimes we’d just stare out the window at the city without saying anything at all.
My Time with Kurt Cobain
I didn’t read the Cobain book, but I did read this one by Azerrad and recommend it:
Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991