Saturday Morning: Cat Power to Kurt Cobain
Good morning. There's a singer who calls herself Cat Power, and she seems to have written an Ode to Kurt Cobain. I never realized it until I searched on YouTube for one of my favorite songs of hers, and the clip attached above was the first hit; someone guessed who her song was about and re-mixed it with Nirvana footage.
Why am I posting this? Well, a) Chan Marshall is Cat Power, and she's Australian. B), this is a great song. C), a friend of mine, Mr. Anderson, is an ex-rock star and he invited me to see friends of his who were playing in town. A band from Down Under called The Waifs. They're alot like Australian versions of Lucinda Williams, only there's two of them and they're sisters. They played at the jarringly luxurious dinner ampitheatre the Triple Door, which I'd never been to, and they were great. So was Paul Kelly, who played with them and can be described as a combination of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. (But he might be better than that.) It was a privilege to get to know some of their music, and even them, because Mr. Anderson's friend is married to one sister and we were the backstage VIPs. So this got me thinking more about Australian music, and because I'm already cat-powered, the internet found me this clip.
It's interesting. Kurt was the kind of artist who comes along not more than once in a generation, and he was the emblem of his. I moved to the Pacific Northwest as his arc was nearing its crest, and by then he had triggered, or had propelled and fully expressed, a social phenomenon known as "grunge." I've never heard anyone make sense of what it meant, but to witness it you'd think Goethe was focusing his talents on fronting a garage-rock band, pulling everything along with him, walling off his words behind reverberations. That was in part to protect himself, I think, but probably more intended to cushion us from them. Otherwise you could've more easily told he'd been inside your head.
After we said our goodbyes to the Waifs, we strolled around the old grunge haunts. To the back alley warehouse where we hauled in equipment to hold raves after 2AM. Most of the places are gone or prettified, all but one dive bar gone. The most infamous of all dive bars, the Dome of the Rock of grunge and a place which kept sawdust on the floor as an expedient to vomit, has had a million dollars of remodeling and sculpture done inside. It's still called the Frontier Room, but where once the bar consisted of unfinished planks, it is now of cunningly blown glass, lit like a crystal palace. Like it's waiting for Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt to waltz into Belltown and start divvying up white powder and snort from little platinum spoons. There's a modern art sculpture of a contrived brass-and-rust cow hanging on the wall where once the stinking sawdust would get pushed over to. We stood inside and marveled; having a drink would've been blasphemous. The Crocodile Cafe is still there, still has the same linoleum tiles with the same gummy hashish-like substance in its corners, but it floats, isolated, an island in a sea of metrosexuality. One of the lasting local effects of grunge is that you can still get into nice restaurants wearing sweats. I often do, and wasn't even a big fan.
Here are the lyrics to I Don't Blame You:
Last time I saw you, you were on the stage
Your hair was wild, your eyes were bright,
and you were in a rage.
You were swinging your guitar around
'cause they wanted to hear that sound
that you didn’t want to play.
I don’t blame you;
I don’t blame you.
Been around the world in many situations,
been inside many heads, in different positions.
But you never wanted them that way.
What a cruel price you thought
that you had to pay,
and die for all that shit on stage.
But it never made sense to them anyway.
Could you imagine when they turned their backs
and were only scratching their heads?
'Cause you simply deserve the best.
And I don’t blame you,
I don't blame you.
They said you were the best,
but then they were only kids.
Then you would recall
the deadly houses you grew up in.
Just because they knew your name
doesn’t mean they knew from where you came.
What a sad trick you thought
that you had to play!
But I don’t blame you...
They never owned it,
(they never owned it!)
and you never owed it to them, anyway.
(I don't blame you!)
I don't blame you.
(Kurt C. brought to you from the Pac NW and the sulfur-smelling timber town of Aberdeen, Washington. Cat Power brought to you from the former penal colony of Oz.)