On April 5, 1994, Kurt Cobain died. It was a really weird moment to live through if you were in the right age range group at the time – I was in the perfect place to experience this, at twenty-one, when it took place. There was a great deal of speculation at the time as to what would happen to rock and roll after his suicide; in a way, looking back on it now that it is more than twenty years past, it was sort of the death of it all. I sometimes wonder whether Kurt would have gone through with it had he known he would take the whole of the edifice down with him on the way, but that’s based entirely on second/third hand accounts of the guy that probably hold very little water.
A little over a year after he had died, I found myself in a shitty bar, the occasion being the release of the album of Dave Grohl, Nirvana’s drummer, who had christened what was basically his solo effort, Foo Fighters. I recall feeling really bummed out beforehand, thinking that Grohl’s solo effort he was trying to puff into a band was bound to really disappoint. Think about it: how excited would you have been standing a crap den around awaiting to hear an advance copy of Ringo’s debut solo effort? And he was a fucking Beatle. I was about to behold the 90’s version of “Back Off Boogaloo”; this promised to be a depressing evening.
I still recall that first minute of “This is a Call” vividly: it was so far above even my best expectations of what Grohl’s album could possibly sound like, I was almost immediately high from the experience. Even the lyrics seemed primed to exceed expectations: “This is a call to all my past resignations.” It seemed to call out to us all, particularly the ones who figured they were in a for a rough evening beforehand. To say to us that even though Kurt Cobain killed himself, rock and roll would survive; it had enough innate creativity to make it a certainty. Look at this! The drummer of Nirvana, making an album in which he plays every instrument, coming up with something so totally amazing! As if to prove it wasn’t just a one hit off, the next track the DJ at the launch event played was “Big Me”, different but equally brilliant. If Dave Grohl could surprise us like this, perhaps everything really was going to be okay.
Of course, it was a false dawn. Rock music started to go down the tubes almost immediately afterwards and has never recovered steam. Yet we still have that first Foo Fighters album to cling to as a sign that sometimes things really can be better than we expect. The album is thus probably not a bad tonic to get you through the Trump years to come, however long they may last. It’s message for me is that sometimes people can exceed your expectations. God knows how we need a little of that at the present time.