For a guy who was not only famously tortured, but arguably more miserable after getting the world by the balls, Kurt Cobain weirdly never got to the point where he lost his passion for championing underdogs.
Remember when Nirvana went all acoustic and candlelit for MTV Unplugged in 1993? The corporate suits running the music television powerhouse at the time had grand ideas not only about the night's preferred set list, but also who should join Cobain, drummer Dave Grohl, and bassist Kurt Novaselic as special on-stage guests.
MTV wanted to hear "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and other radio-friendly unit shifters. And as Unplugged producer Alex Coletti later noted, "They wanted to hear the 'right' names-Eddie Vedder or Tori Amos or God knows who."
Instead, Cobain insisted on salting the set with covers of songs by Leadbelly and the Vaselines, as well as three Meat Puppets tunes. Guesting on the latter's "Plateau", "Lake of Fire", and "Oh, Me" were Puppets Cris and Curt Kirkwood.
At the time the most uncompromising mega-star in rock 'n' roll was unwell thanks to a raging drug addiction, crippling depression and a major conflictedness about stardom. That didn't stop Cobain—who spent his career championing underdog acts from the Melvins and Mudhoney to Scratch Acid and Sonic Youth—from fighting to make sure the Meat Puppets got their 15 minutes in the spotlight.
Today would have been the 53rd birthday of Kurt Cobain-who committed suicide at age 27 on April 5, 1994 at his Seattle home.
If he was still here, he'd in all likelihood love Porridge Radio and its raging new single "Sweet". The four-piece from Brighton, England has released two official albums to date, including the just-out Every Bad on gold-star indie Secretly Canadian.
At the moment, Porridge Radio is still under the radar enough to remind you of the days when bands were allowed to incubate on labels like Sub Pop, SST, and Matador. If you haven't yet heard of the group, that probably has everything to do with rock being in one of the fallow periods that have been part of the music-business cycle since, well, forever.
The good news is that, traditionally, things always get real quiet before the storm. NIrvana is proof of that. In 1991, the year before the trio made grunge a global brand, Vanilla Ice, Mariah Carey, and Michael Bolton ruled Billboard's Top Albums charts. America was a place where those who played by the rules were ushered to the top. Then Nevermind hit, and suddenly the weirdos—Butthole Surfers, Jesus Lizard, Helmet, and, yes, the Meat Puppets—were given the keys to the major-label boardrooms.
Happy birthday Kurt Cobain. Hopefully, somewhere, you've got Porridge Radio's "Sweet" cranked louder than love, screaming right along to Dana Margolin when she pours every bit of her tortured self into lines like "My mum says that I look like a nervous wreck/Because I bite my nails right down to the flesh".