Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Courtney Love/Hole

Jennifer has feelings about Courtney Love that she’d like to share with you.



I have not always had a lot of feelings about Courtney Love. Let’s just be blunt and honest: I first learned about her because I was a Nirvana fan and she was Kurt Cobain’s wife. I was dimly aware of Hole – bear in mind at this time (1992) the only music magazine I read was Circus, and I got the rest of my music news from MTV, and then mostly from Headbanger’s Ball — but I didn’t have any particular opinions about her or their music. Following the release of Celebrity Skin in 1998, I would develop an appreciation for their sound, though even then I only really listened to the title track, and that on the radio. I always meant to buy the record, but never quite got there.


Getting back to Nirvana for just a minute: I can tell you where I was, when I got the news that Kurt Cobain was dead. I was 19, and in college. It was a beautiful spring day. The grass was a particularly vibrant shade of green and the air was cool on my face. I wasn’t surprised – how long had we been watching him struggle? — but I felt like I had been punched in the heart. And next to my grief for him was grief for her, suddenly the most famous (soon to be infamous) rock widow of my generation. Since then I have watched, with the rest of the world, as she exploded and imploded, rising and falling in various measures.


Which slingshots us back to 1998, to a record I didn’t listen to until three months ago, and, which, once I had heard it all, I was perversely glad I had put it off. Love’s own grief and rage and terror is in every line and note of Celebrity Skin, and I’m not sure I could have borne that, in 1998. Even in 2010 it’s a little bit difficult to listen to; my heart still clenches at I had to tell them you were gone, because she did, and she paid bitterly for it, in many different ways.


Which brings me to the new record and the band with new faces but the old name. Nobody’s Daughter is angry in some (different) ways, and contemplative in others. It is fierce and joyful and beautiful and sad all at once. As for the band, well, I have only ever seen Hole twice, both times this year, so again, let us be blunt and honest: these changes don’t bother me. But I wholly sympathize with the people who are enraged or disappointed (or both), or who may have other, more mixed feelings on the issue. I kind of feel the same way about the band currently calling itself Guns n’ Roses. I’m glad everyone involved is alive and well and making music but . . . that is not my Guns n’ Roses.


That said, I am filled with a very particular kind of fierce joy, hearing Courtney Love sing again, hearing those big, loud, defiant, grungy chords rippling out through the speakers. My tiny black heart expands in a very specific way while she’s telling us mildly scandalous stories between songs, shutting down hecklers, and covering Closer for the express purpose of trolling Trent Reznor. Which, I would like to add, she did as a torch song, and blended it neatly into Man That Got Away by Judy Garland.

It’s not nostalgia – I am grateful, on a daily basis, to never have to be 20 ever again — as much as it is the delight of encountering a first love or an old friend in a new place. In 2008 I came back to being a rock fan after the better part of a decade spent away, and after two years in this sometimes baffling new musical reality, as much as I love the new sounds and the new faces, I retain a deep and abiding affection for the old ones, less seen but no less loved.


And as for Courtney Love, all of this time that I didn’t really know her, I had missed her, and I didn’t realize it until I was standing in the pit last week. Now that she’s back, radiant and ascendant if periodically kind of wobbly, I hope her trajectory continues to be upwards, because I want to stand in the pit and sing with her again, and again, and again.


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