what happened to this town.

so, i was reading sarah vowell again on the bus today, this time her book radio on: a listener's diary. she spent all of 1995 listening to the radio, and wrote about the experience. the first chapter focuses mostly on kurt cobain, and how radio stations all across america continue to play nirvana songs over and over again. "he'll always be on the radio," she writes, "just like he'll always be dead." she goes on about how she immortalized kurt, and how his suicide sent her into a deep depression. it's a really good chapter.

i stopped listening to the radio in high school. i couldn't understand why kwod (106.5 fm), 98 rock (98.5 fm), and all the other stations wouldn't let go of the alternative era. i thought i was above it, even though i was listening to shitty pop-punk bands like screeching weasel and the bouncing souls. i would only turn on the radio weeks before christmas, when the oldies station would play christmas carols, commercial-free, nonstop, 24 hours a day. they still do it; it's amazing.

but i sided with the stupid punks who wrote songs like "the radio still sucks (ataris)," "please play this song on the radio (nofx)," and "fuck the radio (pretty much every punk band's message)." be a rebel and think for yourself, right? it was easy to hate the radio. on the way to school, i'd listen to the same wankers doing the morning show, and they would make the same lame jokes about dawson's creek, or else some wisecrack about monica lewinsky. they were boring; they were tired; and worst of all, they never played a single fucking song in the morning. why it never occured to me to play a tape, i don't know.

i wish that someone had turned me onto npr or some other relevant station at an earlier age. i probably wouldn't have been ready for it, but if i heard sarah vowell praising kurt cobain for dropping his guitar mid-song once at a concert to insult and publicly humiliate a molestor in the mosh pit (some guy was groping a girl, and kurt didn't appreciate this), i might've actually listened. she also brought up how he and bassist novoselic french-kissed on national television to ward off homophobic fans. in the liner notes to incesticide, kurt admitted that he had a hard time living his life knowing that two "wastes of sperm and eggs raped a girl while singing the lyrics to 'polly.'"

i read all this, and i saw this stuff happen on tv, but i never really thought about what it meant. i was too young to be a real nirvana fan (the angst didn't occur until ok computer), but i knew kurt stood for something, and that he meant a lot to a lot of people. i remember hearing about his suicide on the news (my parents always loved telling me about musicians' suicides and/or overdoses - perhaps a subconscious attempt to draw me away from my noisy electric guitar), and i remember seeing a kid with a hooded sweater, sitting on a bus stop, his head in his hands, like kurt's death was the end of the everything.

i'd be lying if i said nirvana had nothing to do with my decision to move to seattle seven years ago. even though the grunge era was long over, and the wto riots were three years behind us, i thought that seattleites would still be passionate and out-of-control, ready to stand up for what's right, ready to scream at the top of their lungs whatever it was they had to say. smashing guitars, inhaling teargas, and looting nike, right? no, not at all. it turns out seattle was a lot more like the seattle depicted on frasier. and guess what? i fucking hated frasier.

but, who am i kidding? if the real revolution ever came, i'd probably just watch it on tv.

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

Usually, when I tell Chileans I am from Seattle, they are like, "Ahhh ya, Nirvana, cierto?"