When I am deciding which album to write about next, I usually pick something based on my mood. All the albums I have written about so far have a lot of meaning to me. Since I own such a large quantity of music (1,000 CDs, hundreds of cassettes, at least 500 record albums and singles) it is impossible for every single recording to have special meaning to me that evokes a certain emotion. There is a reason I chose to own each piece of music, of course, but there are some that I may have only played once or twice. Everything that I consider a soundtrack to my life (and that number is pretty high, actually) makes me feel something when I hear it. The first chord of the first song instantly transports me back to when it was initially important to me. And sometimes that makes me feel sad. So I have stayed away from certain albums up until now. There are a couple of essays about stuff I listened to at low points in my life, but some of those were written many years ago, and all I had to do before posting them here was transcribe them from the typed page into a Word document. Reading along as I typed took me back, of course, but it is not the same as listening to the album over and over and over as I write something new about that time and place in my life.
So here goes. Though In Utero is by far a more completely depressing album (check out my blog about it), I listened to Nevermind first. And I only did that after falling in love with Dave Grohl back in 1999 when I first got turned on to Foo Fighters’ third album, There Is Nothing Left to Lose. I never liked Nirvana when they were around. I hated that they were supposed to be the “spokespeople” for my generation, because I could relate to nothing about their look or sound. I did not listen to very much contemporary music at that time, and I definitely did not follow trends. Grunge was a trend, and it was annoying. Fast forward to 1999 when the Foo Fighters’ “Learn to Fly” video came out. Wow. Dave was so cute! I immediately became obsessed and wanted to know everything about him. I kind of knew who he was before then, that he was in Nirvana and had this other band now. I played There Is Nothing Left to Lose constantly, and then bought the first two Foo albums. Their first one (here’s my blog about it) sounded Nirvana-ish. But I couldn’t bring myself to listen to Nirvana. But Dave was the drummer. What to do? My sisters and I were committed to hating that shit. But if I bought just one Nirvana album and only listened to the drum parts, maybe that would be okay. Right?
I found a used Nevermind cassette for $1.99 at Record Den, my favorite record store. They totally could have been music snobs like those guys in High Fidelity, but they are always cool when I go in. Anyway, I debated my purchase for a while, worried about what my sisters might think when they heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” blasting out of my speakers. I flipped through the liner notes and decided to get the tape because there were some pictures of Dave. Maybe I would not listen to it. I just wanted to see more of Dave.
I don’t remember how long it took me to finally listen to it, but once “Smells Like Teen Spirit” started, yeah, I was hooked. My sisters heard it, but they did not say anything at first. When they finally did, they could not believe that I had gone over to the grunge side. Mind you, this was in 2000, well after grunge was dead, but they still saw no reason to listen to this music that we had all agreed was a pile of shit. But I really liked the drummer. He was awesome.
And then I bought their other albums. I played them all quite a bit, and I read everything I could about the band so I could understand the music more intimately. Nevermind has such an interesting history, and it became so successful in such a fascinating way. It was released in September 1991, a month after I began college. The only contemporary things I had in my collection in 1991 were C+C Music Factory and M.C. Hammer. (I had Michael Jackson and Madonna and other 80s stuff, too, but I liked those when I was a kid, so they don’t count.) A lot of kids got Michael Jackson’s Dangerous for Christmas that year, but many of them traded it in for Nevermind, and by January 11, 1992, it took the Number One spot away from MJ on the Billboard chart. There was definitely a shift happening.
But I did not feel it, and I was not interested in it. But 8 years later, it consumed me. I kind of wished I had paid more attention at the time. I had every issue of Rolling Stone since 1989, so I did have a paper trail of the era. But now I had to go back and try to see what I was missing. I bought lots of concert videos and books and stuff, just like I had been doing with Foo. I felt like I really knew these guys, I understood them and their craft. And I knew I was eventually going to marry Dave.
Nevermind is punk. And rock. And metal. And pop. And whatever grunge is. There is a lot in this album. It was not exactly the album they wanted to make, but it made them the most famous band in the world. It’s pure music, and that’s why it works. It has sold over 30 million copies since 1991. It holds up all these years later. How many other albums released in 1991 can you remember?
Now for the heavy shit. As my Foo and Nirvana obsession expanded, I was involved in a very dramatic yet short-lived relationship with a guy I worked with. Things were not what I wanted them to be, but they were all I could have. I dealt with it, not very well, but I just accepted that that was the way it was at the time, and I hoped that someday he would realize that I was the perfect woman for him and fall madly in love with me. My downward spiral started at this time. I was a party girl before I met him, very drunk and very scandalous, but I was not a tragic mess until he came along. Not that I can really blame it all on him, of course, but I was really fucked up over this guy.
We were assistant managers in a coffee shop at the mall. He transferred to my location after his closed. He was not what I expected at all; I had talked to him on the phone a bunch of times when he was at the other coffee shop, and he looked nothing like what I imagined. He was hot as fuck! Seriously, this boy was on fire! He was very quiet and mellow, and he knew a lot about coffee. And he worked very…very…slowly. Our boss told me to leave him alone during busy times to make him work faster. It was pretty funny to watch him try to move more quickly and multitask.
I had become good friends with Pat, the 19-year-old guy who worked there. Despite our 8-year age difference, we got along great and had lots in common: he was a musician, and he was really into punk, so we talked about music a lot. He and I went to a goth bar on the other side of town a few times, and he suggested that we invite Todd along one night. We always went on Wednesdays because they played 80s music, and it was great fun. All the gays were there on Wednesdays, so I was totally in my element. So I invited him, and he said he might stop by. Being a Cancer man he was very vague and non-committal, something that would become a problem later on. Anyway, he lived pretty close to this bar and had been there before, so I figured he would be there.
I think Pat had a guy crush on him. He looked at Todd like he was Fonzi, lol! And he was pretty cool. And did I mention how hot he was? Yeah, he was fucking smoking hot. He did come out to the bar one night, and he looked fine as hell. I was drunk by the time I noticed him. He was sitting at a table by the dance floor, smoking a cigarette. He was alone. And he was wearing black leather pants and a white wifebeater. He had tattoos I had never seen at work. His long hair was not tied back like it was at work. Holy shit! People told him he looked like Scott Stapp from Creed when he wore that outfit, lol! But he was far more attractive. Far. More. Attractive.
So I was a sloppy mess and was flirting with him for a while. I guess that’s when it started. He started showing up every week when we were there, and I was throwing myself at him. He said he had a girlfriend, but that they were “in the process” of breaking up, whatever the fuck that meant. Long story short, there was lots of inappropriate stuff going on for about a month or so, and then they finally broke up so it was on. He was only the second guy I was ever with (I don’t count all the random dudes in the bar whose names I never knew, because we never did everything—in those days, it was all about me!), and he put that stank on me that I could just not get rid of. Shit.
So we did our thing for a few months, and it was a lot of fun. But we were not boyfriend and girlfriend. I looked at him as my boyfriend, and I did girlfriend things like cook him dinner, clean his apartment, put out 5 or 6 times a week. I even bought him flowers and wrote poetry for him, stuff he should have been doing for me. Whatever I could do to make him fall in love with me, I did. But that sort of thing never works.
Some bad shit happened. Really bad shit. I was devastated. There was so much drama, but the whole time he acted like nothing was wrong. That drove me fucking crazy. We were kind of like Kurt and Courtney, just a hot mess. No drugs, but we both drank quite a bit. He drank every night. I was not that bad, but when I drank I was pretty sloppy. He stayed the same, drunk or sober. And he did remind me of Kurt; they had a similar facial structure, and those clear, piercing eyes. I was fucking out of control so much of the time, especially toward the end. And he remained calm the whole time. It upset me that he would never have a real conversation with me. But he just wasn’t a guy who liked to talk. He preferred being closed off. I remember buying this Zen book called Expect Nothing because it reminded me of him; when I told him that, he laughed. He had no expectations of anything, ever. I had nothing but expectations, and I was always disappointed.
When things ended, it was devastating. We had to work together for another 7 months until he got transferred to our new café. In the meantime, he had gotten back together with his ex, who called work every day looking for him. She would call a dozen times a day, and he would never answer the phone, even when he was standing next to it; he knew it was her. So I had to talk to her. God, that was so painful and horrible. My chest is tightening just thinking about that. All the pain I experienced, all the horrible things I did to myself; I cannot understand why it happened. I had Nirvana to help me wallow. Nevermind is more catchy and poppy than Nirvana’s other stuff, so it was not usually my album of choice if I was torturing myself. But if I wanted to put a happy face on my angst, Nevermind was just what I needed.
Come as you are, as you were
As I want you to be
As a friend, as a friend
As an old enemy
Take your time, hurry up
The choice is yours, don’t be late
Take a rest as a friend
As an old memory