Twenty Years of Fascination
I wanted to do an Ernest Borgnine movie today in tribute of his long and fascinating life in film. Alas, the one Netflix (and I mean about the only one) turned out not to be in the system here. It's a heist comedy costarring Bette Davis from 1971 called [i]Bunny O'Hare[/i]. And, yes, it's every bit as bad as it sounds, though there are a few oddly captivating bits to it. I've submitted it to them, but I never hear back from them and the movies never seem to appear in the database. Faint hope, I suppose, but I've done my part. I've already done [i]Marty[/i] and I've done [i]From Here to Eternity[/i], and if you've done that, you've done the best of Borgnine. I suppose I could have done [i]BASEketball[/i], which I saw in the theatre and used to own, and we do also own [i]Gattaca[/i], which he's apparently in. But he's not much in [i]BASEketball[/i]--and he deserves a better epitaph--and [i]Gattaca[/i] is too much thinking for today!
So instead, let us take a look back at one of the most seminal albums of my generation, Nirvana's [i]Nevermind[/i]. I do not like the thought that it is twenty years old, but it is. And this is an analysis of how that album came to be. Obviously, we can't talk to everyone involved. Kurt is dead and had been for more than a decade at the point at which the special was made. And then there's Courtney. They were not going to get to talk to Courtney and everyone knows it. (It would be interesting to hear what Frances Bean Cobain has to say about things, but she was still a minor at the time and not interviewed.) However, there's Dave Gruhl and Krist Novoselic, not to mention all sorts of record company executives and record producers and even the naked baby, who is probably getting lots of dates in college on the strength of being the naked [i]Nevermind[/i] baby. They talk some about Kurt's early life and the founding of the band, and they talk a lot about the album itself.
To be perfectly honest, I was never a huge Nirvana fan. I don't own any Nirvana albums. I'm not sure I even have any of their songs on my computer; about two years ago, I was driving up to Seatac, and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" came on the radio. I realized it was the first time in literally years that I'd heard the Nirvana version of that song. (I listen to the Tori Amos cover all the time, and then there's Weird Al, of course.) In general, I think you get Nirvana people and Pearl Jam people, and I've always been a Pearl Jam person. This has caused some conflict with various of my friends over the years, and I guess I've resigned myself to that. However, because of how old I am and because of how much of my identity in the '80s and '90s involved music, it's impossible for me to avoid having strong personal associations with Nirvana for all that, and that's probably why I'm so uncomfortable with the fact that Krist Novoselic now looks like somebody's dad.
I don't remember the first time I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or the first time I saw the video. What I remember is that, suddenly, Nirvana was everywhere. They themselves knew that, when Weird Al parodies your work, you're really somebody, and I remember my delight at the "Smells Like Nirvana" parody. (Oh, and my gratitude that the angle for the [i]Off the Deep End[/i] album was not exactly that of the [i]Nevermind[/i] cover.) I liked the grunge look largely because it meant there was finally a look that was both fashionable and comfortable. (And, yes, I still wear tank tops and overshirts, though I'm less inclined toward flannel than I was. Though I didn't wear much true flannel in the early '90s, either, because LA.) I won't say the music called to me or connected with something inside me or anything pretentious like that, but it did feel right in ways that it's hard to explain without sounding pretentious. I think possibly everyone has a genre that's the one which fits their adolescent self best, and mine was grunge.
All that said, I appear to be the only person on Earth who wasn't surprised when he killed himself. Dave Gruhl says part of the reason he did it is because he didn't understand what fame was going to mean. Though I put it to you that you cannot simultaneously want to be a member of the most famous band on Earth and resent that people are paying attention to you. Maybe he didn't know the extent to which people would care, but he had to know that it was going to happen. And, yes, maybe I will someday stop being snarky about the line "I don't have a gun" in "Come As You Are" (which I like better than "Smells Like Teen Spirit"), but today is not that day. I suppose it's one of the markers of my generation. We know that line, and we know that it turns out that, no, he did in fact have a gun. What makes me a bad person is that I cannot resist mentioning that fact every single time I hear that song.