Something feels different now,” says Jack Endino, producer of Nirvana’s first album, Bleach, referring to the suicide of neopunk superstar Kurt Cobain. ”I don’t know what it is, but all of us woke up feeling different after this.”
The long-term repercussions of 27-year-old Cobain’s ”gunshot heard across a generation,” as one TV newsmagazine glibly put it, have only partially emerged in the weeks since the singer’s death. According to a source at Geffen Records, Nirvana’s label ”is still reeling” from the tragedy: At an executive meeting in Los Angeles on April 12, employees at first avoided the topic until Geffen president Eddie Rosenblatt ordered them to unload their feelings; Rosenblatt, a close friend of Cobain and his widow, Courtney Love, opened the discussion but quickly broke down in tears.
”Everybody who had any contact, no matter how slight, with (Kurt) is going through all of this,” says Geffen publicity director Bryn Bridenthal, noting that the label will found an art/music scholarship at Cobain’s alma mater, Aberdeen High School. ”The only thing that wasn’t done for Kurt was putting him in a straitjacket and locking him in a room. But I’m sure that there are a lot of people who are thinking now, ‘Why didn’t I do that?”’
Colder, if equally strong, reactions quickly spread across the marketplace. Sales of Nirvana’s Nevermind and In Utero skyrocketed after Cobain’s body was found on April 8, going as high as No. 28 and No. 11, respectively, on Billboard’s pop charts.
Geffen, however, froze all PR for Live Through This, the second album by Love’s band, Hole, which debuts at No. 55 this week; plans to release Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged have also been put on hold; and a Hole tour set to begin May 3 has been canceled. ”Everything just stopped,” says Bridenthal.
That includes the fate of Nirvana. Although drummer Dave Grohl and bassist Krist Novoselic threatened to dissolve the band on March 28—as a tactic to get Cobain to enter rehab—the two ”don’t have any idea” how they’ll proceed now, says Bridenthal. Love, who threatened during that same confrontation to divorce Cobain if he didn’t seek help, faces arraignment in Beverly Hills on May 5 on drug charges stemming from an April 7 ”overdose.” Love’s lawyer, Barry Tarlow, insists it was actually an allergic reaction to the antianxiety prescription drug Xanax.
If convicted, Love could once again face a custody battle. She and Cobain were nearly relieved of their then- newborn girl, Frances Bean (now 20 months old and living with Love in Seattle), as a result of published reports that Love used heroin during her pregnancy in 1992.
In killing himself, Cobain—who friends say didn’t want his daughter to grow up in a broken home like he did-unfortunately failed to change some of the things he most hated, including the establishment’s inability to understand his subversive appeal. In a script dated April 14, he’d already entered mainstream culture as a joke on an episode of Garry Shandling’s HBO series, The Larry Sanders Show (set to air this season). As Shandling’s character fools with a Nintendo Game Boy, one of his writers, Phil (Wallace Langham), comments on a newspaper report: ”It turns out the electrician found Kurt Cobain’s body two days after he was dead. Talk about grunge.”