By Scott King
A year after I went through puberty, my mom bought me my first guitar. It was a good investment. All my inarticulate rage, anxiety, and hormones went into that poor little acoustic instrument. I strummed hard.
I wanted to be Kurt Cobain. Or so I thought. It was a sign of the times. In the summer of 1994, I picked up a copy of Live Through This, the sophomore LP by an up and coming new wave band called Hole. That summer, I sat in my room and listened to the album over and over and over again. I couldn’t believe that such a beautiful, hypnotic, mercurial piece of art existed. I had had a few guitar lessons with a teacher who thought alternative rock was for people who couldn’t play. A friend from school taught me how to use power chords, how to move my left hand up and down the fretboard and play the basics of pretty much anything.
I locked myself in my room that summer and learned how to rock out on the geetar by strumming along with deceptively subtle and disturbingly wistful anthems like “Miss World,” “Rock Star,” “Gutless,” and, last but not least, “Violet.”
When I get what I want, I never want it again. Nothing could be further from the truth. I couldn’t get enough. Once I got the hang of living through Live Through This, I moved on to more difficult guitar crossword puzzles, like those found on R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People. That was another album I couldn’t stop listening to at the time. I was kind of a pussy.
Those black and white photographs of Michael Stipe tho. He was such a beautiful, dirty angel. With his hat turned backwards and eyes closed in the cool, cool surf, Stipe was an icy icon I could never dream of emulating. For some reason, Courtney seemed more familiar. That was who I wanted to be. Not her shabby husband, Kurt. Whatever happened to him?
I wanted to BE Courtney Love, but I still wanted to be ME. So I applied the lessons of her stardom and artistry to my own quotidian reality. I sang bitchy songs about my best friend while he was standing right there beside me in our band. Some of them were really good. It was cathartic. It was art.
What does all this have to do with being yourself and letting the chips fall where they may? From what I read in the red tide of ink that has been spilled about that generation’s influence, those artists were inspired by those who came before them to create something greater than themselves and their inspirations. It’s called art. It’s called having a voice. Of a generation. Or just in general.
You can sing your voice by wearing a beautiful Kurt t-shirt. The one where he’s smoking a cigarette while flamboyantly displaying his purple nail polish. Or you can take a page from his book and flamboyantly display YOUR purple nail polish. Everyone is unique. Even your soul twin is unique. Every moment the world is new. Every coat of paint shines like diamonds.
Years later, I discovered Tupac. His bright smile, his knowing playa’s grin, his prosaic sense of narrative. Pac has inspired me to live from the heart, full of love and life and mischief. And to know that tomorrow may be the last day, but it won’t be the last adventure. And come on seriously gurl he dated Madonna. She wrote him love letters that are about to be auctioned off. Get hip.
Kurt, Courtney, Stipe, and Pac. All four of my peeps were visionaries. All four are also my primary style icons. My fashion style is what I call Rough Trade Comfort Glamour Stud. My lifestyle? I call it Fuck It Hon Just Love Me.
Can you dig?