Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon Talks About Kurt & Courtney

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In an excerpt published in The Guardian, Kim Gordon chats about going to see Nirvana for the first time, Kurt and Courtney’s rocky relationship and Kim discusses how she thinks Love used Cobain’s death to benefit her.

Sonic Youth’s former bassist-vocalist Kim Gordon has revealed some of the mayhem that went on between Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love during their time together.

In Gordon’s new memoir she explains that she “can’t imagine what life was like in the chaos of their drug-fuelled life.”

The book titled ‘Girl In A Band’ charts her time with Sonic Youth, discusses her marriage to the band’s singer Thurston Moore and reveals her thoughts on some of rock’s most recognisable figures.

The memoir’s title is taken from the lyrics of Sonic Youth’s 2009 song ‘Sacred Trickster’, ‘What’s it like to be a girl in a band?/I don’t quite understand’.

Speaking about seeing Nirvana for the first time, Gordon said: “The first time Thurston [Sonic Youth’s singer] and I saw Nirvana was in 1989 at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey. Bruce Pavitt, who founded the label Sub Pop, told me that if I liked Mudhoney, which I did, then, I’d “love Nirvana”. He added, “You have to see them live. Kurt Cobain is like Jesus. People love him. He practically walks on the audience.””

“As a performer, Kurt was both incredibly charismatic and extremely conflicted. One minute he would be playing a pretty melody, and the next he’d be trashing all the equipment. Maxwell’s could be sleepy during the week, and there weren’t a lot of people in attendance the night we showed up – maybe 10 to 15.”

“The next night, we went to see them again at the Pyramid Club in the East Village. The club was practically full. I was surprised to run into Iggy Pop, but I guess he wanted to see what all the hype was about, too. Kurt ended up trashing the drums and almost knocked an amp down the spiral stairs on the stage leading to the dressing room below. Thurston and I agreed it was an amazing show. Iggy wasn’t quite as impressed.”

“We later went backstage. Kurt told us he’d just fired his guitar player and his drummer. Standing in front of me, Kurt seemed small, close to my height, though he was actually 5ft 9in to my 5ft 5in. He had big, watery eyes, slightly hunted looking. I’m not sure why, but I felt an immediate kinship with him.”

Kim discussed a poignant conversation she had with Kurt backstage after a Sonic Youth gig. Gordon said: “Soon after Kurt and Courtney got together and had their baby, Frances Bean, we were playing in Seattle, and the two of them came to see us. After the show, Kurt cornered me in the dressing room. “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “Courtney thinks Frances likes me more than her.”

“Someone took a photo of us right at that moment. My back is turned to the camera, and I remember that conversation vividly. I can’t imagine what life was like in the chaos of their drug-fuelled life, and it’s hard for me to remember that they were together for only a couple of years. It takes so little time to forge a life, or in this case, a brand.”

Kim then goes on to explain how she heard about Kurt’s suicide and how she felt Courtney capitalised on his death.

“I’ll always remember the day Thurston called to tell me Kurt had shot himself. Of course I was totally shocked, but I wasn’t entirely surprised. There had been an incident in Rome, where Kurt had OD’d, but the details were never clear. I was shattered and felt as if I were moving in slow-motion inside some strange dream.”

“The night after Kurt’s death, during a candlelight memorial service for the public, a recording of Courtney reading aloud Kurt’s suicide note was played. As the vigil continued, Courtney appeared in person and started handing out some of Kurt’s clothes to fans. It was as if she were stepping out into her destiny – a platform of celebrity and infamy.”

“A week after Kurt died, Hole released their major-label debut, Live Through This, which elevated Courtney to a new kind of perverse stardom. The timing couldn’t have been better.”

Kim Gordon’s ‘Girl In A Band: A Memoir’ is available via Dey Street Books on February 24th.