Review of new Kurt Cobain book

Jeff Burlingame, former longtime editor at the Aberdeen Daily World newspaper and co-founder of the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee is now ready with his brand new book Kurt Cobain: Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind in the American Rebels series.

Jeff knew Kurt Cobain for a brief period of time and for the past few years, as co-chair of the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee, he's been very active in getting Aberdeen to recognize their most famous son.

The book is a short biography aimed at junior high and high school students, mainly intended to introduce this younger audience to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, by presenting just the facts and no editorialized views or opinions (more info on the book's background here).

The book is not meant to break new ground or introduce a number of new details into the Nirvana legacy. But it does a good job of telling the story of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana's claim to fame in a simple, concise and interesting fashion. It is told in a objective tone, yet from the perspective of a person who writes from the heart, and out of respect and admiration for an artist and a band that meant so much to the author. Not just to him, of course, but to music in general, and to his home turf of Aberdeen, Washington.

The sordid stories of heroin addiction, divorce, depression and even murder theories can't escape the Kurt Cobain tale, but there is still a pleasant tone throughout the entire book. Perhaps because the author doesn't dwell on any single event but swiftly moves through a host of different topics in each chapter. With that in mind, other Nirvana books are better if you want to get every detail on, say, Nirvana's recording sessions, concerts or other important events. But for a brief, summarized walk through the story of Nirvana - this is a good place to start.

Through the author's interviews, especially with Kurt's grandfather Leland, you'll also find interesting and even funny new details or angles on events that you may not have heard before. Especially the story of Nirvana'a first ever concert, at a house party in March of 1987, is fascinating to read:

"With Cobain on guitar, singing into a microphone taped to its stand, Novoselic on bass, and [first drummer Aaron] Burckhard playing [co-inhabitant of the house Jeffrey] Franks' drum set, the Aberdeen band began its set. The twenty people present were mostly there to party and certainly not there to see a band they had never heard of. So Cobain's band played eight songs to a mostly empty room."

There's also the story behind the photo shoot for Rolling Stone magazine where the wardrobe stylist turned out to be from Aberdeen, WA as Cobain was. She helped pick clothing choices that she felt characterized Nirvana's career at the time:

"After the session, [wardrobe stylist Cyndy] Warlow, Cobain, and Novoselic talked about growing up in Aberdeen. When the stylist got home, there was a phone message from Cobain thanking her for 'really taking the time to think about him and what he was about instead of just trying to make a fashion statement'."

As a bonus, the book includes some artwork Kurt drew as a kid, as well as a couple of rare photos. Of course, you can also read about the Memorial Committee's work and plans for the future.

In conclusion, if you're a hardcore Nirvana fan, there are other books that provide a more ellaborate and detailed account of the Nirvana tale. Nevertheless, this book does very well for the purpose of providing a healthy introduction for young newcomers to the band, and it is certainly a well-written and well-researched publication in that regard.

Kurt Cobain: Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind is available for pre-order at online stores (e.g. Amazon) now and from the author's website. It will be published on November 1. A portion of the proceeds from the book are going to the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee.

Posted in NFC news section at on 10-26-2006 @ 7:09 PM (GMT).

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