Forten years, people have asked, “Why did Kurt Cobain have to die?” Butthat question has been addressed by so many pundits that it no longerhas any meaning. At this point, it’s time to ask something new: “Whatwould have happened if Kurt had lived?”
Here’s one theory.
April 5, 1994: KurtCobain is admitted to the University of Washington Medical Center aftersuffering a massive heroin overdose. Discovered in a coma by privateinvestigator Tom Grant, Cobain’s near-lifeless body lay alongside aloaded shotgun and (what appeared to be) a suicide note. When Cobainregains consciousness four days later, he says that the gun was “forprotection” and that the letter was “personal.” He is released from thehospital after nine days of observation.
June 1, 1994: Geffen Records faxes a press release stating “Nirvana are not breaking up, but going on hiatus.” In an interview with Goldmine, bassist Krist Novoselic claims to be working on a politically charged solo album. Dave Grohl tells MTV Newsthat he is unsure of his immediate future but hopes one day to workwith Mercyful Fate frontman King Diamond. Cobain gives no interviews.
August 20, 1994: Cobain files for divorce from his wife of two and a half years, Courtney Love.
October 31, 1994: The Atlanta Constitution reports that Cobain has begun work on Kurdt Kobain,a solo project written with (and produced by) R.E.M. vocalist MichaelStipe. There are conflicting reports on what the album will sound like.Cobain initially says the record will be entirely acoustic, but 20minutes later in the same interview, he suggests that the songs will besimilar to Chicago art-punk band Shellac’s recently released At Action Park.
January 15, 1995: Work on Kurdt Kobain grindsto a halt, presumably due to the growing complexity of the Cobain-Lovedivorce proceedings. Love publicly attacks Cobain and claims to havewritten “most of the fucking lyrics on In Utero.” Cobain does not respond.
March 12, 1995: The U.K.’s New Musical Express reports that demos of Kurdt Kobain sound like Oasis and that Kurdt Kobain will be the greatest solo record in rock history. It is later discovered that Kurdt Kobain demos do not exist.
June 1, 1995: Encouraged by Cobain’s attempts atrehabilitation, an Olympia, Washington, judge decrees that the singeris “more, you know, together” than Love, granting Cobain primarycustody of daughter Frances Bean.
December 24, 1995: A semiconscious Cobain is revivedfrom the front seat of his car, which is discovered running inside asealed garage. He later says that he fell asleep after an extremelylong drive from Missoula, Montana, after seeing the band Codeine.
April 1, 1996: Kurdt Kobain is released to massive critical adoration and lukewarm sales. In an interview with Spin‘sCharles Aaron, Cobain calls the gentle, emotive album “not bad, butcertainly not as good as any Vaselines record.” He also implies thatNirvana will never reunite.
May 20, 1996: Cobain scraps a scheduled 18-city club tour just two days before the opening show at First Avenue in Minneapolis.
September 13, 1996: A disguised Cobain serves as theuncredited tour guitarist for three Jesus Lizard concerts before being”outed” by Jim DeRogatis in the Chicago Sun-Times.
January 20, 1997: A Page Six item in the New York Post claims that Cobain is romantically linked to PJ Harvey.
May 14, 1997: Cobain performs a stunning acoustic version of “You Know You’re Right” on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. It is the last time he appears in public for almost two years (though, during this period, he appears on the cover of Spin twice).
October 31, 1997: Someone-presumably Cobain, possibly Dave Grohl-uploads every song off Hole’s Live Through Thisonto the Internet. These bootleg versions feature Cobain singing leadvocals (and several tracks conclude with him telling other people inthe studio how to play the chord progressions).
April 11, 1998: Strong rumors begin to circulate thata disguised Cobain was spotted holding hands with Courtney Love at aRadiohead concert in Chicago.
April 18, 1999: A Nirvana reunion is billed as theheadline act for the upcoming Woodstock ’99 festival. Cobain emergesfrom hiding to deny this report, electing to speak with Charlie Rose onPBS. What follows is an excerpt from the broadcast conversation.
ROSE: “So?Nirvana.”COBAIN: [Silence]ROSE: “Influential?”COBAIN: [Nervous laughter]ROSE: “But then the solo record-a masterwork, arguably-butdifferent, most certainly. A new direction. Is this where you want togo? Or is this merely where you have been? Culturally, socially, thereis so much there-depth, absolutely-yet the album is sparse.Intentional? Accidental? Are we to read something deeper into thissimplicity, or should we simply listen to what is there and not concernourselves with what is not?” COBAIN: [Long pause] “I guess.”
November 15, 1999: Cobain begins work on a second solo album that he promises will be “pure power pop, sort of like Cheap Trick.”
May 5, 2000: Kill Rock Stars releases Cobain’s Christodomy,a two-song, 74-minute album of grinding, incomprehensible noise rock.It is released exclusively on vinyl, and the lyric sheet includes onlythree words: betrayal, marijuana, and collapse.
November 30, 2000: Cobain is taken to the emergencyroom after swallowing eight ounces of hemlock, which he attributes to”a mistake caused by dehydration.”
January 18, 2001: Cobain verbally agrees to produce the soundtrack to the upcoming Todd Solondz film, Storytelling. He later drops out of the project, citing “depression.”
September 10, 2001: Kurt Cobain discusses the possibility of a Nirvana reunion with Terry Gross on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. This is a huge story.
October 20, 2001: Nirvana re-form to play “AllApologies” during the Concert for New York City. Their performance iswidely described as “breathtaking.”
December 31, 2001: Nirvana turn down a $40 millionoffer to stage an American stadium tour. Later, Cobain claims the bandcould potentially play together in the future, but only as the openingact for a Pixies reunion.
June 5, 2002: Cobain officially retires from music, stating that he intends to pursue a career in painting.
February 14, 2003: Cobain’s first 12 paintings go to auction in Seattle. One work-a morbid expressionistic collage called American Minotaur-sells for $1.2 million.
November 15, 2003: In a private Las Vegas ceremony, Cobain remarries Courtney Love.
November 16, 2003: Love goes completely nuts. The universe is at peace.