This article originally appeared in the August 13, 1993 issue of the Boston Phoenix.
Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain has lately become the focus of some controversial behavior, including a number of personal battles with the press. The Phoenix joined the club last week, as we received a pair of angry faxes from Cobain and his wife, Courtney Love, as well as a phone call from Love.
The communications were prompted by a profile of local musician Mary Lou Lord, which ran in “Cellars by Starlight” back in March. Apart from looking at her musical career, Lord spoke about a few of her life experiences—among them a brief relationship with Cobain, before he met Love and before Nirvana’s career took off. This story wasn’t new-it was mentioned in her press bio and had been referred to months earlier in Sassy magazine; and many of Lord’s friends claimed to have known about it.
We didn’t seek to sensationalize the story, but we also didn’t try to avoid something that Lord was willing to speak openly about. It provided insight into some of her work, notably the Cobain-inspired love song “About a Boy” and her ironic cover of “Smells like Teen Spirit.” Toward the end of our interview, Lord said that the relationship was over and that she had moved on.
Four months later, the story found its way to Cobain and Love, and last week a Phoenix employee received a phone call from Courtney Love. “She was slurring her words, and her thoughts didn’t sound too coherent,” the employee recalls. “She said she was replying to a story, and I remembered the one she meant. I said something like ‘Oh, you mean the woman who went out with Kurt?’ And she said ‘That’s not true! That’s not true! It was only one night!’ “She went on like that for a while. What was strange was that she said things like ‘I know the girls in L7 sleep around with everybody, but Kurt would never do anything like that.’ “ (This isn’t the first time that Love appears to have turned her wrath on other women in bands; in a recent Melody Maker interview, she’s quoted as calling PJ Harvey’s Polly Harvey a “slut.”)
Shortly afterward, a fax signed by Cobain (and not by Love) arrived at the Phoenix. “Gross! I was very DRUNK [emphasis his] one night in Boston, a creepy girl came on to me. I don’t even remember what happened but It WASN’T MUCH. All of a sudden my life is plagued by this insane girl. I NEVER had a relationship with her. Please Mary whoever you are, leave me alone and see a therapist.” Scrawled at the bottom of the fax, in different handwriting, was the following: “One night, one night, one fucking night! A blur! A blur! Jesus, a blur is not a relationship. I never took this girl anywhere, except maybe in the backyard to shoot her.”
The second fax was less kind. “One dumb drunk night. No calls. No letters. I don’t remember her face, her name, nothing. I’m not trying to sound sexist, but the word ‘groupie’ pops up. And guess what? She moved to my town and tries to befriend all my friends. It’s such a violation. This is why I wrote ‘Rape Me,’ Mark David Chapman…Fuck off! Fuck off! Fuck off! Goddamn violation/sodomy.” Oddly, Cobain’s name was spelled differently (Cohbaine) in the signoff, though the handwriting was the same as that from the bottom of the previous fax. A Nirvana representative confirmed the next day that Cobain and Love had sent the faxes.
Actually, Lord had moved to Olympia, Washington, (not Seattle, which is an hour away), last month, more than a year after the alleged affair broke up. And the move likely happened for musical reasons: in the same Phoenix interview, she enthused about the Olympia scene and said she was getting sick of Boston. She’s also hooked up with a Seattle label, which will be releasing her new single next month.
“They fuck with everybody,” Lord told us from Olympia last week. “Everybody out here has received some horrendous answering-machine messages from Courtney; they’re saving them on tape.” Lord claimed she has received “messages from Courtney saying things like ‘I’m gonna cut your head off and shove it up your ass.’ Then they go off on Slim [Lord’s current boyfriend] and trash him. You have to wonder how seriously we should take these people, because they’re considered a joke in this town.” Lord’s take on the whole Cobain affair is that history is history. “He got caught in a fuckin’ lie, and she probably made him think he has to do things like this to prove he loves her.”
This isn’t the only controversy Cobain’s been involved with recently. Earlier this year he sent an “open letter” to various magazines directing abuse at a Newsweek writer who had reported that Nirvana’s label Geffen hadn’t been pleased with Steve Albini’s production of their forthcoming album. (Reportedly the album has been remixed twice after Albini turned in his version.) And it was recently reported that Cobain had been arrested at home after a physical fight with Love over her objection to the presence of guns in the house. Cobain’s second fax to the Phoenix signs off with the cryptic note, “I’ve got three guns now, okay?”
If nothing else, the Phoenix faxes put a different slant on the feminist consciousness that Cobain has expressed in recent interviews and in the liner notes to Nirvana’s recent Incesticide. They also raise the question of whether a popular and successful couple like Cobain and Love wouldn’t have better things to do with their time (heard much about Love’s band Hole lately?). Meanwhile, is it mere coincidence that the Seattle label that’s releasing Lord’s forthcoming single is known as Kill Rock Stars?