(This essay borrows heavily from a longer piece written in the year 2000. I updated it a bit, and though I do explore my thoughts on creativity its main focus is the genesis of my Dave Grohl fixation, a topic my readers have learned much about over the course of this blog. Enjoy.)
Part of what inspires me is studying creative people. I am quite obsessed with Foo Fighters, so I have developed a taste for all things Dave Grohl. My Nirvana fixation came after I had devoted myself, heart and soul, to Dave. I always hated Nirvana. I mean, I really hated them with a red-hot burning passion. I despised that they were supposed to be the spokespeople for my generation, at least, that’s what the media told us they were. I never could understand why that was. I was not from Seattle, I did not wear flannel, and I wasn’t a junkie. Yeah, I was depressed and bored and dissatisfied with my life, but it was all me. I didn’t have an unstable family life, I wasn’t on drugs or drinking (well, I was not an alcoholic–yet) or being abused by anyone; I had no one to blame for my unhappiness but myself. I objected to people constantly incriminating other people—parents, friends, society, media—to explain their fucked-up situation. Being Serbian, I take responsibility for my life. My family is the most important thing in my life, and I realize how lucky I am to have been raised so well—not everyone can be proud of where they come from. But my family cannot be at fault for my behavior as an adult. No matter how messed up your life was when you were growing up, when you are grown you make your own decisions, and you pay the consequences. It is nobody’s responsibility to see that you are on the right track; that is part of being a mature, responsible human being. Your family should always look out for you, of course, but whose fault is it if you wind up in jail or rehab? Who made you do the things you did to get there?
Anyway—Nirvana. So I have been reading up, and now that I am a wiser, older lady, I can be more objective. I just do not like having my culture force-fed to me. Punk is supposed to be about thinking for yourself and being an individual—I don’t want to be told what to like or think or wear, and I certainly don’t want other people to speak for me. And Nirvana definitely believed in that. They never bought into the hype either, and Dave Grohl said many years ago that he just doesn’t believe in the Nirvana myth. They were most concerned with making good music, period. For whatever reason, they were chosen as the poster boys for grunge, for this new, alternative sound, this neo-punk revolution. And they were the first to admit that there were so many other good bands, so many people who came before them that should have been given equal or greater attention. All they really wanted to do was to make music and have enough money to eat—they never wanted all the shit that came along. Kurt Cobain was really more of a poet than anything, kind of like Jim Morrison, but they both had undeniable charisma and audiences and journalists just ate it up! Even when their performances sucked, it was still better than not having seen them at all.
So when I started reading about these guys I felt so jealous that they got to be artists for a living. And to me, being a musician, actually writing music, is the ultimate in art, it is the most amazing creative outlet there is. I mean, writing words and painting pictures and all that, that obviously takes an imagination and inspiration, but to create new sound, I mean, shit—how the fuck do you do that? When I heard that Dave Grohl wrote all the songs, sang, and played all the instruments on the first Foo Fighters album, I was just blown away! That is just fucking crazy! To be that talented, to have that much genius, that much motivation, it just awes me. I, too, have dreams of excessive talent and fecundity, of being expressive in every way possible, to write, act, sing, speak, run for office, to model and make documentaries, to be all the things I ever wanted to be, but not so I can be rich and famous—though that would be nice—but because I just need to do these things. That is the essence of creativity, the burning need to express. That may sound cheesy, but it’s the truth. Creative people don’t do things just because they think it’s fun; there has to be a real desire, a real aching to get something out. There doesn’t necessarily have to be anything tortured or ugly in one’s soul that inspires a person to be artistic. Paul McCartney is a good example of that. And so is Dave Grohl. You don’t have to be fucked up, but it doesn’t hurt!
I’m not usually the kind of person who likes one song by a group and then buys everything they ever recorded, but that is what I did with Foo Fighters. Actually, I liked “Learn to Fly,” loved the video, thought Dave was massively do-able, so I broke down and bought their third album, There is Nothing Left to Lose. I wasn’t sure if I would like any of the other songs, since I never really listened to them before. I knew Dave was Nirvana’s drummer, so why would I bother with his new group? They had been on David Letterman a million times—they’re his fave rave—and I probably always turned the channel when they were on. I remembered the Mentos satire they did for their “Big Me” video, but didn’t know what the name of the song was. I remembered when Dave had a goatee and I remember not really thinking about him or the band. Things have been very different for the past 13 years. The first day I bought There is Nothing Left to Lose I listened to it six times, and then at least two or three times every day for about two or three weeks after that. I was in love!
Still, I was hesitant to buy any of their other stuff, as I didn’t recognize any of the song titles, so the first time I considered doing that, I didn’t. I knew if I heard some of those songs I would probably remember them, but I didn’t know if I would like them, so I didn’t buy anything else. I listened to the one I had at least a hundred times before I finally broke down and bought their first two—and, in the same day, all the CD import singles I could find. Soon after, I had the X-Files soundtracks they appeared on, a couple of their videos on tape, the making of “Breakout” from MTV, their performance on David Letterman’s first show back after his heart surgery…I was about to have it all!!! It was expensive, but I didn’t care—they represent some important times in my life, periods where I had to make some changes and do what was important to me as a person and an artist. I don’t care how lame that sounds—they really have meant a lot to me over the years, and they were and are helping me deal with shit; they are the best. And I’m not even done yet! I didn’t even know what was going on with me back then, but I knew it was time for me to get off my fucking lazy, whiny ass and do something. I am at another such crossroads as I quickly approach age 40. I know that I have nothing to lose except my future and my happiness. I don’t want to be mediocre.
One really cool thing I discovered about Nirvana during my study all those years ago was the way they supported and promoted other bands they liked and/or were influenced by. So I started listening to Bikini Kill and the Melvins, and I was fairly surprised by myself. I liked that stuff quite a lot. I am very open-minded, but I don’t want to say that I like someone’s music just because I think I should, just because someone I think is hot likes them. I am not sure what sparked my interest in the Sex Pistols almost 20 years ago, but I am grateful to whatever it was. I read John Lydon’s autobiography—delicious!—and saw the Pistols on their reunion tour in 1996. This, I think, is what made liking Nirvana easier for me. I love punk, I love the whole aesthetic, the philosophy, the attitude, the music. I used to think of myself as punk when I was in elementary school—I had spiked hair, I wore mismatched earrings, lots of jewelry, and I was, for an eleven-year-old, pretty much of a freak. At least, I looked like one. I was the only one in my school who looked weird—I am very glad that my parents didn’t let me go as far as I wanted to, like coloring my hair and wearing make-up and slutty clothes. My Mom wouldn’t even let me go see Madonna’s concert when she came to Cleveland. I was pissed, but I am grateful that they put restrictions on me yet still let me express myself to a degree.
The reason I started dressing that way in the first place was because there was an episode of Silver Spoons where Ricky Schroder went punk, so I had to do it too since he was my future ex-husband at the time. I loved the attention I got, positive and negative—I didn’t care, as long as I was noticed. I wore a lot of jewelry: ten or twelve necklaces at a time, my right arm covered up to the elbow in black rubber bracelets, my left just as covered with colored rubber bracelets and assorted junk jewelry and chains I’d find around. I was known as “Mrs. T.” throughout the school, and I could not have loved it more! I worked in the lunchroom, usually selling milk (more people bought milk than ice cream, so I chose that station more often—more people, more attention, more notoriety!), and when the kindergarteners had lunch I could sit with them while they ate. They loved me, they were fascinated—I was very colorful. They used to like to play with my stuff, try on my jewelry. And they called me Mrs. T., too. It was my first brush with fame.
So, back from this tangent—I never really thought of Nirvana as a punk band. I wasn’t really into punk at that time anyway—I mean, I like anyone who pisses off the masses, I like people who do whatever the fuck they want without regard for the supposed norm that has been spoon-fed most Americans since birth, and I like people who are fucked up. I just wasn’t very studied in the history of punk, of why it had to happen, and why we should all be thankful for it. Since I am now much more in tune with the music and the significance of the punk movement (if anarchists can technically be part of a movement), and since I know a lot more about Nirvana and where they came from, culturally and musically, I can appreciate their contribution much more, I can listen to them as a punk band and not as the pop sensation (though they were that, too) they became and dreaded. They liked that fans were able to buy their records—that’s the only reason they signed with a major label, you know—but they despised that, with mass appeal, they had become the very thing they were supposed to be against, corporate rock, mainstream, teeny-bopper faves. Not that their music reflected that, not that they actually were those things, but just the whole idea of fame and mega-stardom was so overwhelming, so repulsive in so many ways. A lot of their fans just didn’t get it, they were jokes, they were guys who would’ve kicked Kurt’s ass if they met him in a bar. And a lot of other people were just jumping on the bandwagon. There are always going to be people who like groups because they are considered popular. I mean, how do groups reach such a level, how do they become icons so quickly? I think a lot of people just need something to be attached to, they need to have a diversion, and celebrities provide a very cheap fix. I am certainly guilty of idol worship, but I truly do love the artistic natures of those I adore, I really do concern myself as much with what they create as I do with them as people. And I have never been one to be interested in someone or something because it is trendy. There were certainly other people in my elementary school who liked Cyndi Lauper and Madonna, but I was the only one who expressed it the way I did, I was the only one who physicalized my worship.
I was never really into all the hair bands, I never thought those guys were sexy—I thought they were stupid. Why the hell would I want to be with a guy who used more hairspray and make-up than I do? I might as well date RuPaul if I want that! There were groups I liked, like Def Leppard, Ratt, Twisted Sister, and Quiet Riot, but they weren’t as trashy as the other groups. I mean, I know they screwed groupies and took drugs or whatever, but they were not just those stereotypical big-haired freaks who owed their entire careers to Aqua Net, you know? I liked Twisted Sister and Ratt despite the make-up and stuff, but I liked them because they had a sense off humor about their look, they weren’t poseurs, they were cool guys. Dee Snider has always been an idol for me, he’s just a real man, he is intelligent, he doesn’t bullshit you, and that is refreshing to see in rock ’n’ roll—that’s why I love Dave Grohl so much. I don’t like the people you could never imagine going out and having a beer with, people who have handlers and publicists and flunkies to wipe their asses three times a day. I think that’s all so much bullshit, and so anti rock ’n’ roll. I am glad there are still a few regular-guy rock stars out there, people who aren’t afraid to be in public, who actually like to talk to fans—and not just fuck them—and who show humility. I am really into that, the people who have grand talents, extreme wealth, great power, but who still have their moms take them to get a wisdom tooth pulled. I love when they acknowledge that every member of the band is equally important, that the lead singer is not the only one worthy of praise. Humility and sincerity like that is irresistible, and it comes across in the music and lyrics. I think music is about life and death. I think rock ’n’ roll is a rebellious expression of boredom, of a fear of mass complacency. Every generation is rebellious and wants to change what their parents did, every generation fucks up the generation that comes after them, and that’s just the way things are. Rock came along and helped a lot of people deal with their shit, it helped a lot of people get through life—rock ’n’ roll never killed anyone. It didn’t kill Kurt Cobain, it didn’t kill Elvis, it didn’t kill Sid Vicious. If you’re self-destructive it doesn’t matter what your job is, or whether you’re famous or not. Rock ‘n’ roll can save your life, but only if you let it.