First feature for Dom Haley’s new site Wrecking Shop
May 2001, and the soundtrack to our collective common room days spent feigning hard work and forcing friendships was ‘Do You Really Like It’, by DJ Pied Piper. It was pumped through the sticker-clad JVC speakers as frequently as neat vodka was guzzled on Hammersmith green and weed seeds were fruitlessly chewed in chemistry lessons.
Back when I was a sixteen-year-old misfit in May 2001, I chose Courtney Love as the subject for my G.C.S.E English Language essay. Because they wanted something on ‘idols’, so I threw up an unholy sludge of word vomit and called it an exam paper. The central theme of ‘haterz gonna hate’ (proto-meme, obvs) was etched into a gushing biography of Courtney’s life as viewed through my awe-stricken eyes. I wrote about her addiction, misadventures, tragedies and of course, well-documented controversies (she is, after all, “the most controversial woman in the history of rock,” according to Rolling Stone). I wrote about the time she read a Sylvia Plath poem (‘Daddy‘ or ‘Lady Lazarus’) at her audition for The Mickey Mouse Club, aged 12, and I argued that she was both a scapegoat and a victim of an oppressive patriarchal society that castigates outspoken, sexually forthright women (especially those with guitars). Well, that’s what I was trying to say, but I’m not sure it quite came out like that. (The legendary Patty Schemel really nails it in this piece for Spin (“…being a feminist, and then being known as Mrs. Kurt?”)
Fast forward thirteen years – give or take a week or two – and I’m getting ready to walk ten minutes down the road to a café where Courtney Love is playing. It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in Clapton, and I feel like I’ve downed a barrel of Tesco Kick. I have no idea what to expect, but wedged in my consciousness are these recurring questions; why am I STILL getting heart palpitations over this gravel-voiced firebrand and, will it be a total cringefest?
Because – and I may have jumped in a few years later – but Hole’s second LP ‘Live Through This’, released in 1994, took me by the hand and pulled me from the wreckage of adolescence with unswerving strength. It was a document of survival, and one of searing rage, which for an anguished teenage girl like myself, was pop catharsis of the most edifying kind. When Courtney screamed, so did I. The record also became her very own cathartic release, owing to the proximity of Kurt’s untimely death.
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