Editors note: The following letter was passed on to THE ROC by Lee Ballinger at Rock & Rap Confidential. On that dark Friday in April when we learned that Kurt Cobain was gone there were many emotional reactions. We salute Kurt Loder, John Norris, and MTV for their sensitive and delicate handling of this tragic situation, by suspending regular programming with tributes to Cobain and Nirvana. Sadly though, not all people demonstrated such compassion on this day. One such case was the kooky, rock-bashing radio evangelist BOB LARSON on his syndicated daily radio program from Denver. Before the smell of gun powder had cleared the air in Seattle, Larson, like a circling vulture zeroed in with cheap shots, insults and generalizations about rock music, all accompanied with his begging for those $100 and $1000 contributors to his ministry. I, as one who also heard his radio show that Friday afternoon can only say, "If this is what being a "Christian" is all about, I'm glad I'm not, nor will I ever be one. " We present the letter sent by Duncan Clark, I don't think I could say it any better. -J.W.-
KURT COBAIN 1967-1994
Got stuck in traffic the Friday Kurt Cobain's body was found. I flipped from station to station desperately trying to find some Nirvana, with predictable results. DJ's in south-central Pennsylvania apparently lack the freedom to respond to a major artist's death by playing a couple of his tunes--God forbid the hallowed market-tested playlist gets violated by an impromptu moment of remembrance.
After running from one end of the dial to the other a few times, I caught "Lithium"--only to have it harshly interrupted by the high, jittery whine of Bob Larson. You know, the anti-rock lunatic Christian with the syndicated radio call-in show? The body hadn't even been officially identified, and Larson's gloat-fest was already defiling the airwaves. The message was predictable: rock & roll means drugs means death. Kurt's suicide wrapped it in a neat little package for Bob, and the pleasure with which he savored the details was practically sexual. I spun the dial in anger.
Later, still in quest for a shot of Nirvana, I found Larson preaching about "...his anti-establishmentarianism, his rebellion, his rejection of society's constructs..." Who's he talking, I wondered; Jesus? Uh, no... Kurt Cobain. (Gee, Bob; if Kurt's death represented the moral bankruptcy of our society like you say, then wasn't he right to rebel against society? Just asking.) While I don't have much sympathy for the fools who call to argue with Larson, I found myself rooting for an indignant Nirvana fan who kept sarcastically reciting. "Bob? Bob? Hello, Bob? You just don't get it, do you Bob?"
Eventually, I gave up on my fruitless airwave search and settled for listening to Larson recite from the "In Utero" lyric sheet. Despite his derisive tone and brilliant commentary (which consisted of sneering "O-kay!" at the end of each couplet) it was the best radio had to offer me. Even in Bob's mouth, Kurt's words left me marveling for his gift for giving shape to doubts and loathings and fears so deep they almost defied language. Some people thought his stuff was mere nonsense, but for me, his apparent absurdities rattled me over and over with the shock of recognition; he put words to the things I felt, the things I had treated as inexpressible. Larson distilled his opinion of the lyrics in a final verdict "Total stupidity! Yeah, well maybe I'm dumb. Or maybe just happy.
Kurt Cobain's agonizing self-doubt was all over his music, but his passion, and his wryness, and his band, combined to transcend it. From what I've read, there was nothing transcendent in his suicide note, which was also wracked with self-doubt. Rock and roll has established itself as adult music by tackling adult themes; yet Nirvana hit me hard because Kurt proved to me that profound doubt and self-loathing and lack of perspective--all that adolescent shit--are things we carry with us forever, something that age just complicates rather than erases.
Most of us overcome a good bit of it, and learn to live with what's left; some of us, like Kurt, don't. Or like Bob Larson, whose insufferable glibness, self-aggrandizement, false sentiment, wide-eyed fascination with the silliest occult lore, and basic rudeness are all adolescent to the core. Except that Bob, like anyone who treats a different opinion as a threat, hates and fears everybody not on his side. You can bet he avoids digging up the scary stuff that Nirvana smeared all over the place, because he dreads that if he does so, he might someday see himself in one of these rock fans who calls in to point out that rock speaks to despair, rather than causes it.