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Nirvana: The Biography Paperback – March 13, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
True's history of the superstar 1990s band gets off to a rough start when he invokes the "live fast, die young" cliché and declares, "Kurt Cobain left one of the best-looking corpses around," perhaps not the most tasteful epitaph given the singer' s shotgun suicide. Subsequent chapters on Cobain' s early years are bogged down with interviews with just about anyone who ever met him, many with little apparent editing from the original transcripts. Fortunately, the pace picks up as Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl join the band, and the trio rocket to fame. True trades heavily on his role as one of the first music journalists to write about the Seattle scene, as well as his status as Cobain's "drunken English buddy" and an ambiguously close relationship with Courtney Love (he also takes credit for introducing the two to each other). His insider perspective, combined with a tighter control over the interview selection, brings thoughtful insight to Cobain's dramatic crash-and-burn. Yet though largely respectful, True is somewhat ambivalent, questioning the extent of Cobain's talent and openly wondering if Nirvana had any real influence on rock. His opinionated, idiosyncratic take on the band is sure to set tongues wagging and respark the debate over how things went so wrong for Cobain so fast. 32 pages of photos. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"A lot like Nirvana the band: fascinating, troubling...and flashes of brilliance that make it all worthwhile." -- Seattle Times, 4/5/07
"A monster piece of rock writing...For the dedicated music fan...It's not just a history of the band." -- Hartford Courant, 4/19/07
"Brisk writing propels the saga forward. As I can attest, even a casual Nirvana fan will be thoroughly reeled in." -- Oregonian, 4/29/07
"Fascinating...An alt-rock Great Gatsby with True as Nick Carraway and Kurt and Courtney as Tom and Daisy...Riveting." -- GQ, April 2007
"One outstanding virtue of True's book is his close attention to musical politics." -- New York Times Book Review, 5/6/07
"Smells like a good bio...True is true to Nirvana's past." -- New York Post, 4/8/07
"There's a bluntness to this emotional Nirvana text...and a sadness...that doesn't come off as saccharine to its subject." -- Harp, March/April 2007
"True manages to analyze successfully the Seattle grunge sound and put Nirvana and other grunge bands into their proper context." -- Library Journal, 3/1/07
"True...has a solid understanding of the band's artistic importance, not just as improbable unit-shifters or as a social phenomenon." -- Time Out Chicago, 3/29/07
Top customer reviews
At least True writes with a subjective focus that comes off far more objective than Azzerad's sickening propaganda piece in which he buys everything Courtney and Kurt have to say hook line and sinker. Azzerad is nothing more than a depressing example of how plain and lifeless the rolling stone voice has become. Those guys are "professional" journalists deployed to say little while somehow proving their dinosaur of a corporate rag has any relevance in the music scene beyond the next Justin Bieber cover. Even their "controversial" articles read as if an emotionless android penned them.
But enough about that. This book contains perspective unavailable in any of the other sucker pieces released to make a buck off cobain's demise. It is entertaining, thorough, and the first nirvana piece that I've read which actually leaves the reader with a true impression of the full thrill ride that occurred those crazy years when the world tried to change for the better. This is by far the best account of the nirvana story. The single criticism I have would be the same failing that all the biographies have: this is more a biography of Kurt than the band. It would be interesting to know more about Krist. Sure, we can read any number of books on Dave, but I think it apparent that there was far more to the bass player than history will ever tell. Oh well. Beyond that, it's an excellent read, True's somewhat pathetic self-glorification notwithstanding.
How's that for an English style left handed compliment?
Please don't take the 3 star review to mean this is not an enjoyable book. It is. I flew through its nearly 600 pages in a couple days and it was quite the page turner. But all of this "this is how it really was" talk seems kind of hard to believe. For starters, Mr. True was supposedly drunk all the time so it's hard to really believe he remembers facts from these events so long ago. Also, when Kurt and Courtney hook up, he takes on the annoying practice of referring to them as "Kurtney." The book doesn't mention Dave Grohl much at all, and a lot of his stories DO seem to be only to make you wish you were him. But hearing countless stories of waking up with vomit caked to your clothes, or being wasted everynight, or waking up naked in a strange apartment, really kind of kill that desire. He calls himself "the man who invented grunge" and a Legend.. and I have no love for such arrogance. In the introduction, he constantly gets off topic and then rights himself, saying "This is a book about Nirvana." I wish he did this DURING the book himself. Wasting countless pages on Calvin Johnson, Mudhoney, and Melvins worship.
Another problem with the book is the sheer amount of errors of things we could actually prove (events recorded for all to see.) Mistakes are that Lori Goldston played cello with the band on Saturday Night Live in '93. Mistakes are messing up the order of events for the Dallas 10-19-91 show. Or the setlist for numerous shows. He'll say a song was played 12th ("More than a Feeling/Teen Spirit") at Reading '92 when it was really 13th (14th if you count "The Rose.") Nothing huge, but why bother reporting 12th? He says they played "Floyd" 4-9-93 when they didn't. The order of songs for 7-23-93 are all messed up. There are mistakes for other shows, but others where Everett turned out to be correct.
You really get the feeling he is writing all of this from memory and not trying to track down the facts first. You get this impression because of the above errors (like saying "I Hate Myself and Want to Die" from the Beavis and Butt-head Compilation was from a Brazil session, when it wasn't.) You also get the impression because he quotes people a handful of times with his own British terminology thrown in. He has Kurt saying "postman" when Americans call him "mailman." Again, not a serious thing, but it's hard to believe he is actually "quoting" people when he'll admit not having the tape on during a 15-16 year old interview.
Everett says Nirvana were possibly late to Reading '92 because of a show the previous day in another country/area. It's easy to prove there was no such show. He doesn't correct people that make mistakes either. Jack Endino says at the late Oct '92 session he did with the band, that Frances Bean was 2-3 weeks old. In reality it was over 2 months. He said Kurt's mom put out the 'missing persons' report on him, but it was really Courtney using her name. He said MTV didn't even air Unplugged until after Kurt died, which isn't true. It was originally aired on 12-16-93. He said the controversy over "In Utero"'s commerciality ended when a few songs were mixed and some of the "noisier" songs "removed"!! I really wish I kept a list of thing like this throughout reading the book, because right now I'm drawing a blank on some others.
When it gets to Kurt's mysterious and controversial death, it doesn't pull the argument much one way or the other. Cali, the male nanny, has a much bigger role in this book. His relationship with Kurt and Courtney is more established and explained. It's strange, though, after 2-3 doctors at the rehab facility Kurt fled say they didn't find him suicidal, and one day (or later on the same day) that Cali's friend talks to him in a supposedly great mood, Kurt kills himself without much warning. The Rome "suicide" note is mentioned. Courtney's overall shadiness is discussed. Her affair with Billy Corgan is mentioned. Her demands on Kurt to make money and her inability to meet him in Europe until a few weeks late is troubling. Not to mention Kurt OD'ing in Rome the same night Courtney finally arrives. It also paints a picture of her as setting out to conquer Kurt. And how he went hardcore into heroin when she came upon the scene. A lot of time is spent on when Kurt and Courtney met. Where a few contradicting stories are told and nothing really established. He DOES point out Courtney's motive for saying she met him way earlier then she did.. being she didn't want to be seen as a golddigger or riding on his coattails. Well, she was.
Maybe this book IS the truth. Maybe Nirvana's story is this dark and unfortunate. How Kurt ever got it together to play a show after hearing all this, is truly something to wonder about. But little is talked about in regards to Kurt's relationship with his band members. Dave is almost non-existant, and it pretty much shows Krist having washed his hands of Kurt after the recording of "In Utero." Some stories make no sense and video evidence refutes a handful of these things. But I still recommend this book to all Nirvana fans who read the Azzerad and Cross books. It fills in holes and is probably closer to the truth than most. You just have to overlook Everett's placing of himself in many scenes and take the "quotes" with a grain of salt. It's a fun page turner that any fan of the band would love. This exposes more like on the darkness of Kurt's mind in reaction to fame and major lable committments, but you still feel like the complete story is still out there somewhere.