Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Axl Rose / Kurt Cobain

It's well-documented that the two icons desperately hated each other, and as the two biggest groups of the early '90s — they were Often pitted as rivals. The British music weekly New Music Express, once called Nirvana "the Guns N' Roses it's okay to like" (apparently, NME perceives every popular American band exactly the same). The groups even got into a minor shoving match at the 1992 MTV Music Awards, although that altercation can probably be blamed on Courtney Love's hypocritical idiocy.

Axl initially loved Nirvana (he wore a Nirvana baseball cap in the "Don't Cry" video and wanted Nirvana to serve as the opener for the ill-fated '92 Metailica/Guns tour), but Cobain essentially thought Rose was a doofus, so Axl decided Kurt was a queer (or a poseur, or a pretentious asshole, or some damn thing that he probably would never say now that Cobain is dead). But these two guys share a lot of similarities — certainly more than either was ever willing to recognize. Besides strikingly similar facial features and an overlapping audience, they both offered an image that specifically appealed to lost kids with inexplicable rage, Axl did this first, and his tools were hostility and confusion, Cobain came a few years later, and he used personal angst and sexual tolerance (ultimately, Kurt's methods proved to be more effective).

Comparing the two men is kind of like comparing a black-and-white photo with its negative – both are totally opposite, yet they're completely the same. What they shared is a human element; they seemed real. There was a certain depth to their character. Granted, this is partially due to their popularity; when the media covers a rock band, they really only cover the vocalist, so singers from the most popular bands always have more opportunities to seem interesting (the third person to follow in this lineage was Eddie Vedder, and for many of the same reasons). But this process works both ways. During their first months in the spotlight, there was something about Rose and Cobain (and, to a lesser extent, Vedder and Trent Reznor) that made me want to know more about them. It was an undefined fascination that I did not feel for people like Tom Keifer or Dave Pirner; though I liked Cinderella and Soul Asylum very much, my interest did not go too far beyond the musical product. Almost instantaneously, Axl Rose came across darker, more dangerous, and more credible than his peers. That's partially to his credit and partially due to my own naivete. He put himself in a position where I could comfortably lionize him. Rose was hard rock's equivalent to U2's Bono.

-Chuck Klosterman, 2002

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