The above photograph appeared on the Web a couple of years ago, a snapshot by Charles Peterson taken on the streets of San Francisco in 1990 (probably), myself walking with Kurdt and Krist from Nirvana, Sub Pop label boss Bruce Pavitt just in the frame. I have puzzled over this image: how did I come to be there (travelled down the East Coast on an Amtrak train with the Sub Pop dudes to catch the latest instalment in the Tad/Nirvana double-headliner tour) what were we talking about (music certainly – or japes), where were we on the way to (the gig, probably – or perhaps a cheap taco-based meal), what time of year was it (winter, from the look of our coats); did we get on (looks like it)… the reality is, I don’t recall anything. Recognise anyone (I’m suprised at how long my hair is). Often, I can remember places by smells – vapour trails in the sky. I can taste the coldness in the air (or perhaps rain), my bone-core excitement at being in the legendary San Francisco (where I became friends with Dale Crover and Debbie Shane, my go-to floor). I can recall being overwhelmed on those early visits to America – the skyscrapers, the ready availability of superhero and underground comics, the caverns of vinyl, the sidewalks, the notion that musicians and label people were just as excited to meet me as I was them, treated me like a kind of rock star. I can taste all that on my tongue still, if I strain hard. Maybe it never existed, maybe it’s been part of a fantasy I have been living out for 30 years now. It’s an OK fantasy if that’s the case. The sweat, the volume of sound, the stamina, the serendipity. Feeling natural, feeling myself, feeling like I did not need to parade a persona to get by… man, that was important. The coffee, the Mexican beer. I can taste all that, just. The actual events? No.
My mum has Alzheimer’s (or similar), has not been able to recognise anyone or form sentences for years. I think with me it’s more straightforward: Denial.
This one is from a Fluid gig, Seattle 1989. You can see me staring straight into the camera lens; you can also spot Bob Whittaker (Mudhoney, R.E.M. tour manager), Mark Arm, Kurt Danielson… I remember the haircut, indoor Pike Place Market right next to a comic book store (possibly Newbury?), cut cruelly short to differentiate myself from all around. This must be the show where I first saw Nirvana play live, pre-Bleach (disclaimer: I didn’t really like them) and also played live in America for the first time, myself.
Here’s a set list I found earlier. Surprisingly, it doesn’t mention ‘Do Nuts’ but perhaps I didn’t play that song at the show, after all:
I mention all this because these days most commonly it feels like I never existed at all.
Buy the books:
The Electrical Storm (Grunge, My Part In Its Downfall)
Ed Sheeran Is Shit (and other Major Musical Malfunctions)
Paypal £13 to firstname.lastname@example.org