Inside Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love’s punk-rock romance
When Nirvana’s “Nevermind” dethroned Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” from the top of the charts in January 1992, Kurt Cobain was effectively crowned the new king of rock. And the following month, he officially had a queen when he married Courtney Love – 30 years ago now, on February 24, 1992, on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii.
But, in true punk-rock fashion, it wasn’t exactly a royal wedding: The bride – who fell pregnant with daughter Frances Bean four months after they started dating – wore a white satin and lace gown which was previously owned by tragic actress (and Cobain muse) Frances Farmer. The groom wore green and white flannel pajamas for a party of eight guests, including his Nirvana bandmate Dave Grohl.
“Well, they were both pretty unconventional people,” Charles R. Cross, author of the 2001 book “Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain,” told The Post. “I think the idea of marriage in a church… I couldn’t imagine that happening in a billion years.”
Blessed by the grunge gods, it was a union that would go down in music history. Sadly, their romance would end in tragedy when Cobain killed himself just over two years later on April 5, 1994. But despite all of their issues — from drug addiction to allegations of domestic abuse — there was plenty of love in road course.
“Kurt Cobain chose Courtney Love, and Courtney Love chose Kurt Cobain,” Cross said. “No matter how flawed they were at times as individuals, they were two people who loved each other.”
And when they said those vows, they meant them — and didn’t apologize to the doubters who predicted a difficult future for the couple.
“I was going, ‘Yeah, I know what’s gonna happen,'” Love told Rolling Stone of their tumultuous life together in a 1994 interview after Cobain’s death. “I don’t care – – k. I like this guy. My prince on a fucking white horse.
Alliance of Strangers
Cobain and Love had their fateful first meeting on January 12, 1990, at Satyricon nightclub in Portland, Oregon, where Nirvana played their first gig. They would eventually spend more time together when Nirvana traveled to Los Angeles to record “Nevermind” in the spring of 1991, since Love lived near the Van Nuys studio where the band was making their album. Love, who was friends with Grohl at first, even went with him and Cobain to see Madonna’s doc “Truth or Dare” on a platonic outing.
But they took their flirty friendship to the next level one night later in 1991, during a Nirvana show at Chicago’s Metro. Love, who was dating Billy Corgan at the time, flew there to be with the Smashing Pumpkins frontman. “She found out Billy was with another woman, so she left and she knew Nirvana was in town,” said SiriusXM Volume West host Lyndsey Parker.
Sparks flew between Love and Cobain after the Nirvana show, when they finally met and began their romance. “Within five minutes of her walking into the locker room, she was sitting on Kurt’s lap,” Parker said.
Cobain was attracted to Love as a woman who was his equal and pair with his own band – Love’s band Hole debuted with the album ‘Pretty on the Inside’ a week before the release of ‘Nevermind ” in September 1991.
“Kurt was very feminist…and I think he was very attracted to a strong woman,” Parker said. “She had a very strong personality. She was already something of a polarizing figure. I think he was attracted to a tough woman with no bulls–t… He could have dated whoever was the hot supermodel, and he went with this scruffy punk-rock girl.
But Cobain and Love bonded for more than music. “Courtney once said something to me that I think really assumed one of the reasons they bonded: She said Kurt knew what government cheese tasted like,” Cross said. “In a way, I think what she was saying…is that there was a traumatic connection. They had both had a rather difficult upbringing. They had both been strangers. And even though they both had creative ambitions and were both on their way to fame…living in poverty and growing up in neglect, which they both had [done]I think the way they bonded cannot be overstated.
But, drugs – especially heroin – were a destructive force in their relationship.
“Granted, Kurt was into drugs before he met Courtney,” Cross said. “He had already broken up with basically two girlfriends who didn’t want to hang out with him because of his drug use. And for Courtney, the decision to be with Kurt was in some ways a difficult decision for her because she was trying to avoid this life… You know, Kurt suffered from a pretty serious addiction. Besides that, there were two other things that cannot be underestimated. There were the chronic pain issues he had with both his stomach and his back. And then the third problem was that he was clearly suffering from depression.
In 1992, a controversial Vanity Fair article claimed that Love had used heroin during her pregnancy with Frances Bean. Although she initially denied, saying she quit heroin as soon as she found out she was pregnant, the couple temporarily lost custody of their daughter. But in the 2015 documentary “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,” Love admitted, “I used it once, then I quit. I knew it would be fine.
Then, in 1993, there was a domestic dispute that made headlines when Cobain was arrested by Seattle police for allegedly assaulting Love during a gun fight in the house. No charges were filed, however, and the case was dismissed.
But while Cobain and Love were at times at war — with each other and with themselves — there was also tremendous tenderness between them. They even left each other all sorts of love notes in all sorts of forms.
“It was things like written on the back of an envelope or a fax sent to a hotel or Post-Its,” Cross said. “And a lot of those things have been saved. These guys weren’t crazy cleaners, and the notes Kurt had written on the back of an envelope might still be there a year and a half later. And you know, some of it was kept for posterity – they were both very aware that they were making history.
Nirvana released its “Nevermind” sequel, “In Utero”, in September 1993, and Cross argues that you can hear Love’s influence on this album. “I think Courtney made Kurt a better lyricist,” he said. “And I think Kurt made Courtney a better riff writer. And in some ways it was a competition.
While they pushed each other musically, Love and Cobain weren’t always able to provide the same kind of positive influence when it came to getting — and staying — sober.
“You have two drug addicts, but their addictions and desires didn’t always match,” Cross said. “It’s not really fair to say who was the worst drug addict. But Kurt’s addictions, unfortunately, ran deeper than anyone else around him.
In March 1994, Cobain overdosed on painkillers in his Rome hotel room and fell into a coma. After recovering from this, Love helped arrange an intervention for him and he went to rehab. But Cobain left rehab early, returned to Seattle, and committed suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on April 5, 1994. His last words to Love? “No matter what, you made a great album,” he said of Hole’s “Live Through This,” released April 12, exactly a week after his death.
There were those who blamed Love for Cobain’s downfall after his death. There were even conspiracy theories suggesting she had him murdered somehow.
“I’m extremely upset when anyone blames her in any way for his death…whether it’s the more general feeling that they think she drove him to suicide because she made him miserable right down to weird conspiracy theories,” Parker said.
Later in 1994, Love mused about losing his “prince on a goddamn white horse” to Rolling Stone: “I felt like crying for him was really selfish because it would make him feel guilty. And the best thing to do was to pray for him and show him joy, so he could feel the vibration of joy. But now I know it has dissipated, and gone. nothing.