The effect Nirvana had on me cannot be overstated. It was as if all my fears, anxieties and secret, unladylike thoughts were piped from my brain to Kurt’s where they poured from his heart through his rough, scraggly voice. Their music made me feel mad and sad and connected to a world bigger, brighter and darker than the suburban landscape I was so familiar with. It was my love of Nirvana that led me to make friends outside of middle school which helped me avoid the pitfalls of teenage conformity and unrelenting inertia. I would wander the school halls like a zombie listening to Nirvana, writing out lyrics, huddled in hidden staircases or the far corner of the soccer field daydreaming about a place where empathy and aggression and boredom were prosaic and not to be hidden but celebrated.
Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle is one of my favourite Nirvana songs from In Utero. It is about Frances Farmer, a famous actress from Seattle who was involuntarily committed to a mental institute where she was repeatedly mistreated and reported the recipient of an unwarranted lobotomy. A lot of Nirvana-philes, see this song as one of many inklings from In Utero, that Kurt would attempt to take his own life. I imagine Kurt saw a lot of similarities between himself and Frances Farmer.
In her false witness, we hope you’re still with us,
To see if they float or drown
My favorite patient, a display of patience,
Disease-covered Puget Sound.
I imagined myself a lot like Frances Farmer and Kurt. I hated my family and their unwillingness to understand who I was or what I wanted from life. I felt squeezed into a mould of a person I did not want to be. I didn’t want to go to church anymore. I didn’t want to see my old friends. I didn’t want anything to do with my old life. I would just sit in my room and listen to my music on repeat, dreaming of a life where there were more people like me. It was all oh so melodramatic and overindulgent and unnecessary. But as an over-emotional, nihilistic teen with traditional Indian parents there was bound to be a few land mines as we found our way to coexistence.
Frances Farmer will Have Her Revenge on Seattle makes me think of sitting in my psychiatrist’s waiting room with my dad as he flipped through Highlights for Children Magazine and wondering if I was adopted. I remember the receptionist would not let me listen to my Discman in the waiting room so I always gave it to her when we checked in. I would watch her from my seat reciting song lyrics in my head and imagine punching her in the face, kicking her repeatedly, spitting on her and just generally torturing her for doing her job.
It’s so relieving
To know that you’re leaving as soon as you get paid
It’s so relaxing
To hear that you’re asking whenever you get your way
This song reminds me of Kurt’s suicide note, in particular the part where he says, “I just love and feel sorry for people too much, I guess.” Such simple words written so lackadaisical and so straightforward. It cuts to the core. How can you be happy when you feel too much? How can you move on when you can’t let go of regret? How can you accomplish anything when you feel the weight of expectations, disappointments and negativity from people you don’t even know?
I guess Kurt’s answer was you don’t. R.I.P. Kurt, thanks for changing the world and my life in particular.
Rock and roll is here to stay
It’s better to burn out
Than to fade away.