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+ {Courtney Love}

The vehicle for controversial singer and celebrity actress, Courtney Love, she’s also known for being the former wife of NIRVANA’s Kurt Cobain. The fact that her career took off after the suicide of her grunge legend hubby on April 5, 1994, was mere coincidence, and there were rumours and even documentaries suggesting this and that. But nothing was ever proved. Naming her solo album “America’s Sweetheart” was somewhat ostentatious, but that was cocky Courtney, full of front and plenty of steel.
A social misfit and petty criminal since her mother and siblings emigrated to New Zealand leaving her, aged 8, in the custody of her stepfather, she subsequently ran away in 1980 to Portland, Oregon and worked as an underage exotic dancer. With a trust fund set up by her mother’s adoptive parents, Courtney travelled to Ireland and Liverpool, while later she returned to higher education at Portland University and the San Francisco Art Institute. It was in between these events and a short time as FAITH NO MORE’s singer, that she formed Sugar Babydoll, enlisting Kat Bjelland and Jennifer Finch (future BABES IN TOYLAND and L7 members respectively) to supersede Ursula Wehr and Robin Barbur. Courtney and lead guitarist Bjelland would later reunite in as Pagan Babies (alongside Janis Tanaka and Deirdre Schletter), but after laying down a 4-track demo cassette in December 1985, they too disbanded. Taking up acting, she appeared as Nancy Spungen’s best buddy in the 1986 punk-rock flick, Sid & Nancy and Straight To Hell (1987), another film also directed by Alex Cox. After popping up briefly in BABES IN TOYLAND, Love returned to stripping in bars in Oregon and, in turn, Anchorage, Alaska.
Formed late 1989, HOLE were L.A.’s answer to the grunge scene, a three-girl/one-boy combo and led by the lip-smacking blonde girl that was Courtney Love, a singer-songwriter/guitarist ready to take on the world in her own inimitable aplomb. Taking the simple moniker from a line in Euripides’ Medea, she placed an ad in a local paper, Flipside, finding tall guitarist and Capitol Records employee, Eric Erlandson; the bassist and drummer, namely Jill Emery (who superseded Lisa Roberts after four gigs) and Caroline Rue, joined almost immediately. Coincidentally and bizarrely enough, a two-piece indie band from Olympia going by the name Courtney Love (aka Lois Maffeo and Pat Maley) surfaced around the same time, although they fizzled out a few years and three 7” singles later.
In the summer of 1990, HOLE released the `Rat Bastard’ EP for the Sympathy For The Record Industry label, subsequently relocating to the Seattle area, where grunge was beginning to take its foothold in history. Not unlike SONIC YOUTH, LYDIA LUNCH or a screaming PATTI SMITH, the punk-fuelled 4-track record introduced singer Love to the world of rock music.
Fast forward a year, the seminal Sub Pop Records (home to NIRVANA) issued the `Dicknail’ 45; its flipside `Burnblack’ also not featured on their debut album for Caroline Records, PRETTY ON THE INSIDE (1991) {*6}. Produced by Kim Gordon (SONIC YOUTH) and Don Fleming (VELVET MONKEYS, ex-B.A.L.L., etc.), the record hit the lower regions of the US charts, while being voted Album Of The Year by New York’s Village Voice magazine. A harrowing primal howl of a record, Courtney’s demons were confronted mercilessly on such psyche-trawling, white-noise dirges as lead single `Teenage Whore’, `Good Sister – Bad Sister’ and a heavily-disguised cover of JONI MITCHELL’s `Clouds’; `Starbelly’ sampled NEIL YOUNG’s `Cinnamon Girl’, FLEETWOOD MAC’s `Rhiannon’ and the Pagan Babies’ `Best Sunday Dress’.
Around the same time, Love’s relationship with NIRVANA’s Kurt Cobain was the talk of the alternative rock world; the singer subsequently marrying him the following February, and duly giving birth to his daughter, Frances Bean, later that summer. In 1993, with a fresh rhythm section of Patty Schemel (drums) and Kristen Pfaff (bass); the latter having replaced Leslie Hardy after comeback 45, `Beautiful Son’, HOLE secured a deal with the David Geffen Company (`D.G.C.’), much to the dismay of MADONNA who wanted Courtney’s combo for her newly-founded Maverick label.
In April 1994, HOLE finally had a hit on their hands via near Top 50 (UK Top 20) album, LIVE THROUGH THIS {*8}. Its success however, was overshadowed by the shocking suicide of Kurt Cobain that same month. She subsequently held a memorial two days later, hailing everyone there to call him an asshole. The album itself was gritty and gutsy, boasting three UK hits, `Miss World’ starting the ball rolling. A cover of YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS’ `Credit In The Straight World’ was a shrewd move, while the grrrl-riotous `Plump’, `Rock Star’ and `Gutless’ were tempered by `Asking For It’ and `I Think That I Would Die’; the latter penned with the aforementioned Bjelland. Further press coverage followed later that summer when Pfaff was found dead in her bath on June 16; it was believed to be another tragic drug related death. Despite the press circus surrounding Love, HOLE played a rather subdued Reading Festival stint that August, her at times, lethargic vox letting some of the more discerning fans down (Evan Dando of The LEMONHEADS was rumoured to be her new boyfriend).
With a new bassist in place by way of Melissa Auf Der Maur, Love and Co scored two spawned UK hits, `Doll Parts’ and `Violet’; Courtney certainly back on top form with her incendiary Top Of The Pops performances; LYDIA LUNCH eat your heart out!?
Back in the news again, she was fined for assaulting BIKINI KILL’s Kathleen Hanna, Love and Schemel conversely taking three security guards to court following an alleged assault incident while signing autographs stage-front at a GREEN DAY concert in Lakefront Arena. Yet more column inches were devoted to the controversial singer in August ‘96, when Love was acquitted of an earlier stage assault on two teenage fans in Florida. Courtney played down her wild child character, exchanging the Seattle grunge mantle for a more respectable Hollywood career. This was largely down to her acclaimed roles in the movies, Feeling Minnesota (1995), Basquiat (1996) and more so with the controversial, The People Vs. Larry Flint; for the latter flick (starring Woody Harrelson), she won a handful of Best Supporting Actress Awards from the industry. On the recording front, only a lone version of FLEETWOOD MAC’s `Gold Dust Woman’ surfaced; it was included on the film soundtrack, The Crow II: City Of Angels.
In 1997, Courtney and Eric were once again writing new material, this time with Billy Corgan of SMASHING PUMPKINS, although a dispute by the parties concerned (over who wrote what bits) gave rise to subsequent tabloid news. The album in question, CELEBRITY SKIN (1998) {*7}, was worthy of its UK Top 10 placing, albeit a little toned-down commercialised for some, including her fellow Americans who failed to purchase it en masse. The influence of Corgan was evident on a number of songs (`Dying’, `Petals’ and the hit title track), but the band had struck gold via a triumvirate of other UK hits, `Malibu’ and `Awful’. The following November, Melissa bailed out of the band, and more shocking still was that she joined Courtney’s old mucker, Corgan, in SMASHING PUMPKINS. Parts in movies, 200 Cigarettes and Man On The Moon (both 1999), marked a great but rollercoaster decade for Courtney, while HOLE deposited another filmic track, `Be A Man’, to the Any Given Sunday soundtrack.
Now an established actress, she continued her quest for celluloid stardom in relatively low-key flicks such as Beat (2000), Julie Johnson (2001) and Trapped (2002). Love also entered a legal wrangle over her dead husband’s legacy once again as she tried to halt Chris Novoselic and Dave Grohl as they prepared to mix two new NIRVANA tracks and issue a “Best Of…” compilation. Opening the situation up to the press as well as the television media, Love sought even more attention by publically warring with the former NIRVANA team. However, it was all in vain as a settlement was agreed by both camps, leaving our favourite female rock’n’roll attention-seeker to direct her anger towards her own record company (whom she sued), before getting arrested over drug-related offences during 2002-03.
On the songwriting front, ex-4 NON BLONDES dame, Linda Perry, was recruited to shore up her long vaunted solo debut, the narcissistically-titled (and artfully illustrated) AMERICA’S SWEETHEART (2004) {*5}. But for opening salvo `Mono’ (the record’s sole UK chart representative) and the exception of `But Julian, I’m a Little Bit Older Than You’ and the emo-ballad `Hold On To Me’, the record’s grim grunge was a tad out of sync with the day’s nu-metal/alt-rock scene. Various court appearances and er… court non-appearances didn’t exactly make for a smooth promotional schedule, while underwhelming reviews helped relegate the album to the fringes of both the US and UK Top 50.
She was never far away from the tabloid spotlight, though, an alleged, short-lived romance with Radio Norwich’s star presenter Alan “a-ha” Partridge (alias comedian Steve Coogan) plastered all over Britain’s newspapers in August 2005 – rumours which were subsequently refuted by both parties. Battles with eating disorders and trips to rehab blighted her musical aspirations, but she was back with HOLE intact by 2010’s NOBODY’S DAUGHTER {*4}. Micko Larkin, Shawn Dailey and Stu Fisher filled out the band’s sound, while Perry and Corgan were called up on co-songwriting duties. Surprisingly, the record gave her biggest success in the States, clocking in at No.15, while the more discerning British public thought it only worthy of one week in the Top 50. With the exception of the title track, `Samantha’ and her own `Never Go Hungry’, the set was again stuck in a time capsule.
Over the years, HOLE have covered several songs, including `Over The Edge’ (WIPERS), `Do It Clean’ (ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN), `The Void’ (The RAINCOATS), `Hungry Like The Wolf’ (DURAN DURAN), `Season Of The Witch’ (DONOVAN), `He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)’ (Goffin-King) + `It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ (BOB DYLAN).
© MC Strong 1995-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Sep2012

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