Was Kurt Cobain’s death the end of rock as a radical force?

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21 November
17:55
November
2016

It would be premature to say that rock is dead. The fact that it’s so hopeless at the minute might mean that it’s up for grabs. However, as far as I’m concerned, 1991 was pretty much the peak point, and the end of rock as a radical force: when My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’ and Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ were released. I don’t see that people have gone much beyond that within the form. By the mid 90s rock was thirty years old and a lot of the ground work has been done.

The death of Kurt Cobain was a very, very shocking event, a terrible act, inexplicable to most people, except perhaps, in terms of drug addiction, family history, and personal disturbance, all of which are not our province to talk about.

“I don't want everymen or everywomen in pop music. That’s not what it’s about.”

But there is quite a lot to talk about in terms of its cultural significance. There is a part of me that thinks that this tortured, traumatic story kind of ripped the heart out of any idea that rock could be radical any more. I don't know if I’m right, and it might have coincided with other forces that made it impossible for rock to continue to be radical.

After the death of Kurt Cobain we had Britpop which was was not radical at all. It may have been a lot of fun, but it wasn’t radical formally. I don't want everymen or everywomen in pop music. That’s not what it’s about. I don't want somebody who totally reflects the audience. That’s not the point. Britpop also coincided with High Fidelity and the Nick Hornby cult, which is also the cult of the everyman. That I think was a very reactionary development – and, of course, completely fake.

Jon Savage curates the 2x CD compilation 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded on Ace Records

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