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Rock & Roll Books

By Christopher Gray, Fri., June 1, 2007

Rock & Roll Books

Nirvana: The Biography

by Everett True

Da Capo, 635 pp., $19.95 (paper)

Nirvana. Three syllables, three members, three proper albums. The most influential group to hit pop music in three decades, this publicity-shy Seattle trio who wasn't even from Seattle, supplanted Michael Jackson at No. 1 in January 1992, perhaps the least of their accomplishments. They broadened mainstream rock & roll's parameters to include, finally, the forgotten hordes of freaks and losers, securing them an unprecedented stake in popular culture that continues today in ABC's Ugly Betty and the Spider-Man movies. Lest we forget, Nirvana also unleashed a tide of shitty, self-indulgent songwriting that shows no signs of abating, but that wasn't really their fault. Improbably named UK journalist Everett True, whose wanderlust led him to file the first significant account of the Pacific Northwest "grunge" phenomenon for Melody Maker in early 1989, was there at every step, or most of the important ones anyway. True struck up a fast friendship with the band that first trip, so his biography sacrifices any pretense of objectivity for a fascinating fly-on-the-wall perspective. True puked in Nirvana's van any number of times, may or may not have introduced Kurt Cobain to Courtney Love (and may or may not have hooked up with Love himself), and wheeled Cobain onstage at the 1992 Reading Festival, the precise moment when they became the biggest band in the universe. When his memory gets fuzzy, which is often the case, he says as much and coaxes the same candor out of the subjects he employs in his forthright prose. Books about Nirvana could fill one of their early tour vans, but as of now, True's assiduously annotated tome is the only one for the ride.

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