This Date in Music History: April 5

Kurt Cobain and Joe Meek's shotgun endings

click to enlarge Poster for Nirvana's last gig in Dayton
Poster for Nirvana's last gig in Dayton

On this day 18 years ago, Kurt Cobain decided he was done with life and ended it with a single shotgun blast to the head. While it's fun to play the "What if?" game with brilliant artists who died too soon — like, "Would John Lennon have followed Yoko's lead to become a Dance music superstar?"  or "Would James Dean be doing stereotypical 'cool old guy' roles today if he was still around?" — it is, of course, a pointless exercise.

But crystal-ball wonderings of a person who actually knew the artist? That's at least a little more interesting. Spin has a piece this morning about the vague musings of Cobain's widow, musician/actress Courtney Love, in an interview a year ago with Mark Yarm, author of Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge. Love told Yarm, "We'd probably live on the Upper West fuckin' Side now and have three fuckin' kids. We might even have a divorce, like both be on our third marriage. I don't fuckin' know. He might be a playwright, (or have) his latest show in MoMA." (Read more here and check out the links featuring other Cobain remembrances.)

I like to think the couple would have starred in a really bad Everybody Loves Raymond-type sitcom on CBS. But mostly I wish Cobain would have stuck it out. As they say a lot nowadays, "It gets better."

I was lucky enough to see Nirvana a couple of times before Kurt made that impossible — once at Shorty's, the tiny subterranean club on Short Vine in Corryville, with about 50 people in attendance and once at Dayton's Hara Arena (see: poster above) with … quite a bit more people in attendance. Both shows were memorable. I think I got kicked out of Shorty's because some guy wanted to stab me that night (long story). (Nirvana played a few times in our area in those get-in-the-van-and-go, pre-stardom days, including a show at Clifton Heights bar Murphy's Pub. They were scheduled to play with the great AmRep band The Cows at the Top Hat in Newport but their van allegedly broke down on their way. I remember it well ’cause this local band opened up.)

In Dayton (memorable in hindsight because Cobain would be dead within a year), Kurt thought former drummer Chad Channing (who lived in Ohio then) was in the audience. The band called for Channing to come up and play "School" with them, but he never showed. Turns out, he wasn't there.

The band did play "School" later in the set and dedicated it to Channing. Check out the audio below.

Click on for Born This Day featuring Peter Case, Pharrell and Joe Meek.

—-Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 5 birthday include ABBA singer Agnetha Fältskog (1950); Wall of Voodoo ("Mexican Radio") frontman Stan Ridgway (1954); folksy singer/songwriter and "New Wave" pioneer (with The Nerves and The Plimsouls) Peter Case (1954); the "Kid" from Kid ’n Play, Christopher "Kid" Reid (1964); guitarist for Pearl Jam, Mike McCready (1966); minor hitmaker ("Where Have All The Cowboys Gone") Paula Cole (1968); member of quirky Indie Pop duo Cibo Matto, Miho Hatori (1970); Hip Hop producer and artist Pharrell Williams (1973); and legendary British record producer Joe Meek (1929).

Considered a pioneer for his studio work and exploration of electronic sounds, Meek had the kind of life tailor-made for a film script. In 2005, the play Telstar: The Joe Meek Story debuted; it was made into the British film Telstar, released in 2009 and starring Kevin Spacey (as Meek's manager) and Con O'Neill as Meek. (The film also featured several Brit rockers in roles, including Carl Barat from The Libertines as Gene Vincent and The Darkness' Justin Hawkins as Screaming Lord Sutch.)

Meek was a recording pioneer for his work with overdubbing, miking and the use of compression, echo, reverb and sampling. He's acclaimed for taking full advantage of the recording studio's possibilities. But they've made books, plays and movies about him because of his personal life. Meek was gay (which was illegal in Britain at the time), struggled with depression and started have money issues after his initial blockbuster success. In 1967, he inexplicably murdered his landlady then killed himself with a shotgun.

Here's Meek's most notable hit, the all-instrumental 1962 single "Telstar" by The Tornados, which was (remarkably) the first U.S. No. 1 single by a British band. Below that is the trailer for the film of the same name.

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