photo by nacrowe
so much of this HIT SO HARD (DA CAPO, 2017) by HOLE drummer PATTY SCHEMEL is about self-destruction. the enduring image of KURT COBAIN, a friend and former collaborator and even housemate of SCHEMEL, is seen as an example of being too far down the road of despair and drug abuse to turn back. he isn't portrayed as a victim as much as someone resided to their own fate. with SCHEMEL we see someone who took that road to its logical conclusion, losing literally everything: friends, family, financial independence, even her sexuality.
this memoir is less concerned with the story her journey from being an awkward, red-headed lesbian teen from eastern WASHINGTON who found in HARDCORE and drums her identity as it is about the harrowing depths of depravity associated with her road to recovery from opiate addiction.
her being a famous musician is only noteworthy within the arc of this book in that it showcases the cottage industry of enablers and hangers-on that provide celebrities with the means of their own destruction within the entertainment industry. i feel like reading as many biographies as i have about musicians, the recurring trope of drug abuse is a known cliche. that being said, any jadedness i had to the topic was obliterated by the honesty and clarity by which SCHEMEL dissects her actions and behavior and the wake of destruction that followed for bother her and those that cared about her.
to me this hit home, because an overriding theme of this book was kinship. the connection between musicians that is almost asurrogate family. there are surrogate families that fall apart (HOLE) and others that come and go as a means of support from friends (JULIETTE & THE LICKS, IMPERIAL TEEN). even her actual family, especially her brother and father, support her even when all was dire and hopeless. i have family and some friends that have been on similar trajectories, though nothing thankfully as harrowing as described in this book, and it feels comforting to know that an addict like SCHEMEL sees love and human connection as a means for maintaining sobriety.
and that is what makes the death of CHRIS CORNELL so poignant in this book, not just because it bookends the death of fellow SEATTLE musician KURT COBAIN. CORNELL's recovery mirrors that SCHEMEL and serves as an example that once you are an addict, always an addict. recovery is always ongoing and having a support system is your lifeline. which ultimately positions this book as being earnestly involved with the redeeming potential that hope and human connection can foster. it is easily one of the most affecting memoirs i have read to date.
artwork by nacrowe
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photo by nacrowe
with the recent 25th anniversary of his passing it was only fitting that there would be yet another entry to the canon of written work dedicated to KURT COBAIN, especially given that a long rumored and awaited COURTNEY LOVE memoir is in the works. SERVING THE SERVANT (Ecco Press, 2019 ) encapsulates the recollections and experiences of NIRVANA manager DANNY GOLDBERG as he navigated the group from northwestern obscurity (post-BLEACH) to global domination.
whereas other books dealing with this subject, notably HEAVIER THAN HEAVEN (Hyperion Press, 2001) by CHARLES CROSS, tend to fixate more on the self-destructive aspects of his life as well as his unhappy upbringing, GOLDBERG here chooses to present his friend as he knew him: intelligent, funny, talented and ultimately flawed. what made this read ultimately interesting were his retelling of how media-savvy COBAIN was how he used this hyper-awareness to manipulate the media to present an image of himself that successfully melded several strains of underground demographics.
if you're interested in tales of drugs, excess and self-defeating behavior, this book shies away from anything remotely sensational. on the other hand if you are interested in marketing and how to successfully position a musical act, this book will satiate that itch.
i do want to commend GOLDBERG for speaking his truth despite the barrage of misinformation regarding his former client and the despicable innuendo projected on him and the family of the deceased. this also marks the first addition to the canon that hasn't felt exploitative, much as the JOURNALS and the recent documentary MONTAGE OF HECK did.
artwork by nacrowe