The legendary Courtney Love will receive the Icon Award at next month’s NME Awards 2020. And it seems like she’s into us as much as we’re into her. “I started reading NME in Liverpool in 1981, and was down with the ‘tude. I converted fast into a trainspotter waiting every Thursday at the newsagent for my paper,” said Love on receiving news of the award. “The NME shaped lots of my musical sensibilities, and values that I cherish.”
“Great photography, flashes of genius, on top of the most eclectic musical taste. Always challenging. I’m proud of what they’ve achieved and what NME stands for. Thanks little weirdos!”
One of the most influential figures in the past 30 years of alternative culture, there are countless reasons why she’s worthy of the award. Here are just a few.
Hole was just the beginning
Think of Courtney Love, and quite reasonably, her band Hole will be the first of her musical project to spring to mind. Their 1991 debut album ‘Pretty on the Inside’ was co-produced by none other than Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, and made immediate ripples across the punk scene. The more polished but no less powerful multi-platinum ‘Live Through This’ and rip-roaring ‘Celebrity Skin followed. Years later, in 2010, came another Hole record, ‘Nobody’s Daughter’ – and album cut ‘For Once in Your Life’ is one of the more understated gems from her discography.
But there’s so much more. There was her first band Sugar Babydoll, the short-lived Pagan Babies and she’s also put out a whole bunch of solo material. In 2004, she released her debut solo album ‘American Sweetheart’ – and though she’s since spoken negatively about it (she later called it a “really crap record” during a talk at Oxford Union) it’s hard to deny its force. “Believe it or not, ‘All the Drugs’, ‘Sunset Strip’, ‘Mono’ and ‘But Julian…’ are all good songs,” she said in 2006. She was bang on.
The incendiary one-off ‘You Know My Name’ – released in 2014 – is solo Love at her most fearsome, with a glitter-soaked video to match. “I’m not Katy Perry,” she quipped in the comments section. “They don’t give me the big bucks.”
Then there’s the stellar film career
Courtney Love bagged a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in 1996 film ‘The People vs. Larry Flynt’ and her turn alongside Jim Carrey in ‘Man on the Moon’ – about the life of American comedian Andy Kaufman – is as powerful as they come.
She also starred in the underrated LGBT film Julie Johnson as well as making an early cameo in Sex Pistols biopic ‘Sid & Nancy’, and loads more besides.
She invented a whole fashion genre
Branded by Love as ‘kinderwhore’ – a comment on pop culture’s oversexualisation of young women – Love’s iconic teaming together of vintage slip dresses, smeared lippie and bleach blonde hair was to define a movement. “History is funny,” she said when asked about her undeniable impact on fashion. “I would say that Calvin Klein didn’t actually invent slip dresses as outerwear in ’91. I did. At least more than him.” Damn right you did, Courtney.
She once lived with Joe Strummer
Another highlight from Love’s film career is 1987’s cult comedy Western ‘Straight To Hell’, which also featured Clash frontman Joe Strummer. And as well as starring alongside one another, Strummer and Love were housemates for a time – she once lived in his basement. Imagine stumbling across that on Spareroom.co.uk.
She was the very first singer in Faith No More
In 1984, Courtney Love fronted Faith No More. Yes, that Faith No More! She was their vocalist for around six months when they were recording their debut album. Ultimately she left the group, making way for Chuck Mosley, and then Mike Patton – but she’s remained good mates with keyboard player Roddy Bottum.
She wasn’t afraid to speak out about abuse in Hollywood
Back in 2005, Courtney Love was asked on a red carpet if she had any advice for young women hoping to make it in the movies. “I’ll get libelled if I say it,” she replies, before answering anyway. “If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a private party in the Four Seasons, don’t go.”
When the footage resurfaced in 2017 – following a wave of allegations of sexual abuse and coercion against Harvey Weinstein – Love said she was blacklisted by the Creative Artists Agency for her comment.
She was fired from her radio show
Alongside with the musician Lois Maffeo and Pat Baum from punk band Neo Boys, Courtney Love once helmed a radio show in Portland called ‘The Autonomy Hour’. Unfortunately she was fired for playing a 12″ by British hard rockers Zodiac Mindwarp. After their show ended, Lois started the legendary K Records with her then-partner Calvin Johnson – and formed a band named Courtney Love (actual Courtney Love was not a member).