Note to all aspiring legendary rock gods: save everything. That means everything. That demo tape where you accidentally just recorded yourself trying to plug an amp in for twenty minutes. That selfie you took on the loo. That doodle you’re currently scrawling in the margins of Huysmans’ ‘À Rebours’. If things go to plan your kids will be buying a new kitchen with that stuff one day.
These days saving all that stuff just means buying a spare external hard-drive, but back in the almost unimaginable pre-internet era rock icons had to preserve their legacy the old fashioned way: in boxes and boxes and of old belongings.
So while it’s unlikely that your iCloud will end up printed in bound leather, let’s give thanks for Kurt Cobain’s hoarder instinct. It’s long been rumoured that there is in fact a genuine Cobain ‘vault’ out there, which journalist Charles R. Cross described as “nearly 100 boxes of belongings” gathering dust in a secure storage facility. Presumably at least some of them are heart-shaped.
It was back in the news this week, when director Brett Morgen announced his new HBO documentary ‘Montage of Heck’. Morgen, who directed ‘The Kid Stays In The Picture’ and the recent Rolling Stones documentary ‘Crossfire Hurricane’, said: “Like most people, when I started, I figured there would be limited amounts of fresh material to unearth. However, once I stepped into Kurt’s archive, I discovered over 200 hours of unreleased music and audio, a vast array of art projects (oil paintings, sculptures), countless hours of never-before-seen home movies, and over 4000 pages of writings that together help paint an intimate portrait of an artist who rarely revealed himself to the media.”
He’s not the first person to be allowed access to the hallowed archives. Back when he was researching the biography ‘Heavier Than Heaven’, Cross told Rolling Stone: “When I went and saw that stuff, I called up Courtney and I said ‘Jesus fucking Christ, I cannot believe this art and how amazing all this stuff is.'”
So amazing, in fact, Cross went on to publish a whole other book called ‘Cobain Unseen’ in 2008 which collected together some of the best art, photos and journal entries that he came across in his rummaging.
What he obviously couldn’t put in his book was any of those hours of unreleased music, which is one of the reasons Nirvana fans are so excited about Morgen’s documentary – and why they’re currently fervently whipping up a rumour mill around whether the documentary will have an accompanying tie-in soundtrack release.
Cannily the filmmakers have already released the titular ‘Montage of Heck’ mixtape online for free, which featured everything from Iron Butterfly’s ‘In A Gadda Da Vida’ to ‘ABC by The Jackson Five and from ‘I Want Your Sex’ by George Michael to ‘Run to the Hills’ by Iron Maiden. However, previously unreleased recordings of tracks like ‘Sappy’ or ‘Dressed For Success’. While some obscure material has been released before, on bootlegs and on 2004 rarities compilation ‘With The Lights Out’, the promise of Kurt solo material is an exciting one for anyone who cares about the man, his mind and his songwriting process. Fans are also speculating that releases could include non-Nirvana music from Kurt’s earlier band Fecal Matter, such as ‘Illiteracy Will Prevail’, or his first ever multi-tracked recording, made in 1982 at his aunt’s house and known as ‘Organised Confusion’. Who knows, it could even give an insight into where Nirvana might have gone next.
We have Kurt’s fastidious collecting and collating of his own work to thank for this insight – so next time someone tells you to clear out your room, tell them you’re just working on your archive.