Today marks the 51st birthday of Hole legend Courtney Love – one of the most chastised and divisive artists in modern music history. Addressing everything from her outspoken behaviour to accusations that many of Love’s biggest hits were actually penned by her late husband Kurt Cobain, here’s friend and fan Ryan Jarman of The Cribs on the horrible shades of misogyny to criticism of her – and how she’ll never change…
Even as a kid you knew who Courtney was. I don’t know how, she just seeped into your consciousness. We had no money to buy magazines and there was no internet or anything to learn about her, but she felt like a presence. The first record we got was ‘Live Through This’. When I first heard it we were at some all night party and I thought it was totally rad. It was exactly what I wanted them to sound like. There was so much venom in the vocals; it just rocked really hard. Later on, they became one of my favourite bands. Courtney is definitely one of the best lyricists I’m aware of and I don’t think she gets too many props for that.
When people insinuate that Kurt wrote some of Hole’s biggest songs, it’s so gross and so lame. The only reason why people would take exception to her is because she was a threat to everyone, and the reason she was a threat is because she was the smartest person in the room and people don’t like that. They don’t like it if there’s someone with a large and brash personality who’s also smart. That’s a terrifying combination for people, but that is who she is. There’s definitely misogyny involved. Things started to change for the better thanks to bands like Hole, but females in the 1990s had to be a little more confrontational about it because they were really having to fight for their position. I imagine a lot of people identified that the biggest insult that they could pay her would be to say that her boyfriend wrote her songs.
I never understood why people would be into Nirvana and want to slag off Courtney. And when Kurt died you would think, of course, that everyone would be sympathising with her for going through something completely terrible. She showed a great deal of strength and fortitude when it happened, but people were just looking for negatives all the way. I’m still shocked and disgusted by the way that people treated her at that point. It was like a witch hunt.
I first met Courtney in LA back in 2005. I knew a girl who knew Courtney and kept saying that Courtney wanted to meet us, so she came out one night to this club in LA. She was with some producer and he seemed really slimy and gross towards her so I started calling him out on it and then he started slagging me off because my shoes were all taped together. He was so posh and we were having this pathetic back and forth, slagging each others’ shoes off and Courtney was like, ‘That guy is really powerful and important, don’t you know who he is?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t care’. I think that’s how I endeared myself to her because she thought I was someone who was fearless and spoke their mind. After that we became friends.
I stayed at her place for a bit and it was such a fun time because Courtney is a total star and when you live with her she absolutely shows you that proper side of being famous. It’s kind of trippy and amazing. To a newer generation of people, she still wields a lot of power because of who she was when they were growing up. She still conducts herself in the same way – she hasn’t mellowed in any way. Absolutely, she is exactly as you’d expect and the way she presents herself in the public eye is not put on whatsoever.
People like her are always polarizing because of her personality and because she’s so uncompromising. People won’t appreciate it until she’s not around and then suddenly all the things they slagged her off for will be the things they’ll lionize her for. It’s the sad state of things. But what’s so rad about her is that she’s just herself all the time and people either appreciate it or they don’t. That’s not gonna change her at all.
Interview by Lisa Wright