Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Induct These Women: Courtney Love

And they royalty rate all the girls like you…
HOLE – AWFUL

I could very easily make this article a case on my personal relationship with Courtney’s music and what it and she have meant to me, but that’s an article for another time. This serves to do justice to what a lot of critics and audiophiles alike seem to neglect: Courtney Love is an incredibly talented lyricist and composer. (Not to mention mathematician.)

Hole is one of the most underrated bands of the 90’s for a lot of reasons. None of them have anything to do with the quality of the music.

Hole started in 1989 as a pet project between Courtney Love and Eric Erlandson. Eric was one of a few musicians to respond to the vague ad in a Los Angeles newspaper that read only: “I want to start a band. My influences are Big Black, Sonic Youth, and Fleetwood Mac.” Just like that, the band was born.

Hole’s gone through a few line-ups over the years. Everybody has their own personal Hole and my own consists of the circa 1997 pre-“Celebrity Skin” line-up that included the inimitable Patty Schemel on drums and Melissa Auf Der Maur, who brought her own spin to the band after the untimely death of the late Kristen Pfaff, on bass.

“Pretty On the Inside” is a grungy, no-wave inspired record that pays a lot of tribute to every single one of the bands listed in the ad. (An analog snippet of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” can be found on the track-breaking “Starbelly,” along with an early recording of “Best Sunday Dress.”) At the time of its conception, Courtney was heavily inspired by the scene Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon had been crafting since the early-80s. Crunchy guitars, distortion pedals and screaming. Courtney knew exactly the sound she wanted and, as a lot of artists do (or don’t), was not about to take no for any kind of answer.

Courtney’s tenacity shone through the written word when, after they were signed, she decided she would write to Kim Gordon herself and personally ask her to produce the album. As a tribute to that tenacity and as strained as their relationship may have become over the years, it worked, and in March of 1991, the band piled into Los Angeles’s Music Box Studios with Kim and Gumball’s Don Fleming. Don later remarked that Courtney was “the most gung-ho person” he’d ever met.

It’s hard enough to stick to your guns in a band as it is, but I do find myself wondering whether or not a man that knows exactly what he wants in the studio has ever been labeled as abrasive. Something to think about.

The follow-up to “Pretty On The Inside” served as a heavy departure to the New York punk scene soundings.Live Through This” is a staple in the lives of a lot of girls that are of a specific age. If you hear “Doll Parts” at the right time in your life, I believe it has the power to change you. Pretty cool for a song with three chords including Cadd9, if I say so myself.

The release of “Live Through This” came at a difficult time in Courtney’s life. Still, she persevered in paying tribute to her art. As much or badly as she felt, she kept going. She made her art and she sang through her pain and though inspired by the Seattle scene she and the band had found themselves relentlessly grouped into, the album sounded nothing like anything else there was at the time. Not by a female-fronted band, or a male-fronted band (which would just be referred to as a band. Something else to think about.)

“Violet’s” screams are palpable, “Gutless’s” riff claws its way into your soul, and “She Walks On Me” surely served as a queer anthem for this young outcast in a Catholic mining village in the middle of nowhere, whether that was its aim or not. The beauty of good songs is in the changes in their meaning from person to person. Courtney’s lyrics do that well.

 

And then there was “Celebrity Skin.” Released in 1998 and henceforth sandwiched oddly between the uprising of pop-punk and bubblegum pop, it remains the band’s most popular release to date. Catching the video for its eponymous track on MTV — in the days the M stood for something — altered the course of my life and would argue I’m not alone. Coffins and dresses, Courtney and Melissa, and a perfectly catchy chord progression all served as contributing to the last time I wore a dress. It was amazing! I was living! I could do this!

“Celebrity Skin”whose namesake is from a poem Love wrote, inspired by T.S Eliot’s “The Waste Land — preceded one of Love’s most famous live performances at Glastonbury in 1999. All of which can be found on youtube if you’re looking for an atheistic experience that comes highly recommended.

If you think about all of the criticism a single person can go through in their lifetime and then multiply that by a thousand, one might picture it breaking a person. It never broke Courtney. It sure as hell fucking tried and continues to try, but it never managed. To this day, when she releases an album (“Nobody’s Daughter” in 2010 being the latest) or performs onstage, she is the woman on top of it all; a vessel through which to channel her art.

Courtney Love is a woman that has been through hell and back, lived, loved and lost, and has that art she created to show for it. Art that is all too often hidden by irreverent statements about her personality when the same personality traits would be a leg-up for men in the same business.

This is a statement of Courtney Love’s prowess as a songwriter; as a person, a mother, a rock icon, an artist, and a woman that inspired thousands upon thousands of little girls to pick up a guitar, sing, and not give a shit. This is a statement of Courtney’s contribution to the music world; one that’s overlooked and explained away.

Yet it is because of this that we should ask ourselves why it’s so inherently necessary to point out that Billy Corgan co-wrote a few tracks on one Hole album when musicians are constantly collaborating together and nobody talks shit about that. Courtney has written dozens of songs, has brought them to the forefront of a generation of searching girls, and saved my life.

Courtney Love is rock and roll.

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Em is a queer, freelance music writer based in the North of England. The things that matter to her (other than David Bowie & her Telecaster) are either money, success, fame, glamour or freedom, beauty, truth and love, depending on the day and whether or not she's bought any incense. When she's not dancing around with a guitar, she can be found dancing around in glitter. Her motto: Don't be a drag, just be a queen.
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