I had this notion a while back to write a story or screenplay or something about an imagined future for Kurt Cobain, a skewed and new reality in which he decided to just hide out for a while instead of ending it all. This future takes his anguish and dries it out, puts Kurt in a radically different environment as embarks on a new pursuit of his songcraft and through it, a new life...
Picture it as sort of like Kurt finding his Woodstock, with the Meat Puppets playing the Band to his Dylan. Kurt gets off tour feeling like the world is closing in on him and gets into (or fakes) a motorcycle accident. From there he takes off to the Arizona desert, living on some hidden ranch somewhere with the Kirkwood brothers and spending months making fractured sun-soaked country music and experimenting with a whole new way of storytelling.
They make tape loops of psychedelic and grating sounds all day and sit around campfires at night, strumming guitars as though they'd been taught a new sacrament, staring up as the smoke curled its way up into the dry night sky.
Kurt would fall in love again with music, and find a new sense of purpose with a fellow band of one-time punkers who saw their music branch out into crazy directions. They'd probably get their hands on some peyote and make up dusty blues songs with alien lyrics.
Maybe Kurt would take road trips and long walks through the desert with Roger Clyne, buying blankets and tequila from Mexican children after crossing south of the border. They'd talk of death and struggle and the suffocation of fame, as it grew from fleeting to incessant. But it would all be in the abstract because they were out there, in the hinterlands, away from any pressure to perform and to respond to countless demands, or to do anything else but simply breathe.
Maybe Kurt could've taken his exodus from fame in time to meet up with Doug Hopkins, and just maybe the two wildly different but wildly talented songwriters could've found some common inspiration, maybe a sort of rivalry as they pushed each other to come up with better and better songs, everyone else be damned.
All the while there'd be new songs - conquistador ballads, lonesome cowboy tunes, mythologically based inquiries into modern life, an intensely personal examination of life on the road as the spokesman of a generation. A sun-baked madness and a calming wisdom would emerge as two competing forces in his lyrics. Always an abstract writer, Cobain could have found a new plane for his contemplations. He could have forced an entirely different worldview into his head, turning out songs while he was awake that would seem to have sprung from the soundest depths of sleep.
Some fans might get wind of all this of course, and make ill-fated pilgrimages to try and drag Kurt back to Seattle, back to the limelight. Geffen would call and call and call. The inevitable bootlegs would leak out after a time, coveted because the quiet and shaky tapes would come out like a previously unimagined form of salvation. But those "Lost" Cobain tapes would seem so unlikely that they'd be questioned at every turn. No definitive answer would emerge.
But they'd pave the way for Kurt's return, for a new sort of "tour," with a ramshackle posse of long-haired musicians taking a stage coach from town to forgotten town, arriving unannounced at sundown to light a campfire and pass a bottle of tequila before dusting off guitars and starting in on several hours of mind-blowing songs. These unexpected and hard-to-believe performances would become legendary. Fans would leave Seattle and Los Angeles for Benson and Jerome, taking ouija vacations trying to predict where the troupe would emerge next.
At long last a proper release would be put together, recorded during a performance at Gammage, with a rotating cast of musicians reveling in the anonymity of a completely dark theater. The only certainty would be that Kurt was at the center of it all, singing for an audience once again, singing his desert songs, joyous in the culmination his restful phase and ready to find a new muse to chase.
These musings have been brought to you by the stunning and excellent Meat Puppets Live Repository. There are more than 30 full live shows there, dating from 1981 clear through to the band's reunion in 2007.
Meat Puppets - Plateau (live Whiskers, Phoenix, Aug. 19, 1983)
Meat Puppets - Lake of Fire (live Warfield, San Francisco, Aug. 7, 1991)
Meat Puppets - Backwater (live Slims, San Francisco, April 18, 1993)
Meat Puppets - Comin' Down (live Austin, June 1, 2007)