Kurt Cobain and his daylight shunning sound might seem a million miles away from the flowery Beatles, but both acts continue to be a light switch for the youth that illuminates alternative culture. In fact, it was Ozzy Osbourne who described this when he said, “When I heard the Beatles. I knew what I wanted to do,” when speaking to Blabbermouth in 2019.
Continuing: “My son says to me, Dad, I like the Beatles, but why do you go so crazy? The only way I can describe it, is like this, ‘Imagine you go to bed today and the world is black and white and then you wake up, and everything’s in colour. That’s what it was like!’ That’s the profound effect it had on me.”
They had much the same impactful effect on Kurt Cobain too. He even once wrote, “John Lennon has been my idol all of my life. My parents were never music lovers.” Kurt Cobain begins and, like so many, he was simply raised on the sounds of the Top 40 in America.
But thanks to the all-conquering ubiquity of The Beatles, they even nudge into that scene. “At a really early age, I wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. Ever since I got my first Beatles record, I wanted to play drums. I wanted to have the adoration of John Lennon but have the anonymity of Ringo Starr. I didn’t want to be a frontman, I just wanted to be back there at the same time.”
As he matured, he never grew out of the timeless melodies of The Beatles and that style remained the central driving force of his own songwriting. After all, both bands have transcended their eras and genres and entered culture as a whole as an artistic cornerstone of society.
As Cobain once explained in an interview with Mimmo Caccamo: “In my opinion, the best pop songs that were ever written were written in the ‘60s. And that’s why anything that’s simple guitar pop music nowadays is associated with ‘60s music. I do have to admit, the night before I wrote [‘About a Girl’], I listened to The Beatles over and over that night. Not intentionally to write a song like The Beatles, but it flowed out of me the next day and I wrote that song.”
When asked about his favourite song, the rocker championed the soft and delicate beauty of The Beatles’ oeuvre. “’Norwegian Wood’ would probably be my favourite,” he said. In truth, his own music had a soft air when pedals were stripped away as was brilliant brought to the fore in the iconic MTV Unplugged session, which has left people, or me at least, wondering whether he would’ve gone acoustic himself eventually.
In the same interview, he reiterated his love for simple yet filigreed guitar work when he spoke of his favourite Beatles period. “Even now I’m starting to go back to listen to The Beatles. My favourite period is the Rubber Soul period, the guitar and simple melodies are my favourite,” he asserted.
However, when it comes to his favourite record, he delves a little earlier than Rubber Soul and goes with the poppiest of all their records, Meet The Beatles from 1964. The album was only their second to be released in the States, and while the songwriting isn’t as developed it has a raw edge and youthfulness that you could certainly liken to the unpolished, visceral ways of Cobain.
What’s more, he even found the fact that it was raw inspiring, once saying, “Not to compare us to The Beatles, but they went from ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ to Sgt. Pepper y’know and that was a massive progression, and I just want to experiment.”