Kurt Cobain death: how fans reacted when the Nirvana front man died - and his connections with Scotland

This month (20 February) would have seen Kurt Cobain turn 53, had the legendary Nirvana front man not died in 1994 aged just 27.

(Photo: SEBASTIAN VUAGNAT/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo: SEBASTIAN VUAGNAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Cobain was found at his Lake Washington Boulevard home by an electrician who was there to install a security system, who believed Kurt to be asleep until he saw the shotgun pointing at his chin.

A note was found, addressed to Cobain's childhood imaginary friend Boddah, stating that Cobain had not "felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music, along with really writing ... for too many years now".

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It was a shock loss, and one that robbed music fans of one of the most exciting artists of the generation.

Cobain even had connections to Scotland, and reportedly planned to set up home in a Scottish castle months before his death, after falling in love with the country’s music scene.

And in 2017, a recording of Nirvana’s famous unheralded pub gig in 1991 at the Southern Bar before a handful of punters was posted on YouTube.

But just how did the news of Kurt’s death go down on the day it happened?

How did the music industry react?

"Something feels different now,” Jack Endino, producer of Nirvana’s first album, Bleach, told EW.com in 1994. ”I don’t know what it is, but all of us woke up feeling different after this.”

"At an executive meeting in Los Angeles on April 12," continues the article, "employees at first avoided the topic until Geffen president Eddie Rosenblatt ordered them to unload their feelings.

"Rosenblatt, a close friend of Cobain and his widow, Courtney Love, opened the discussion but quickly broke down in tears."

Geffen froze all PR for Live Through This, the second album by Hole, the band fronted by Cobain's wife, Courtney Love (the band's tour was also cancelled), and shelved plans to release Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged acoustic album.

How did fans react?

Articles from the time seem to depict the band's fans as being in one of two camps; one who saw Cobain's suicide from the beginning, and the other totally taken aback and surprised by the whole thing.

An LA Times article from 1994 sheds some fascinating light on the reaction of fans in America.

"I saw it coming--from the beginning,' says an Aaron Smith, described as "a 21-year-old employee at the Tower Records store on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood."

Smith remembers seeing Cobain after a concert: “He was just real solemn - like he didn’t like it. He was seemingly depressed - at the time he should have been happiest.”

That "he should have been happy" sentiment crops up again in the same article, reflective of the outdated views on suicide and mental health the early 90s held just 26 years ago.

“I’m so disappointed in him,” says fan Jodie Wilson in the piece, "I think it’s a very bad example to set.

"I know life gets bad but not this bad. And he had the power and the money to disappear and take care of himself. Just think if some poor kid is sad and puts on a Nirvana album and thinks, ‘Hey, if he did it...'"

Meanwhile, musician Kevin Blair foresaw Cobain's future status in the music world, stating simply: “He’ll probably be a legend.”

And it seems it didn't take long for Cobain legendary status to begin to strengthen; sales of both Nevermind and In Utero skyrocketed after Cobain’s body was going as high as Number 28 and 11, respectively on Billboard’s pop charts.

How did friends react?

Cobain's many friends he'd met over the years were similarly shocked and taken aback by the news of Kurt's death.

Mark Lanegan - a founding member of psychedelic grunge band Screaming Trees and a long-time friend of Cobain - told Rolling Stone: "I never knew [Cobain] to be suicidal. I just knew he was going through a tough time."

"The news [of Cobain's death] sucked the air out of the entire house," said Red Hot Chili Peppers front man Anthony Kiedis in his 2004 autobiography, Scar Tissue.

"It was an emotional blow, and we all felt it. I don't know why everyone on earth felt so close to that guy; he was beloved and endearing and inoffensive in some weird way.

"For all of his screaming and all of his darkness, he was just lovable."

But still, over 25 years on from his death, some suspect foul play, and the internet is just as awash with theories surrounding the true nature of Cobain's death as it is heartfelt eulogies.

In 2005, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon was asked about Cobain's death in an interview for Uncut Magazine

"I don't even know that he killed himself," she said, "there are people close to him who don't think that he did."

Thurston Moore - Gordon's then-husband and fellow Sonic Youth member said in the same interview that Cobain "actually killed himself violently."

"It was so aggressive, and he wasn't an aggressive person, he was a smart person, he had an interesting intellect.

"So it kind of made sense because it was like: wow, what a f***ing gesture. But at the same time it was like: something's wrong with that gesture. It doesn't really lie with what we know."