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That’s One Way to Piss Off Nirvana Fans: Kurt Cobain Appears in Guitar Hero 5

September 9, 2009

Get ready for fallout, Courtney Love and Dave Grohl.   Their decision, along with Primary Wave Publishing, to allow Activision to use Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and a live version of “Lithium” for Guitar Hero 5 has unleashed a lot of emotion, most of it anger.  The game dropped September 1 and has already garnered dozens of critical headlines.  (Way too many to list—just search “Kurt Cobain Guitar Hero 5.”)

Most hardcore Nirvana’s fans aren’t as upset about Nirvana’s songs appearing in the game as much as Cobain’s likeness.  (Don’t misunderstand: fans are plenty mad about the songs’ inclusion, too—just read the comments section of any site that has run the story.)  Most of us have come to accept that some of our favorite music will appear in car or sneaker advertisements.  At least these two songs made it into a pretty hip game focused on guitar playing.  But was it really necessary to include a digitized version of one of rock’s most beloved and tragic figures, whose look for Hero was specially crafted by his wife, who already has a contentious relationship with Cobain fans?  This, after 15 years of perceived and real slights and transgressions, may have been the point of no return between Courtney Love and Kurt devotees.

This brings up a very important question, though: why should anyone get to decide what Courtney Love and Dave Grohl can and can’t—or should and shouldn’t—do with the rights to all things Nirvana and Cobain?  Who better to know “what Kurt would have wanted” than his wife and bandmate?  Giving hundreds of thousands of fans a say would be nice, but we would never be assured that it would be closer to Kurt’s intentions than the aforementioned pair.  A 42-year-old Cobain might have said, “Screw it.  If someone’s going to pay half a mil to put me in a game, I’ll take it and give it to charity.  Or blow it on piñatas.”

OK, probably not, especially when you see this clip. The point is that you and I don’t know, and we certainly don’t have a say.  Maybe the decision was made entirely with money in mind; only a few people in the world know that, and they’d never be dumb enough to admit it.  The decision has been made and the game is already out there, which is the (only) reason we fans have to accept it.  But we don’t have to like it.

  1. September 9, 2009 4:24 pm

    Maybe it’s just me, but I really don’t feel the need to listen to Nirvana anymore — and I was even 18 when they broke big, so I was right in the target audience wearing flannel and hiking boots and being nihilistic as much as the next kid. To me, Nirvana was the rock equivalent of a really good cleansing shit. It needed to happen, it was really effective, but I don’t feel the need to recapture the moment.

  2. kitsimpson permalink
    September 9, 2009 11:03 pm

    I remember the turmoil when music from my generation began appearing in commercials and such. I could never quite get behind it. If we’re not going to protest the use of real musical masters’ music being used for commercial gains — and by that, I mean people like Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and the rest of those who are so far above even the best of the rock ‘n’ rollers that they need a telescope to even see them — then what’s the big deal about using pop music? It ain’t sacred, you know.


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