There have been many disputes in the history of the MTV Video Music Awards – RuPaul vs Milton Berle, Tommy Lee vs Kid Rock, Miley Cyrus vs Nicki Minaj, Eminem vs. Moby (and, um, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog), Madonna vs. .Courtney Love. But second only to Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift, perhaps the biggest fight in VMA history took place between Love’s husband, Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, and Axl Rose, the frontman of Nirvana’s Guns N’ Roses.
It’s a legendary rock ‘n’ roll tale, and Nirvana’s manager from 1990 to 1994, Danny Goldberg, was there to witness all the chaos unfold 30 years ago.
By the time of the 1992 VMAs, Nirvana and GNR represented two opposing worldviews in rock, with the rise of Nirvana and other Seattle grunge bands signaling a change of guard in the previously metal-dominated MTV network. Goldberg, author of the 2019 memoir Serving the Servant: Remembering Kurt Cobainosays Rose was a Nirvana fan at first, after listening to a copy of Nirvana’s first album. It doesn’t matterbut that “didn’t last long.”
But ironically, Goldberg told Yahoo Entertainment that he believes that if Cobain were still alive, Cobain and Rose would be friends today.
“Kurt and Nirvana, you know, had a real fear of differentiating themselves from the commercial rock ‘n’ roll scene that prevailed before they got to the so-called hair bands,” explains Goldberg. “I don’t think it’s fair to call them ‘hairbands’; they all play music, Axl Rose is a great singer, and Guns N’ Roses is a great band. But there was definitely a macho, arrogant identity in those bands that was really diametrically opposed to the idea of masculinity and integrity that Kurt and Nirvana and bands like Pearl Jam had. … the whole Kurt thing about being a feminist, this was at a time when Guns N’ Roses had a song [“One in a Million”] this was on one of their great albums which referred to an*****sef*****s. And we couldn’t get anything more offensive to someone like Kurt than that. So they were just culturally in different camps at that time.”
The 1992 VMAs coincided with the publication of an infamous and extremely damaging vanity fair story about Love, alleging that the Hole singer had used heroin while pregnant with her daughter with Cobain, Frances Bean. “After vanity fair article came out, Rose said something very rude, like Courtney should be in jail or something. It was pretty gross,” says Goldberg. (Rose’s exact quote was, “The only thing that means to me is someone like Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, who basically is just a junkie with a junkie wife, and if the baby is born deformed, I think they should both go away.” the prison.”)
“And right after that… Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses performed at the MTV Awards, the first of the MTV Awards shows that came out after It doesn’t matter it was a great record,” Goldberg continues. “That was a week or two after Axl Rose said those mean things about Courtney, in relation to vanity fair and what kind of baby they would have.”
AND then Cobain and Love appeared at the 1992 VMAs with baby Frances, who was less than a month old at the time. When Love saw Rose backstage in the hospitality area, she couldn’t resist confronting the GNR singer, in her own sarcastic way. “She said, ‘Hey Axl, do you want to be our baby’s godfather?’” Goldberg laughs. “So he had a girlfriend at the time, I think her name was [supermodel] Stephanie Seymour, who slyly says to Courtney, ‘Um, are you a model?’ And without missing a beat, Courtney says, ‘Are you a neurosurgeon?’ vanity fair In the interview, Love had described Rose as “an idiot” who “dates models.”)
“So Axl Rose had these huge bodyguards and he had somebody with a camera who was documenting behind the scenes, possibly making some future documentary. So he, the bodyguards and the cameraman approach the table where we are and he says, ‘Shut up or I’ll throw you on the sidewalk!’ A beat goes by and Kurt looks at Courtney and this lazy voice. And he says, ‘Shut up, bitch!’” — like, mocking That order. And we all laughed because he was making fun of it. And Axl walked away very angry,” recalls Goldberg.
Several rock ‘n’ roll stars, including the nominees Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam and the Black Crowes, all witnessed this tension alongside Goldberg. Former Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman, whose behind-the-scenes trailer was between the trailers for Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses, told Uproxx in 2016: “It was just in the air that there was this war going on. I remember the vibe was really serious. Do people really care that an addict and a poser are going to fight? I imagine now how the anchor fights.”
The 1992 MTV Video Music Awards ceremony was memorable in many other ways for both Nirvana and GNR. When Nirvana performed, they resisted producers’ orders to make their smash hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and instead played a few seconds of their controversial track “Rape Me” from the yet-to-be-released studio album. in the uterus, before moving on to “Lithium”. At the end of the performance, Novoselic threw his bass into the air, and it came down with a hard thump to his skull. (Luckily, he wasn’t seriously injured.) Guns N’ Roses also performed their epic ballad “November Rain” with Elton John. In the end, Nirvana won two Moonmen – Best New Artist and Best Alternative Video for “Teen Spirit” – while GNR won the Video Vanguard Lifetime Achievement Award, hosted by Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen.
That night, the two bassists from rival bands Novoselic and GNR’s Duff McKagan reportedly nearly got into a fight backstage right before Nirvana’s performance, and Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl happily teased Rose in the air. But Novoselic and McKagan later became friends, and Goldberg believes that Cobain and Rose could have fixed things too, if Cobain hadn’t committed suicide in 1994.
“Actually, I think if Kurt were alive… I’ve noticed that Rose supports the Democrats lately, and I’m pretty sure he’s been through a lot in his life, and it’s very likely they would have been friends if Kurt were alive today,” Goldberg says. , referring to how Rose has become so politically vocal on Twitter in recent years that it has inspired a hashtag, #wokeAxl. “But in that moment, they were like two conflicting philosophies.”
The 2022 MTV Video Music Awards take place this Sunday, August 28 at the Prudential Center in New Jersey. While no members of Guns N’ Roses or Nirvana are scheduled to appear, the aforementioned Red Hot Chili Peppers are set to return to the VMAs stage – 30 years after winning their first three Moonperson trophies for “Under the Bridge” and “Give It “Away” and witness the Kurt/Axl mess — to receive the Global Icon Award. In the meantime, watch Danny Goldberg’s full Yahoo Entertainment interview about Kurt Cobain’s life and career below.
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