This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #446: Violet by Hole.
Courtney Love is a singer/songwriter/guitarist and actress. She came into musical prominence on the west coast of the US in the late 1980s/early 90s. She formed several bands but, the one she is most known for is Hole. Love formed Hole with mostly women; Melissa Auf der Maur on lead guitar, Patty Schemel on drums, Love, as lead vocalist and Eric Erlandson on guitar. Hole started out as more of a Punk band and were often mentioned in the same breath as all-female bands in the Riot Grrrl Movement such as L7 and Bikini Kill. The main thrust behind the Riot Grrrrl Movement was feminism, which manifested itself in the form of bands with strong female players, singing songs from a female point of view. Courtney Love is, definitely, a strong female player and she definitely had a strong point of view.
In 1994, the band released their second album called, “Live Through This”. This album spawned three huge alternative rock hits, “Violet”, “Miss World” and “Doll Parts”. At the time, many music critics viewed Hole as being on equal footing with male counterparts such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and, as such, the band was highly praised and respected. Hole have been nominated for several Grammy Awards in the Alternative Rock category. In addition to music, Courtney Love was, also, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the movie, “The People vs Larry Flynt”, which was directed by Academy Award-winning Director, MIlos Forman. There is no denying that Courtney Love was riding a huge wave of success in the early 1990s. Her fiercest defenders will always hold Love up as a strong, confident, talented woman who took no guff in industries that, traditionally, have not made life easy for females who tried to assert their own vision and blaze their own trail.
Where Courtney Love’s legacy becomes murky is that, just as she was ready to ascend to the throne as Queen of Rock, she fell in love and, subsequently, married Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana. At the time of their wedding, it was a union of music royalty. They were truly smitten; with Cobain exclaiming upon first falling in love with her, “I’ve met the coolest girl in the whole world”. But, not long afterwards, both Love and Cobain became addicted to heroin and Cobain, not long thereafter, died by his own hand. Love became the subject of much vitriol from fans for, what they perceived, as her role in the death of Music’s favourite son and the demise of his band, Nirvana. Love became a modern-day Yoko Ono. Her addiction was such that she lost custody of the child she had with Cobain. Her on-stage performances became erratic; characterized by angry clashes between Love and her bandmates, as well as, with audiences. In the years that followed, Hole put out several other albums but, none were met with the same critical acclaim as was, “Live Through This”. Gradually, Hole, along with Courtney Love, fell out of the public eye.
It is all too bad, really. When you watch the video for “Violet”, you are going to see a strong, powerful woman completely in charge of her performance. She owns the stage. Love possesses a deep, raspy voice (not unlike someone like Janis Joplin) and contrasts her loud, booming singing style with a physical posture that renders her stock still…..in total control of her body and the power it contains. She is mesmerizing! If you have never watched females rocking hard then, get ready for a treat. In their prime, Hole was as tight and professional a band as there was in all of music. This is clearly evident in this video.
The song, “Violet”, is actually about Love’s views on boyfriends and on women being in charge of their own sexuality. The subject of the song is BIlly Corgan, who was (and, still is) lead singer of the group, The Smashing Pumpkins. Corgan and Love were in a relationship, prior to Love meeting Cobain. The chorus of the song evolves from Love shouting, “Go on, take everything! Take everything! I want you to” to, “Go on, take everything! Take everything, I need you to”, to finally, “Go on, take everything! Take everything, I dare you to”. The final verse states, “Well, I told you from the start, just how this would end. When I get what I want, I never want it again”.
A strong woman in charge of her sexuality, her music, her passions…..it shouldn’t be unusual nor controversial. But, in the case of Courtney Love…she is nothing, if not, complicated. Addicitions of any kind are tragic. It is not possible to know how big a band Hole may have become had heroin not derailed its’ future. As it stands, we have a taste of the greatness of this band in the form of an album called, “Live Through This” and songs like “Violet”. Buckle up and get ready to rock!
The link to the music video for Violet by Hole can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their website can be found here.