Bruce Pavitt, founder of Sub Pop records, lives on Orcas Island and has a storied history in grunge music, but he'll be about 3000 miles from Seattle in New York when he officially releases his new e-book Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989 later today.
The book contains "never-before seen early photographs of Kurt Cobain" and chronicles the band's first European tour through pics taken with Pavitt's pocket camera.
While that's cool and everything, I wonder if digital photos of these scenes will have the same impact as physical copies in a book? To me, the Kindle-fying of the era doesn't appeal on even remotely the same wavelength. What's more, re-calibrating the events surrounding the birth of grunge through a digital viewfinder still won't bring fans--young and old alike--any closer to the deceased icon.In an interview with EW.com, Pavitt discusses his decision to e-publish the tome. "I think Kurt's death is very traumatizing for a lot of people, and it was hard for me to even listen to the music for a long time. When I went through the pictures I realized they told a story, and it was a Nirvana story with a happy ending. I thought the world could use a Nirvana story with a happy ending."
Whether the world needed another angle on the Cobain legacy is debatable. Perhaps Cobain's death was hard for Pavitt, now 53, but is he really the spokesperson for what modern audiences can use? And if this were really the case, why not release the book in Seattle--the cradle of the movement--at one of our own Apple Stores? To me, the venture reeks of self-promotion, and recalls a chat I had last year 'round Reverb Fest with Truly and Screaming Trees band member Mark Pickerel about his views on commercialization and grunge, 20 years since the genre exploded in 1991.
"When I see a Kurt Cobain doll in a place like Easy Street records, I have a really hard time understanding how that could have happened. It's really weird to see an old friend immortalized in an action figure," he says of Cobain's enduring hold on pop culture. "On the other hand, I can't think of another person more deserving than someone like Kurt Cobain to be placed in that kind of context. Certainly his music has become as iconic as Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison or John Lennon's so I appreciate the fact that the music from that period is still appreciated with the kind of enthusiasm it is...but it's also kind of surreal for me to see it continually mass marketed and promoted year after year amongst all these other, newer forms of music."
That Pickerel cites "newer forms of music" is interesting because a percentage of the book's proceeds will go to benefit the all-ages venue Vera Project, indicating the e-book is indeed a re-packaging of grunge for a younger audience.
We're still waiting to hear from Pavitt on the topic, but during our chat last year Pickerel softened to the idea of marketing grunge, pending conditions. "You know, I don't want to sound too cynical about Cobain's iconic status," Pickerel says. "I'd much rather see kids these days buy a Kurt Cobain action figure than a George Bush one."
The e-book is available only through Apple's iBookstore. Will you buy it? Do you think the pictures are relevant today in digital form? Sound off in the comments below.