As we herald today's news that both Nirvana and Peter Gabriel have officially been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we remember this classic photo and we remember our online series Unlikely Music Friendships Captured on Film. Here from the archives is this wonderful moment ....
Once you get past the “What’s Wrong with this Picture?” aspects of this photo here — Kurt with the baby bottle; Peter’s “Look who I’m getting my picture taken with” smile; both of them wearing tops that border on mock turtleneck — we are faced with the question of what they could have possibly discussed in the minutes surrounding this photo.
Kevin Mazur snapped the pic in September of 1993 at the 10th Annual MTV Video Music Awards. To put these characters in context, at the time, Peter Gabriel had released “Us” nearly a year before, and it would be another decade until his next album. Nirvana would release “In Utero” 10 days after this photo was taken, and Kurt Cobain would be dead eight months later.
While Cobain’s heroin usage has been widely reported, I don’t think that any narcotic side effects are responsible for his tight wink. It actually comes across more like he’s giving Gabriel a little bit of stink eye.
Was Cobain possibly not interested in Gabriel, and feeling like he was suffering a fool by having his photo taken with him? The late Nirvana singer once told Rolling Stone, “ I wouldn’t wear a tie-dyed T-shirt unless it was dyed with the urine of Phil Collins and the blood of Jerry Garcia.”
Since Gabriel was once in the same band as Collins, did Cobain share a similar disdain for both gentlemen? Or, come to think of it, does that quote even convey disdain? If you’re wearing a T-shirt that has swirls of somebody’s pee, I might suggest that you actually like that person. I may even venture to say that you like that person a whole heck of a lot more than the person whose blood is on your shirt.
This is the narrative that I want to think Cobain has going on in his head:
“Oh great. Here I am with the other guy from Genesis. If only it were Mr. Sussudio, I could get him to give me some tinkle for the coolest rock shirt in history! But no, typical KC luck, I’ve got Mr. Sledgehammer here instead! Just fantastic, Kurt. You are so close, but it’s just not the same, is it? Maybe Jerry Garcia is at this show somewhere. I could get him to give me a little bit of blood. Wait, why would the Grateful Dead ever be at the MTV Awards? A-doy! Though their video for ‘Touch of Grey’ sure was cool. Did that win any awards? I wonder. Maybe good old Peter Gabriel here knows. I do like this Peter Gabriel though. It's nice to be near him. Maybe someday 10 years from now we'll both be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame together. Wouldn't that be something? Heck, if I were a Hall of Famer I could personally request a urine sample from Phil Collins! Yeah, that's a good plan. Now I just have to keep things on an even keel for the next decade. Damn, I’ve been thinking to myself for a while now, haven’t I? When I think too hard I close one eye really tight. I hope I’m not doing that now. Oh shoot, I think I am! Stop it, Kurt!”
But really, what did they talk about? Did they trade proclamations of admiration? If so, how specific were they? Was it just Gabriel saying, “Hey, I like your work” or was he embarrassingly doting over the 26-year-old Nirvana singer?
This is how I like to imagine his side of the conversation:
“Hi Kurt, I’m Peter Gabriel, but you probably know that already. Or do you? I don’t know! I’m sorry for assuming. That probably came across as egotistical, didn’t it? Anyway, I’m the guy who sings ‘Shock the Monkey,’ and I also did the song ‘In Your Eyes,’ which John Cusack’s character played when he held the boombox over his head in ‘Say Anything.’ Did you see ‘Say Anything’? I loved that movie. And I swear I’m not just saying that because my song was in it. Not just saying that. I say anything, get it? Like the movie I just talked about, ‘Say Anything,’ you know the one that has ‘In Your Eyes’ in it? That is, of course ‘In Your Eyes,’ by me, Peter Gabriel. Annnnnnyway, enough about me, let’s talk about you … what do you think about me? Ha ha ha, I’m totally kidding. I stole that joke from Bette Midler. Do you like the Divine Miss M? Don’t answer! Because if you don’t I just simply DO NOT want to hear it. Seriously, though, let’s talk about you! I loved loved loved the video for ‘In Bloom’! So funny! What a genius idea to get Doug Llewelyn on there! He is usually so stiff on ‘People’s Court’ but he was phenomenally funny in that video. That is Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-worthy stuff, mate! Wouldn't that be something if the two of us blokes were someday inducted into that fine institution? Ahhh, we can dream, can't we? Oh my gosh I have been totally talking for like sooooo long. I am so sorry. Tell me what you’ve been up to! What’s your new album sound like? Oh, would you look at that, this Kevin Mazur chap wants to snap a bloody photo of us. Pip pip, Kurt! Open that left eye, my good man.”