Courtney Love, Grunge, Kurt Cobain, Nirvana

Courtney Love, Grunge

Kurt Cobain's Downward Spiral and Last Days

Kurt Cobain died 26 years ago today. Read our 1994 investigative report on the Nirvana frontman's final days

4/5/2020 3:00:00 PM

Kurt Cobain died 26 years ago today. Read our 1994 investigative report on the Nirvana frontman's final days

In this investigative report, Rolling Stone traces Cobain’s final days – from his nearly fatal drug overdose in Rome to the discovery of his body one month later in Seattle

was rocky. In fact, Love told MTV that Cobain said to her in the weeks after Rome: “I hate it — I can’t play with them anymore.” She added that he only wanted to work with Michael Stipe ofR.E.M.“In the last few weeks, I was talking to Kurt a lot,” Stipe said in a statement. “We had a musical project in the works, but nothing was recorded.”

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On March 18, a domestic dispute escalated into a near disaster. After police officers arrived at the scene, summoned by Love, she told them that her husband had locked himself in a room with a 38-caliber revolver and said he was going to kill himself. The officers confiscated that gun and three others, along with a bottle of various unidentified pills. Later that night, Cobain told them that he hadn’t actually been planning to take his own life.

At this point, Love, along with Cobain’s other family members, band mates and management company, began talking to a number of intervention counselors, including Steven Chatoff, executive director of Anacapa by the Sea, a behavioral health center for the treatment of addictions and psychological disorders, in Port Hueneme, Calif. “They called me to see what could be done,” says Chatoff. “He was using, up in Seattle. He was in full denial. It was very chaotic. And they were in fear for his life. It was a crisis.”

Chatoff began interviewing friends, family members and business associates in preparation for enacting a full-scale intervention. According to Chatoff, someone then tipped off Cobain, and the procedure had to be canceled. Nirvana’s management, Gold Mountain, claims that it found another intervention counselor and told Chatoff a small lie to turn down his services politely.

Meanwhile, Roddy Bottum, an old friend of Love and Cobain’s and the keyboardist forFaith No More, flew from San Francisco to Seattle to care for Cobain. “I really loved Kurt,” Bottum says, “and we got along really well. I was there to be with him as a friend.”

On March 25, roughly 10 friends — including band mates Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear, Nirvana manager John Silva, Billig, longtime friend Dylan Carlson, Love and Goldberg (Bottum had already gone home) — gathered at Cobain’s home on Seattle’s Lake Washington Boulevard to take a different approach with a new intervention counselor. (Novoselic is said to have staged his own separate confrontation with Cobain as well.) As part of the intervention, Love threatened to leave Cobain, and Smear and Novoselic said they would break up the band if Cobain didn’t check into rehab. After a tense five-hour session in the two-day process, Cobain retired to the basement with Smear, where they rehearsed some new material.

Love had hoped to coax Cobain into flying to Los Angeles with her so that the couple could check into rehab together. Instead, she wound up on a plane with Billig at the end of the first day of intervention. (The couple’s daughter, Frances Bean, and a nanny followed the next day.) Love would say that she regretted leaving Cobain alone (“That ’80s tough-love bullshit — it doesn’t work,” she said in a taped message during a memorial vigil for Cobain two weeks later). After a stop in San Francisco, Billig and Love flew to Los Angeles, and on the morning of the 26th, Love checked into the Peninsula Hotel, in Beverly Hills, and began an outpatient program to “detox from tranquilizers,” according to Billig.

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Back in Seattle, Cobain stopped by Carlson’s condominium on March 30 to ask for a gun because, Cobain said, there were trespassers on Cobain’s property.“He seemed normal, we’d been talking,” Carlson says. “Plus, I’d loaned him guns before.” Carlson believes Cobain didn’t want to buy the shotgun himself because he was afraid the police would confiscate it, since they had taken his other firearms after the domestic dispute that had occurred 12 days earlier.

Cobain and Carlson headed to Stan’s Gun Shop nearby and purchased a six-pound Remington 20-gauge shotgun and a box of ammunition for roughly $300, which Cobain gave Carlson in cash. “He was going out to L.A.,” Carlson says. “It seemed kind of weird that he was buying the shotgun before he was leaving. So I offered to hold on to it until he got back.” Cobain, however, insisted on keeping the shotgun himself. The police believe that Cobain dropped the weapon off at his home and left Seattle to check himself into rehab. Smear and a Gold Mountain employee met Cobain at the Los Angeles airport and drove him to the Exodus Recovery Center, in the Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital, in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Photos: Trace the rise of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and more in Michael Lavine’s photographsDespite his inability to proceed with his plan, Chatoff says he spoke with Cobain by phone several times before Cobain left for Los Angeles. “I was not supportive of that at all,” says Chatoff of Cobain’s admittance to Exodus, “because that was just another detox ‘buff and shine.'”

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Cobain spent two days at the 20-bed clinic. On April 1 he called Love, who was still at the Peninsula. “He said, ‘Courtney, no matter what happens, I want you to know that you made a really good record,'” she later told a Seattle newspaper. “I said, ‘Well, what do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Just remember, no matter what, I love you.'” (Hole were due to release their second album,

Live Through This,11 days later.) That was the last time Love spoke to her husband.According to one of Cobain’s visitors at the clinic, “I was ready to see him look like shit and depressed. He looked so fucking great. He walked out an hour later.” At 7:25 p.m., Cobain told the clinic staff he was stepping out onto the patio for a smoke and, according to Love, “jumped over the fence.” Actually, it was a brick wall more than 6 feet high. “We watch our patients really well,” says a spokesperson for Exodus. “But some do get out.”

Kurt Cobain 1967–1994The next day, Love canceled Cobain’s credit cards and hired private investigators to track him down. But he had already flown back to Seattle. “I talked to Cali [one of Frances Bean’s nannies, whose real name is Michael DeWitt],” Carlson says, “who said he had seen [Kurt] on Saturday [April 2], but I couldn’t get ahold of him.” Neither could anybody else. On April 4, Cobain’s mother, Wendy O’Connor — who says she had been afraid for her son’s safety for some time — filed a missing-person’s report. She told the police that Cobain might be suicidal and suggested that they look for Cobain at a particular three-story brick building, described as a location for narcotics, in Seattle’s upscale, bohemian Capitol Hill district.

The police believe Cobain wandered around town with no clear agenda in his final days, though they suspect he stopped by a gun shop to buy more rounds of ammunition. Neighbors say they spotted Cobain in a park near his house during this period, looking ill and wearing an incongruously thick jacket. Cobain is also believed to have spent a night at his summer home in nearby Carnation with an unidentified friend.

Photos: Rare Kurt Cobain Images, Artwork and Journal EntriesSometime on or before the afternoon of April 5, Cobain barricaded himself in the greenhouse above his garage by propping a stool against its French doors. The evidence at the scene suggests that he removed his hunter’s cap — which he wore when he didn’t want people to recognize him — and dug into a cigar box that is believed to have contained his drug stash. He penned a one-page note in red ink. He also tossed his wallet on the floor, open to his Washington driver’s license, which friends believe was to help the police identify him.

Love reconstructed the rest of the tragedy for MTV: Cobain drew a chair up to a window overlooking the Puget Sound, sat down, took some more drugs (most likely heroin), pressed the barrel of the 20-gauge shotgun to his head and — evidently using his thumb — pulled the trigger. (Though the county medical examiner has determined that Cobain died on the afternoon of April 5, the police report that two people claim to have spoken to him on April 6.)

In a cruel twist of fate, it wasn’t until April 6 that Love’s private investigators arrived in Seattle. “I was working with [an investigator],” Carlson says, “and the day we were going to Carnation to look for him, we found out he was dead.” Before Cobain’s body was found, the police say they asked workers outside his house if they had seen him, though the police didn’t go inside the house.

Elsewhere on April 7, an emergency phone call was placed to 911 about a “possible overdose victim” at the Peninsula Hotel. The police, the fire department and ambulances arrived at the scene, where they found Love and Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson. (Frances Bean and her nanny were staying in the room next door.) Love was taken to Century City Hospital, arriving around 9:30 a.m. She was released two and a half hours later. Lt. Joe Lombardi of the Beverly Hills Police says that Love was arrested immediately after her discharge and “booked for possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a hypodermic syringe and possession/receiving stolen property.”

Criminal lawyer Barry Tarlow, Love’s attorney, says that contrary to published reports, Love “wasn’t under the influence of heroin” and “didn’t overdose.” He says that “she had an allergic reaction” to the tranquilizer Xanax. Tarlow says the stolen property was a prescription pad that “her doctor . . . left there when he was visiting. . . . There were no prescriptions written on it.” And the controlled substance? “It was not narcotics,” says Tarlow. “It’s Hindu good-luck ashes, which she received from her entertainment lawyer Rosemary Carroll.”

Love was released at about 3 p.m. after posting $10,000 bail. She immediately checked herself into the Exodus Recovery Center, the same rehabilitation facility from which her husband had escaped a week earlier. The following day, April 8, she checked out when she received word that her husband had been found.

The first time Cobain’s troubles made tabloid headlines was in August 1992, after a now infamousVanity Fairarticle was published in which its writer, Lynn Hirschberg, reported that Love had used heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean. (Love has denied this.) As a result of subsequent media attention, the Cobains were not allowed to be alone with their newborn daughter for one month.

After a long and taxing battle with children’s services in Los Angeles, where they were then living, the couple regained custody of the girl. In a September 1992Los Angeles Timesarticle, Cobain admitted to “dabbling” in heroin and detoxing twice in the past year — a strategic move, according to an insider, to mollify children’s services. In subsequent interviews, Cobain never admitted to using heroin after he and Love had detoxed before Frances Bean was born.

In the spring of 1993, after the band had recordedIn Uterowith producer Steve Albini in Minnesota, another frightening series of events began to unfold.First came good news: On March 23, 1993, following a Family Court ruling in Los Angeles, children’s services stopped its supervision of the Cobains’ child-rearing. But just six weeks later, on May 2, Cobain came home (then in Seattle’s Sand Point area) shaking, flushed and dazed. Love called the police. According to a police report, Cobain had taken heroin. As Cobain’s mother and sister stood by, Love injected her husband with buprenorphine, an illegal drug that can be used to awaken someone after a heroin overdose. She also gave Cobain a Valium, three Benadryls and four Tylenol tablets with codeine, which caused him to vomit. Love told the police this kind of thing had happened before.

A month later, on June 4, the police arrived at the Cobains’ home again after being summoned by Love. She told the police that she and Cobain had been arguing over guns in the house. Cobain was booked for domestic assault (he spent three hours in jail), and three guns found at the house were confiscated. One of those weapons, a Taurus .380, had been loaned to Cobain by Carlson. (Cobain picked up the guns a few months later; they were again confiscated in the March 1994 domestic dispute.) A source says that Cobain told him that the fight was actually over Cobain’s drug use.

Seven weeks later, on the morning of July 23, Love heard a thud in the bathroom of the New York hotel where the couple was staying. She opened the door and found Cobain unconscious. He had overdosed again. Nevertheless, Nirvana performed that night at the Roseland Ballroom. Fans never knew the difference.

A few days later, Cobain returned to Seattle. One friend says: “He just kept to himself. Every time he came back after a tour, he would get more and more reclusive. The only people that saw him a lot were Courtney, Cali and Jackie [Farry, a former baby sitter and assistant manager].” Cobain never seemed to fully believe he had a problem — even as recently as the intervention, friends confirm. Cobain’s clinical depression had been diagnosed as early as high school, according to Gold Mountain. “Over the last few years of his life,” says Goldberg, “Kurt saw innumerable doctors and therapists.” Many who were close to Cobain confirm that the musician frequently suffered dramatic mood swings.

“Kurt could just be very outgoing and funny and charming,” says Butch Vig, who producedNevermind,“and a half-hour later he would just go sit in the corner and be totally moody and uncommunicative.” “He was a walking time bomb, and nobody could do anything about it,” says Goldberg.

On Sept. 14,In Uterowas released. Even though Cobain had vowed not to “go on any more long tours” unless he could keep his chronic stomach pain from acting up, the band hit the road for a long stretch of U.S. dates and interviews, including one withRolling Stone

in October. According to sources, Cobain detoxed from heroin before the tour.On Jan. 8, 1994, Nirvana performed what would be their last American show, at the Seattle Center Arena. The band then spent the next couple of weeks relaxing in Seattle. During that time, in a move considered uncharacteristic by many, Cobain authorized Geffen to make a few changes to

In Utero.In order to get chains such as Kmart and Wal-Mart to carry the album, which the stores had previously rejected, Geffen decided to remove Cobain’s collage of model fetuses from the back cover.Geffen also changed the song title “Rape Me” to “Waif Me,” a name that Cobain picked, according to Ray Farrell of Geffen’s sales department. “At first, Kurt wanted to call it ‘Sexually Assault Me,'” Farrell says, “but it took up too much room. In the end he decided on ‘Waif Me’ because

Read more: Rolling Stone

went by this historic, and somewhat infamous house back in September in Seattle, Nirvana Overrated LIAR 🤔 JayLunar matt_ranks29 Wesley Willis was a better artist. RipKurt. the world got even harder. Great band! You hate to see such talent squandered in drugs and suicide. I remember that day. If someone from the future were to have come up to me in that moment and said- in 26 years; in the year of 2020, there will be a global pandemic killing thousands I’d have said yup, sounds reasonable.

The box of drugs were closed and his sleeves were rolled down CourtneyDidIt drank in my cup One of my favorite bands. It's a shame I wasn't alive to see them in concert Ok. In retrospect, it’s so easy to say hindsight. But why was he left alone? I’ve been that crazy and my family wouldn’t dare allow me to my own devices.

Investigation my ass. It was ruled a suicide the same day. Dead men don’t pull triggers. 3X lethal dose of heroin was in his system. courtneyhiredahit that was a sad day... RIP Kurt It’s amazing how you continually release false information. Dr. Osvaldo Galletta, who treated Cobain after the Rome incident: “We can usually tell a suicide attempt. This didn't look like one to me.”

Nirvana Forever Legend ❤️kurt correction died by suicide Rest In Peace to a legend he changed rock music and seemed like a great guy I agree when you said he was the antithesis of all the rock gods who came before him. Kurt Cobain was phenomenal. Smells Like Teen Spirit and Lithium is masterpiece. I listened to that songs a thousand times.

I was waiting to see something on this. Sad to see its a little less remembered as each passing year goes by. KurtCobain 26 años hoy. Saludos a todas las tv de mierda Ya 26 años de que enviudaste lualvarezd Quick question,why did he think Led Zeppelin was sexist? I still have my unused concert ticket they were meant to play in Birmingham UK

Not even the best grunge musician to die on March 5th. KurtCobain RIP. Saw you perform the year before you passed on. Amazing show. Rock on in Nirvana! ❤️🎼 Fuck Courtney Love HeavierThanHeaven (bio on Kurt) and the Bible (KJV... I'm old school) were the 2 books that got me through a year in Iraq 2004-05. One talks of kfc Chicken Littles and Barqs root beer... the other advises on small portions of fish and bread. (I prefer the CLs & RB.) 💯

🎤👌👍😢 I need something uplifting today. Cobain isn’t it. Imagine all those unwritten Songs A long, but very good read. I guess no one will ever know the exact truth as to what happened. Stories abound. Who knows🤷‍♂️ I remember when I’ve Learned the news that He passed away, I was crying all day long.. I was 10 Years old and I loved Nirvana since then...

'I hate myself and want to die'... cough on me Don’t forget Layne. Read 12 revealing quotes from Kurt Cobain on sexism, homophobia, classic rock and more Shittiest contract with the devil !

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