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Members include Melissa Auf Der Maur (born March 17, 1972, in Montreal, Canada; joined group 1994), bass; Jill Emery (bandmember 1989-93), bass; Eric Erlandson (founding member; born January 9, 1963, in Los Angeles, CA) guitar; Courtney Love (founding member; born July 9, 1964, in San Francisco, CA; raised in Eugene, OR; daughter of Linda Carroll [a therapist] and Hank Harrison [an author and publisher]; married James Moreland [a musician], 1989 [divorced 1990]; married Kurt Cobain [a musician], 1992 [died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds, April 5, 1994]; children: [with Cobain] Frances Bean), vocals, guitar; Kristen Pfaff (joined group 1993; born in 1967; died of a heroin overdose, June 1994), bass; Caroline Rue (bandmember 1989-92) drums; Patty Schemel (born April 24, 1967, in Seattle, WA; joined group mid-1992), drums. Addresses: Record company--David Geffen Company, 9130 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069.
As the late Kurt Cobain was to Nirvana, his widow, Courtney Love, is to the rock group Hole, although many critics tend to focus more on her flamboyant personality than on her musicianship. Love, the band's lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist, is truly the image of the "bad girl of rock." Every interview with her seems to be pockmarked with profanity, though it is profanity eloquently stated. In spite of her outspoken nature, exhibitionist behavior, outrageous appearance, and alleged drug use, she comes off as articulate, intelligent, utterly entertained by the culture she is enmeshed in--and very angry at it, too. With Love as its driving force, Hole has emerged as a provocative mainstay on the rock scene. As Billy Corgan--Smashing Pumpkins singer and Love's former boyfriend--put it in Entertainment Weekly, "No girl rock band has come close to [Hole's] fury."
Hole reportedly takes its name from two sources: Love's mother's maxim "You can't walk around with a big hole inside yourself" and the line "There's a hole that pierces right through me," from Greek dramatist Euripides's tragedy Medea. The group was formed in Los Angeles in late 1989 after Love sought bandmembers through an ad in the Recycler, an L.A. weekly featuring free ads. She, guitarist Eric Erlandson, bass player Jill Emery, and drummer Caroline Rue went on to record Hole's debut album, Pretty on the Inside, which was released by independent label Caroline in 1991. While Entertainment Weekly contributor David Browne found Pretty on the Inside "mostly an excuse for Love to throw a musical temper tantrum," David Fricke, writing in Rolling Stone, deemed the album "a classic of sex-mad self-laceration, hypershred guitars and full-moon brawling."
After Pretty on the Inside, Hole re-formed, adding drummer Patty Schemel and bass player Kristen Pfaff to original members Love and Erlandson. (Pfaff would die of a heroine overdose in June of 1994.) The band's second full-length effort, Live Through This, came out in April of 1994, just days after a stunned rock world learned of Cobain's suicide. Only a few months after its release, the album had sold four times as many copies as Pretty on the Inside, according to Entertainment Weekly.
A few critics missed the rawness of Pretty on the Inside when confronted with the more conventional accomplishments of Live Through This. Melody Maker' s Everett True mourned--even while he appreciated--the change. "Hole 1993 are (whisper it) a polished, accomplished rock band, brimming with carefully fashioned hooks and choruses," he wrote ruefully. Fricke, however, saw progress and noted that Live Through This is "prettier on the outside, with a greater emphasis on crushed-velvet guitar distortions and liquid poppish strumming.... Love and Hole [have] managed to harness the ugliness that drove Pretty on the Inside to a more controlled but still cutting extreme."
Love seems to spend considerable time honing her image and defending herself against that image. Her self-proclaimed "Kinder-whore look"-- "white skin, red lips, blond hair with black roots," and "either ripped dresses from the thirties or one-size-too-small velvet dresses from the sixties," as described by Vanity Fair's Lynn Hirschberg--has proven to be a big hit on the West Coast. In fact, the singer's unusual style and wild exploits have been sparking frenzied media coverage since the early 1990s. But Love's background as a stripper, rumors of her alleged heroin use while pregnant with her daughter, coverage of her sometimes stormy marriage to Cobain and their well-publicized trips to detoxification facilities, and finally Cobain's suicide have all detracted from Hole as a group.
Indeed, with the press so sharply focused on Love, Hole has had a hard time establishing its own identity as a musical unit. Appreciation for the band's dynamics notwithstanding, it is Love who continues to draw the most attention--for her unabashed sexuality, her distinctive sound, and her reputation as a creative powerhouse. Entertainment Weekly's Browne characterized Love's voice as "a thick, reedy instrument that makes her sound like the younger, brattier sister of Johnny Rotten," and added, "She has charisma and attitude to burn." Fricke commented: "The sheer force of Love's corrosive, lunatic wail--not to mention the guitar-drum wrath unleashed in its wake--is impressive stuff."
Love's complex personality comes through in her lyrics. Her aspirations are far from casual: the singer-songwriter told Kim Neely of Rolling Stone that she aims "to have some sort of emotional impact that transcends time." Love has been praised by a number of critics for her honest, insightful, and intelligent lyrics--many autobiographical, and nearly all astute commentary. On "Asking for It" from Live Through This, for instance, she comments on the place of women in today's culture, stating: "Every time that I sell myself to you / I feel a little bit cheaper than I need to." Charles Aaron noted in Spin that Love "constantly plays patty-cake with the idea that she deserves everything she gets, good or bad."
For Fricke and many others, Courtney Love serves as the notorious queen of the perilous world of rock, representing both strength and anger alongside vulnerability. She claims that the influences of female rock pioneers Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde "saved my life," according to an article by Lorraine Ali in Entertainment Weekly. Fricke stated that even before gaining fame via Cobain, "Love was the scarred beauty ... of underground-rock society, a fearless confessor and feedback addict, ... part ravaged baby doll, part avenging kamikaze angel." Newsweek's Karen Schoemer, however, wrote that Love is "no feminist," adding, "her rabid quest for attention in any form fulfills too many archaic female stereotypes."
Schoemer also noted, "There's only one band that can be credited with turning around the listless course of rock music in the '90s, and it's not Hole--it's Nirvana." Still, Hole is getting plenty of MTV airplay and Live Through This has gone gold. Furthermore, Spin's Craig Marks mentioned that the band is talking about performing at the 1995 version of the annual alternative rockfest Lollapalooza. To attest to the group's popularity, Marks also reported on the variety of celebrities that showed up at Hole's sold-out gig at the Hollywood Palladium, including actress Juliette Lewis and former Beatle Ringo Starr.
Courtney Love's still-young biography is disturbingly typical in the world of rock. Her story will forever be written with Kurt Cobain's. In response to suggestions that she thrives on music-world publicity, Love rhetorically asked Tom Sheehan of Melody Maker, "I saw something I wanted, and I got it.... What is so f---ing bad about getting what you want?" One suspects that she--and Hole, if they can hold on--will continue to get what they want.
by Diane Moroff
Love formed band with Erlandson, Emery, and Rue in Los Angeles in 1989; relocated to Seattle, WA; released Pretty on the Inside on independent label, Caroline, 1991; band re-formed; released Live Through This, DGC, 1994.
Gold record for Live Through This, 1994.
- Selective Works
- Rat Bastard (EP), Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1990.
- "Dicknail" (single), Sub Pop, 1991.
- Pretty on the Inside, Caroline, 1991.
- "Beautiful Son" (single), City Slang, 1993.
- Live Through This, DGC, 1994.
- Boston Phoenix, April 8, 1994.
- Entertainment Weekly, April 15, 1994; July 8, 1994; August 12, 1994.
- Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1994.
- Melody Maker, April 3, 1993; July 24, 1993; December 4, 1993; January 29, 1994; February 19, 1994.
- Metro Times (Detroit), April 4, 1994.
- Newsweek, April 11, 1994; February 6, 1995.
- People, May 2, 1994; May 23, 1994; July 4, 1994.
- Request, May 1994.
- Rolling Stone, December 23, 1993-January 6, 1994; April 21, 1994; June 2, 1994; August 11, 1994; November 3, 1994; November 17, 1994; December 15, 1994.
- Spin, May 1994; February 1995.
- Vanity Fair, September 1992.
- Additional information for this profile was obtained from David Geffen Company publicity materials, 1994.
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