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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 177
Thurs. July 25, 2013

“All Apologies”
Nirvana

1993

“♫ What
else
should
I be
♫”

When referencing “All Apologies,”Nirvana’s second single from In Utero, Kurt Cobain once told Michael Azerrad, in his book Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, “It doesn’t have any relevance at all. The song isn’t about anything, really.” It sounded like Cobain was trying to avoid any kind of meaning to his confessional style songwriting of “All Apologies.” But did Kurt really have to explain anything about “All Apologies” or does everything we want to know about right there on display about this In Utero’s climatic song?

Later, after many provoking questions, Cobain admitted to Azerrad, in Come As You Are, that “All Apologies” was dedicated to his wife and daughter, when he said, “I like to think that song is for [Frances and Courtney] but the words really don’t fit in relation to us. I wrote it for them but none of the lyrics expose anything. The feeling does, but not the lyrics.” “All Apologies” sounds like it was inspired by a conversational rift between Kurt and Courtney. Cobain has a very apologetic and subservient husbandly tone. “Apologies” is anything but a love song to his family, in fact, despite the fact that Cobain claimed, “That was another line that was written before Courtney and I started going out,” but the lyrics “♫ Married/Buried ♫” hint at an unspoken tension behind the picture perfect lyrical life.

There’s nothing really joyful or happy about “All Apologies.” In fact, this is Kurt at his most personal and during moments while singing, Kurt’s most famous “Apologies,” Cobain confesses that sometimes he would love to trade places with his devoted audience. The M-TV Unplugged performance of “All Apologies” is Kurt Cobain at his most fragile. It’s no accident that the Nirvana singer mentioned Leonard Cohen in “Pennyroyal Tea”, but Cobain channeled the Canadian Poet throughout his most personal rendition of “All Apologies.” As, Cobain sung, “♫ All in all is all we are… ♫” over and over again, Kurt was singing for all of us, all the times we had to apologies for being ourselves, Cobain’s song was to be the final world on feeling any kind of remorse or regret, Kurt gave ‘apologies” a certain eloquence.

Even In Utero producer Steve Albini was impressed with Kurt’s “All Apologies” when he told Gillian G. Gaar in her 33 /13 tome of Nirvana’s In Utero, “I remember really liking the sound of [“All Apologies”] as a contrast to the more aggressive ones. I remember thinking it sounded really good in that it sounded lighter, but it didn’t sound conventional. It was sort of a crude light sound that suited the band.” Although, “All Apologies” like “Heart Shaped Box” were two of the songs that former R.E.M. producer Scott Litt was brought in to remix, nothing could change the poignant genius of Kurt’s very personal acoustic classic. While Kurt and Nirvana are know and will be remembered by the primal sound of popular cuts like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” songs that displayed Cobain’s angry vocal range, “All Apologies” showed a different and more personal side of Nirvana’s singer that was only glimpsed at in Nevermind’s “Something in the Way.”

Kurt’s song was to be the epitaph for “All Apologies.” There’s no regrets, for the whispered lament that was “All Apologies” went from being the second single from In Utero and eventually has become the final word on the depth of Kurt Cobain’s once promising songwriting legacy.

The legacy of Kurt Cobain was the way he lived. Kurt was Kurt. Cobain once famous said, “I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” And no Nirvana song reflected the quiet side of Kurt Cobain like “All Apologies.” I loved that fact that Kurt never apologized for being who he was. Cobain was always somebody who looked like me, talked like me, smoked like me, laughed like me and was angry like me. One of the lessons Kurt’s creative triumphs taught me was “If Kurt can make it…why can’t I?” Whatever happened, marriage, addiction, band turmoil…Kurt Cobain kept writing, creating and recording songs. Kurt’s own lyrics made him immortal. He could’ve given up but through all the darkness and no matter how quiet the lyrics that he crafted like “All Apologies,” Cobain knew how to make his beautiful feedback sparks ignite.

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