How Hole shaped what I know about rock & roll and sexuality
Everyone loves "Doll Parts." At least that's the song the comes up any time I speak about Hole to a non-Hole fan. I'm not complaining. "Doll Parts" is arguably a better point of reference for the band than the other common conversation piece regarding Hole, which is the comment that Courtney Love is insane. She might be insane; I don't know. I can't really wrap my head around who she is because I've never met her. But what I can speak to what is the unmitigated effect that Hole and Live Through This -- released twenty years ago this past week -- had on me as a human being.
A page from my high school-era scrapbook.
Again, I don't know Courtney Love, but what I do know is that she created an album that made me want to be a rock star. She carried around an image and persona that I wanted to replicate exactly. The desire to emulate Love's likeness was partially because I liked the way she looked, but it was also because it was a way for me to visually rebel. It became my own method of defiance and reaction; I simply wanted to fuck with some of my fellow students in 1994 at George Washington High School who spent an inordinate amount of time fucking with me.
The makeshift label on this album reminds me that Live Through This was one of the first ten CDs I ever owned.
I wanted to fuck with the dudes who would walk up to me in the hall and ask me if I was a virgin; I wanted to fuck with the dudes who called me a whore, but would also ask me out when no one was looking; I wanted to fuck with the girls who taunted me by calling me a "lesbian," when it was clear to me that their own sexual preference was what was really bothering them, not my garter belts and baby doll dresses that, for whatever reason, looked "gay," if that was such a way to look.
This past week, Live Through This turned twenty years old. I could hammer out the details of what was going on in the world of Hole and the inextricably linked Nirvana in 1994, but plenty of other people/writers/musicians have already done that and done it well: See Patty Schemel's insanely good documentary, Hit So Hard, or this collection of essays from the likes of Maura Johnston and members of the Coathangers, or this fantastic piece by Jessica Hopper, which goes straight to the source and interviews the surviving members of Hole, as well as producers, engineers and A&R people associated with the release.
I understand what an insurmountable cliche it is for me to say that Live Through This "changed my life" -- but I don't have another way to describe it. Live Through This and Hole's existence from 1993 to 1997 shaped how I play music, how I view music, how I write music, how I write about music and how I outwardly reflect the defining ways music has shaped me.
Aesthetically speaking, Live Through This was my very short but fully complete image guidebook -- at 14, I wanted to look like the model on the album's cover, Leilani Bishop, runny mascara and all. But even more than that, I wanted to look like Courtney. It was my freshman year of high school, but I bought a very pimp-like pastel pink fake fur coat because it was the closest I could find to the one Courtney wore in a Polaroid band photo on the inside sleeve of the record.
I joined the cult of Courtney and never looked back, my hair bleached and stuck together with Goody barrettes or wrapped around a tiara, baby doll dresses as my uniform with black patent leather heels, garter belts, thick red lipstick and powder white face make-up to accent. Courtney was a master at looking strategically fucked up and I wanted to look that way, too. I carried a lunch box for a purse and a backpack with the words "harlot," "teenage whore" and "buckle bunny" scratched across it in marker. I smoked cigarettes behind the Dunkin' Donuts at lunch in these get-ups and went to shows in the same.