Live Through This
|Live Through This|
|Studio album by Hole|
|Released||April 12, 1994|
|Recorded||October 8–30, 1993 at Triclops Sound Studios in Marietta, Georgia|
|Genre||Alternative rock, punk rock, grunge|
City Slang (Europe)
|Producer||Paul Q. Kolderie, Sean Slade|
|Singles from Live Through This|
Live Through This is the second studio album by American alternative rock band Hole. It was released by Geffen Records on April 12, 1994, just four days after frontwoman Courtney Love's husband, Kurt Cobain, was found dead in their home. It was Hole's only album to feature bassist Kristen Pfaff before her death in June 1994, and the first to feature Patty Schemel on drums.
Musically and lyrically, the album differed greatly from the band's debut, Pretty on the Inside (1991), transitioning from punk and noise rock to a more accessible rock sound, focusing more on melody and dynamics and utilizing less of the distortion and experimental touches that dominated their previous record. Lyrically, the album heavily reflected Love's life at the time, her transition into public notoriety, and her role as a wife and mother, as well as articulating a "third-wave feminist consciousness".
Often considered Hole's "magnum opus", Live Through This met near-unanimous critical acclaim, garnering rave reviews and "best album of the year" awards in major periodicals, such as Rolling Stone, Spin, and The New York Times, as well as earning top-100 chart spots in seven countries. The album was a financial success, selling over two million copies worldwide and going multi-platinum within just a year of its release. It also spawned four singles, including the group's signature songs "Doll Parts" and "Violet". In recent years, Live Through This has often been considered a contemporary classic of alternative rock, and was included in Rolling Stone's list of "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". As of 2010, the album had sold over 1.6 million copies in the United States.
Hole released its debut studio album, Pretty on the Inside, in 1991 and despite moderate sales, the album was a critical success among English and American press. In March 1992, following the tour to support the album's release, two members of Hole— drummer Caroline Rue and bassist Jill Emery— left the band due to artistic differences. In April 1992, vocalist Courtney Love and guitarist Eric Erlandson arranged auditions for a drummer at the Jabberjaw in Los Angeles, California and recruited drummer Patty Schemel. Love, Erlandson and Schemel then relocated to Carnation, Washington to a house owned by Love and her husband Kurt Cobain and began rehearsing and writing material for a second album.
Originally signed to Caroline Records in the United States and City Slang in Europe, Hole began record deal negotiations with Geffen Records in early 1992. In February 1992, the band signed with DGC Records, a subsidiary of Geffen, with "an advance of a million dollars and a royalty rate considerably higher than Nirvana's." The final deal reached was a seven-album deal, reported to be over $3 million.
On November 8, 1992, the band recorded "Beautiful Son," "20 Years in the Dakota" and "Old Age" during a recording session at Word of Mouth Recording in Seattle with producer Jack Endino. The three-song session was later released as Hole's fourth single in April 1993 on City Slang. On January 21, 1993, Love and Schemel recorded five demo songs at BMG Ariola Ltda. in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Produced by Craig Montgomery, the session was originally a demo session for Nirvana, who were recording material for their upcoming studio album, In Utero (1993). During breaks in Nirvana's session, Love and Schemel recorded a number of songs later featured on Live Through This, including "Miss World," "She Walks on Me," "I Think That I Would Die" and "Softer, Softest." The band relocated back to Los Angeles after the session and recruited former Janitor Joe bassist Kristen Pfaff in early 1993. Erlandson said of Pfaff's membership: "that's when we took off, all of a sudden we became a real band."
With a complete line-up, Hole began performing in March 1993 and went on a short three-date tour of England to support "Beautiful Son"'s release. Following the tour, the band attempted to record Live Through This in Paris, France in May with producer Butch Vig. Featuring Babes in Toyland frontwoman Kat Bjelland, the sessions were unproductive and a second attempt at recording the album was held at Hanzek Audio in Seattle in August with Chris Hanzek, Jack Endino and Craig Montgomery. During these sessions, Hole recorded instrumental versions of a number of songs, including "Jennifer's Body" and the unreleased Nirvana song "Talk To Me," however the session "wasn't very productive" and eventually, the recordings were left in the studio for years before Eric Erlandson reclaimed them.
The recording sessions for Live Through This began on October 8, 1993 at Triclops Sound Studios in Marietta, Georgia. The studio was booked at the recommendation of The Smashing Pumpkins, who had recorded their second studio album, Siamese Dream (1993) there. The assigned producers were Paul Q. Kolderie and Sean Slade. The first week of recording was spent recording basic tracks, including drums, bass, scratch guitars, and scratch vocals. After basic tracks were completed, Love's husband, Kurt Cobain, joined the band in-studio before Nirvana were set to tour to promote In Utero. Cobain was presented with the basic tracks and the band invited Cobain to sing on a few unfinished numbers. Cobain initially refused, due to being unfamiliar with the material. When Cobain asked, "how can I sing on it if I haven't heard it?," Love answered by encouraging him to "just sing off the top of [his] head." Cobain is known to have provided backing vocals to "Asking for It" and "Softer, Softest," however Kolderie has said Cobain "sang on about five or so [tracks in total], probably Violet, Miss World and Doll Parts, I can't remember any of the others." After taking a break for dinner, the session devolved into a "formless jam" with Cobain on drums, Love and Erlandson on guitars and producer Sean Slade on bass.
According to Patty Schemel, during the sessions an employee at Triclops Sound Studios had "an abundance of crystal meth." Schemel, her brother Larry Schemel and bassist Kristen Pfaff would get high during the recording. "Miss World" was one of the songs Schemel and Pfaff recorded while high and Schemel has said "that song was recorded a bit altered." The band finished recording on October 31.
Live Through This marked a departure from the band's noise rock roots, evident in Pretty on the Inside as well as their earlier singles, to a more radio-friendly rock format. Courtney Love sought a more mellow sound for Live Through This: "I want this record to be shocking to the people who don't think we have a soft edge, and at the same time, [to know] that we haven't lost our very, very hard edge." The resulting music was starkly less aggressive than the band's former work, blending more structured melodies and smoother arrangements with still heavy guitar riffs, with the album summated as "a loud, lush rock record of uncompromising strength and unexpected depth."
"There's a part of me that wants to have a grindcore band and another that wants to have a Raspberries-type pop band", Love told Flipside magazine in 1991. According to Jill Emery, the band's previous bassist, "Courtney wanted to go pop", which ultimately led to Emery quitting the band in 1992. Love's aspirations toward a more streamlined sound provided the record with significantly less distortion, experimental techniques and guitar tunings which Love referred to as "Sonic Youth tunings".
Consequently, Live Through This featured a mixture of songwriting techniques, including use of power chords as well as arpeggios, and occasional use of keyboards. Musically, the album's content ranged from heavier rock tracks such as "Plump" and "Violet" (noted to by Rolling Stone for its "startling gunshot-guitar chorus") to slower and more mellow rock ballads, such as "Doll Parts" and "Softer, Softest", which featured the use of electro-acoustic guitars and more stripped-down progressions and strumming.
Lyrics and themes
Lyrically, the album was also less aggressive, very much reflecting Love's life between 1991 and 1994. The opening song, "Violet", described as one of the band's "strongest songs" was purportedly written about Billy Corgan, though this has been disputed among fans and other musicians. Before a Later... with Jools Holland performance of the song, Love described it as "a song about a jerk— I hexed him and now he's losing his hair." Nonetheless, the song expresses a deep-seated female rage ("Go on, take everything/Take everything, I want you to"). "Miss World", with its upbeat musical structure, makes references to depression and suicide, while "Plump" appears to reference Love's pregnancy and the ensuing custody battle that took place over her infant daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, following an unflattering Lynn Hirschberg article written for Vanity Fair, which painted Love and husband Kurt Cobain as drug addicts and unfit parents. In a 1994 interview, Love said, "If you read Vanity Fair, you probably think I swig Jack Daniel's first thing in the morning, after I smoke my crack, and don't see my daughter for ten days." In a 2010 concert, Love admitted that the line "Like a liar at a witch trial, you look good for your age" is about Kim Gordon.
"Asking for It" was inspired by an occurrence at a 1991 concert when Hole was touring with Mudhoney, in which Love was assaulted and had her clothes ripped off of her while crowdsurfing, leaving her entirely naked. "Doll Parts", the album's most successful single, seems to reflect love and the need for acceptance. In a 2010 interview, Love stated: "I still don't understand why that one song with just three chords is such a big thing. But it's definitely got some good lyrics. That was a song about Kurt. I wrote it in Boston." The album's title, Live Through This, is derived from a monologue by Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939), and the phrase appears in the lyrics of "Asking For It".
from Live Through This—the song became the album's lead single and is one of the band's signature songs.
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The last half of the album rounds off with a cover of the Young Marble Giants' "Credit in the Straight World", alluding to "the critics who had dismissed [Love] as a starfucking phony" and the rock ballad "Softer, Softest", which makes indelible references to Love's troubled childhood with the lines "Pee girl gets the belt"; "pee girl" was a name Love was teased with as a child. "I Think That I Would Die" was co-written by Love's friend/former bandmate Kat Bjelland, and, according to Love, the line "She says, 'I am not a feminist'" in the song was directly quoted from a Julia Roberts interview that she had read.
A song entitled "Rock Star" was originally slated to close the album, but a last-minute decision was made to replace the track with "Olympia." Since the artwork had already been printed, however, the title of "Rock Star" remained and was also used for further releases. The purported reason for the song replacement was concern about the lyric "a barrel of laughs to be Nirvana, you'd rather die." To those not aware that Live Through This was completed before Cobain's death, the lyric could be potentially misconstrued as a reference made in poor taste regarding the discovery of Cobain's body.
Nonetheless, the actual song that closes the album, "Olympia" (under the title "Rock Star"), criticizes the riot grrrl music scene in the Pacific Northwest, which Love was associated but not involved with, and has been described as "a rollicking, good-humored fuck-you to Olympia hipsters." Love had been vocal about her criticism of the riot grrrl movement, calling the musicians "imperious", and pointing out their particular form of feminist politics: "The whole riot grrl thing is so... well, for one thing, the Women's Studies department at Evergreen State College, where a lot of these bands come from, is notorious for being one of the worst programs in the country. It's man-hating, and it doesn't produce intelligent people in that field." Alternate mixes of the song that later were released as b-sides included even more satirical lyrics, such as:
Well, I went to school in Olympia, and everyone's the same
And what do you do with a revolution?
You just forget your name
Following the album's release in the wake of Kurt Cobain's death, rumors began wildly circulating about the album's lyrical content and songwriting, with many people alleging that Cobain had written the album, not Courtney Love. In response to the allegations, drummer Patty Schemel said: "There is that myth that Kurt wrote a lot of our songs— it's not true. Eric [Erlandson] and Courtney wrote Live Through This." Cobain biographer Charles R. Cross conducted interviews with everyone associated with the record and found that all parties agreed that Love and Erlandson wrote the songs.
Although these rumors circulated for years to follow, much of the content on Live Through This had been written and performed during Hole's Pretty on the Inside tour. Both "Violet" and "Doll Parts", two of the album's most notable songs, had been performed as early as 1991 at various concerts, and presumably been written in 1990 or '91, when Love and Cobain were acquaintances. The first studio recordings of the songs took place during a BBC Radio broadcast for John Peel in 1991, in between US and European tours to promote Pretty on the Inside; these recordings would later appear on the group's 1995 EP Ask for It. Early versions of "Softer, Softest", another one of the singles from Live Through This, were also performed during the tour. "Violet", "Doll Parts", and "Softer, Softest" were all performed in the same set at during a December 1991 concert at the U.L.U. in London, and "Violet" was performed at Exeter several days later at a concert with Daisy Chainsaw and Therapy?. The songs were individually performed at various concerts in Paris, Toronto, Los Angeles, New York, and Germany throughout the 1991 tours along with songs from Pretty on the Inside.
Several magazine publications also mentioned the rumors regarding the writing credits, and in a 2006 Time magazine piece, it was noted that "[the rumors] started immediately that it was Cobain, not his wife, Courtney Love, who wrote the majority of these churningly catchy songs. Forget that there's no proof, that their marriage was collaborative and that it's a nasty thing to say, Live Through This is clearly a woman's work [and is] far more swaggering than any album any grunge man ever came up with. When Love sings, "I went to school in Olympia / Where everyone's the same," it's obvious she thinks she's not, and that she's right."
Love made several responses to the rumors, first in 1998: "All this time I have never addressed this. But here I am finally saying for the very first time that Kurt did not [write] Live Through This. I mean for fuck's sake, his skills were much better than mine at the time - the songs would have been much better. That's the first thing." Despite this, the liner notes for the previous year's Hole EP, My Body the Hand Grenade, claimed it was constructed to illustrate the bridge between the first two Hole albums, and featured Love performing a song penned by Cobain. Later on, in 2010, she commented again, saying: "If Kurt had written on it, I would have said something. He didn't. That's all."
Although the band members denied Cobain's involvement in the songwriting, they have openly stated that Cobain was briefly in the studio and performed uncredited backup vocals with Kristen Pfaff on two of the tracks— "Asking for It", and "Softer, Softest". The album's liner notes credit Hole as the sole writers of the album, except for on two songs: "I Think That I Would Die", co-written by Kat Bjelland, as well as the band's cover of "Credit in the Straight World". The liner notes read: "all songs [were] written by Hole except "I Think That I Would Die", written by Hole and K. Bjelland [. . .] "Credit in the Straight World" written by Stuart Moxham."
Kurt sang backing vocals on two songs. He wrote one B-side for Hole ("Old Age"), uncredited. And that was it. It would be just as accurate – and misleading – to say that Courtney Love wrote most of Nirvana's third album, In Utero: you can certainly see her influence in Kurt's lyrics. Before the pair met, it was often guesswork as to his intentions. Afterwards, his lyrics were far more direct.
Packaging and artwork
Model Leilani Bishop is shown on the cover of the album, dressed in beauty pageant attire with a tiara and a bouquet of flowers, with mascara running down her eyes in tears of joy. Courtney Love stated in an interview that she "wanted to capture the look on a woman's face as she's being crowned... this sort of ecstatic, blue eyeliner running, kind of 'I am, I am—I won! I have hemorrhoid cream under my eyes and adhesive tape on my butt, and I had to scratch and claw and fuck my way up, but I won Miss Congeniality!'" The band logo introduced on the front cover of the album is thought to be modeled after the '90s Mattel Barbie logo. The crown comes from the collection of Connie Parente, a popular Los Angeles based jewelry collector.
The back cover of the album features a family photo of a young Courtney Love during her childhood in Marcola, Oregon, with the individual track listings appearing to the right, printed on embossing tape.
When released on April 12, 1994, Live Through This debuted on the charts at number 52, never hitting the Top 40 in the U.S. In December 1994, the record went Gold, having sold a total of 500,000 copies, going platinum six months later for having sold one million copies. To date, the album has sold more than 1.6 million copies in the United States and has well over 2 million worldwide. It has also achieved platinum status in Canada and Australia.
The album received unanimous critical acclaim, and was regarded as Hole's greatest album, as well as one of the greatest rock albums of the 1990s. Critics praised it for combining the raw energy of the band's previous album, Pretty on the Inside, with a pop rock sound that would later characterize the band's next album, Celebrity Skin.
The album is dedicated to the memory of Joe Cole, a roadie for Black Flag and the Rollins Band who was shot to death in 1991 after attending a Hole show at the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood. According to BMI's website, most of the songs credited officially to Hole were written just by Courtney Love and Eric Erlandson. "Doll Parts" was officially written only by Love and "I Think That I Would Die" was written by Erlandson, Love and Kat Bjelland. "Credit in the Straight World" is a Young Marble Giants cover.
Bassist Kristen Pfaff had decided to take a break from the band at the time of Cobain's death in April, 1994. In June 1994, she was found dead by boyfriend and bandmate Eric Erlandson from an apparent heroin overdose. Two months after Kristen's death, Hole began an extensive tour, with Melissa Auf der Maur replacing her on bass.
Four singles were released from the album and three promotional videos were shot, for "Miss World" (still with Kristen Pfaff), "Doll Parts" (with L7's bassist Jennifer Finch replacing her) and "Violet" (already with Melissa Auf der Maur). "Softer, Softest" was also released as a single, and Hole's performance of this song at their MTV Unplugged session was used as a promotional video.
Live Through This was praised unanimously by music critics and rock periodicals. Rolling Stone said, "Love delivers punk not only as insinuating as Nirvana's but as corrosive as the Sex Pistols'. More significantly, Live Through This may be the most potent blast of female insurgency ever committed to tape", while Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B+ rating, saying, "What Live Through This makes perfectly clear, though, is that Love is a greater star. She has charisma and attitude to burn, and she knows it." NME called the album "a personal but secretive thrash-pop opera of urban nihilism and passionate dumbthinks", and Melody Maker called it "the high watermark of the genre that survived the crass label of `foxcore'..."
Musician Magazine said, "[Kurt] Cobain's much-discussed, little heard other half finally gets the chance to escape gossip-column purgatory and succeeds with flying colors... Courtney Love's foul, funny eloquence...cuts through all the bullshit with a mighty flourish." This sentiment was reassessed in a 2008 BBC review of the album, which stated, "In 1994 and the years that followed, tragedy and controversy seemed to overshadow everything Courtney Love touched. Thankfully, with every year that passes, it becomes easier to put the record's emotional baggage to one side and appraise it on the strength of its songs."
Spin perhaps gave the album its greatest praise, awarding it a rare 10/10 rating and naming it the #1 album of the year on their "20 Best Albums of 1994" list, noting, "Love rode her band's gargantuan riffs through a shy loner's air-guitar fantasy: rock stardom as revenge upon the entire human race."
The album's prolificness has been recognized in more recent years as well— it was ranked number 466 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and was included in TIME magazine's All-TIME 100 Albums list, as well as the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. John Peel also listed it among his top twenty favorite albums of all time in 1997.
References in pop culture
- In the Bernardo Bertolucci film Stealing Beauty (1996), Liv Tyler's character dances and sings along to "Rock Star" in her bedroom.
- The album cover is shown inside of Mena Suvari's locker in The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999).
- "Doll Parts" is played by Ellen Page and Jason Bateman in the film Juno (2007).
- The 2009 film Jennifer's Body was named after the song on the album; the film also features "Violet" during its end credits.
- Author Debra Gwartney's book, Live Through This: A Mother's Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love, was named after the album, after Gwartney had bought it for her daughters one Christmas.
- Music biographer Everett True named his book after the album— Live Through This: American Rock Music in the Nineties.
- "Violet" is played on the radio by Kristen Wiig in a scene from the 2011 blockbuster comedy film Bridesmaids.
- Continuing a trend of naming arcs after popular rock tracks, lines and albums, the first arc of the series Angel and Faith is entitled "Live Through This".
- An Horse references both Hole and Live Through This in their song "Camp Out," the first track on their debut album Rearrange Beds.
|1.||"Violet"||Courtney Love, Eric Erlandson||3:24|
|2.||"Miss World"||Love, Erlandson||3:00|
|4.||"Asking for It"||Love, Erlandson||3:29|
|5.||"Jennifer's Body"||Love, Erlandson||3:41|
|7.||"Credit in the Straight World"||Stuart Moxham||3:11|
|8.||"Softer, Softest"||Love, Erlandson||3:27|
|9.||"She Walks on Me"||Love, Erlandson||3:23|
|10.||"I Think That I Would Die"||Love, Erlandson, Kat Bjelland||3:36|
|12.||"Rock Star[A]"||Love, Erlandson||2:42|
All personnel credits adapted from the liner notes except where noted.
- Courtney Love – vocals, guitar
- Eric Erlandson – guitar
- Kristen Pfaff – bass, piano, backing vocals
- Patty Schemel – drums, percussion
- Guest musicians
- Technical personnel
- Paul Q. Kolderie – producer, engineer
- Sean Slade – producer, engineer, mixing (3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12)
- Scott Litt – mixing (1, 2, 4, 5, 8)
- J Mascis – mixing (11)
- Bob Ludwig – mastering
- Design personnel
- Robin Sloane – creative direction
- Janet Wolsborn – art direction
- Ellen Von Unwerth – photography, front artwork
- Frank Rodriguez – back artwork
- Juergen Teller – inlay artwork
- Margaret Morton – inlay artwork
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