Live Through This
|Live Through This|
|Studio album by|
|Released||April 12, 1994|
|Recorded||October 8–30, 1993|
|Studio||Triclops Sound Studios in Marietta, Georgia, U.S.|
City Slang (Europe)
|Singles from Live Through This|
Live Through This is the second studio album by American alternative rock band Hole. It was released by DGC Records on April 12, 1994, one week after frontwoman Courtney Love's husband, Kurt Cobain, died by suicide in their home. It is the only Hole album to feature bassist Kristen Pfaff before her death in June 1994.
Recorded in October 1993, Live Through This marked a divergence from the band's unpolished hardcore aesthetics to more refined melodies and structure. Love publicly commented on her aspirations to make a classic rock record at the time. The album was produced by Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie and mixed by Scott Litt and J Mascis. The lyrics and packaging reflect Love's thematic preoccupations with beauty, and motifs of milk, motherhood, anti-elitism, and violence against women, while Love derived the album title from a quote in Gone with the Wind (1939).
At the time of its release, Live Through This was met with critical acclaim, though critical and public discussion surrounding it was marked by unsubstantiated rumors that Cobain helped write the album. It earned top-100 chart spots in seven countries and went multi-platinum in December 1994. In critical circles it is considered a contemporary classic, and was included in Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, as well as being featured on the list 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The album was also named the 84th greatest album of all time in a list produced by NME in 2013. As of 2010, it has sold over 1.6 million copies in the United States.
Hole released their debut studio album, Pretty on the Inside, in 1991. Despite moderate sales, the album was a critical success among English and American press. In March 1992, following the album tour, 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 and recruited drummer Patty Schemel.
The band relocated to Carnation, Washington to a house owned by Love and her husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, and began rehearsing and writing their second album. "We had been going more pop, less journal-entry noise stuff," said Erlandson. Love said: "I was very competitive with Kurt because I wanted more melody. But I already wanted that before Live Through This."
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, they signed a seven-album deal with Geffen subsidiary DGC Records, reportedly with "an advance of a million dollars and a royalty rate considerably higher than Nirvana's". On November 8, 1992, Hole recorded "Beautiful Son," "20 Years in the Dakota" and "Old Age" at Word of Mouth Recording in Seattle with producer Jack Endino. The songs were released in April 1993 as Hole's fourth single on the City Slang label. On January 21, 1993, Love and Schemel recorded five demos 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".
In Los Angeles, Hole recruited former Janitor Joe bassist Kristen Pfaff in early 1993; Pfaff was also an accomplished cellist and music student. Erlandson said of Pfaff's membership: "That's when we took off, all of a sudden we became a real band." After a brief tour of the United Kingdom in mid-1993, the band sent a series of demos to the record label. "When we got the Live Through This demos, I realized very quickly that Hole had gotten a new rhythm section," said producer Sean Slade. "It was much more musical."
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.
Musician Dana Kletter was asked to sing backing vocals on the record, and appears on seven songs, including "Violet", "Miss World", "Asking for It", "Doll Parts", "Softer Softest", and "She Walks on Me". Producer Slade said, "I think one of the reasons that "Doll Parts" might have been a hit is that harmony Dana does on the "You will ache like I ache" part, it's almost like an Appalachian close harmony against what Courtney is doing. It's very melancholic." Slade and Paul Koderie avoided doubling Love's vocals, as they felt it "took the fierceness away". Certain imperfections were also left in the final mixes, including Love's voice cracking in "Doll Parts", which Geffen executives had originally requested be removed.
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". Producer Sean Slade recalled the studio sessions, stating that the basic tracks had been completed within five days, and also recalled that Pfaff's bass lines were completed on the basic tracks: "This has never happened on an album that we've done in all these years — every single bass track on Live Through This was from the basic tracks. There was no bass overdubs because there was no need to because they were perfect." Love completed between ten and twelve tracks of vocals for each song, which were then arranged by Slade and Kolderie. The band finished recording on October 31, with production and mixing lasted an additional nineteen days. The album was mixed chiefly by Scott Litt in Los Angeles and Seattle, although J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. mixed the track "Gutless" in New York City.
—Courtney Love, Rolling Stone, December 1993
Live Through This marked a departure from the band's noise rock roots toward a more radio-friendly rock format. Love had sought a more mellow sound for Live Through This, stating: "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 heavy guitar riffs. "During the tour for Pretty on the Inside, we had been going more pop, less journal-entry noise stuff," recalled Erlandson. "The whole industry was going, like, "Look, you can be melodic and punky and be successful!" We never said "Let's do this, let's copy this formula." It was natural."
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 twelve-string electro-acoustic guitars and more stripped-down progressions and strumming.
A great deal of the songs on the album were written over a two-year period by Love, Erlandson, and Schemel, in both Los Angeles as well as in a makeshift studio Love had set up at her and Cobain's secluded home in Carnation, Washington. Love also stated that "half the fucking songs were written in the studio." According to Love, the songwriting process for the album was "really easy": "We started at [defunct L.A. punk club] Jabberjaw. I wrote "Violet" there. Then we moved to Seattle in the middle of that. "Miss World" was written in Seattle, if I remember correctly... We had this great rehearsal space [in Seattle]: It was just perfect, up on Capitol Hill, near the Urban Outfitters. Everyone got really close. There was just a great flow." Love also stated that she had been listening to The Breeders, Pixies, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Joy Division while recording the album, and that their work served as primary influences on her at the time.
The album features one cover song, "Credit in the Straight World" by Welsh post-punk band Young Marble Giants; the band's frontman, Stuart Moxham reportedly "hated" Hole's version of the song, saying they had turned it into a "pornographic Led Zeppelin track."
Lyrics and themes
Lyrically, Live Through This was less frenetic than Pretty on the Inside, and reflected Love's tumultuous life between 1991 and 1994, though Love stated that she felt the record was "not as personal" as the band's former work: "You know, when women say, "Well, I play music, and it's cathartic," that applies to me to a degree, but I just wanted to write a good rock record. I would love to write a couple of great rock songs in my life, like Chrissie Hynde did. If you write something that will transcend a long period of time and make people feel a certain way, there's really nothing like that." Recurrent themes noted on the record include those of motherhood, depression, body image, child abuse, and elitism, as well as motifs of milk, pregnancy, and suicide.
The album's opening track, "Violet", was reportedly inspired by Love's relationship with Billy Corgan, while songs like "Plump", "Miss World", and "I Think That I Would Die" contain the repeated themes of motherhood and post-partum depression. "I Think That I Would Die" makes specific references to the custody battle which Love and husband Cobain had endured over their daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, in 1992, and featured co-writing by Love's friend and former bandmate Kat Bjelland; 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."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, and was written entirely during the album's recording sessions. "Doll Parts", the album's most successful single, was written by Love in music executive Joyce Linehan's apartment in Boston, Massachusetts in 1992, and concerned Love's insecurity of Cobain's romantic interest in her.
And what do you do with a revolution?
You just forget your name
Well, I went to school in a fascist state and everyone's the same
We took punk rock, and we got a grade
–Lyrics to an alternate mix of "Olympia", mislabeled as "Rock Star" on the album's official release
Love also drew on literary influences while writing the album's lyrics; the phrase "live through this" in "Asking For It", which later became the album title, is derived from a quote in Gone with the Wind, and the phrase "kill me pills" is a direct reference to the poet Anne Sexton, who, after overdosing on barbiturates and pentobarbital called the drugs "kill me pills". The refrain in "Plump" in which Love sings, "I'm eating you. I'm overfed" also bears similarity to a line from Sexton's poem "The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator", which reads: "They are eating each other. They are overfed."
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 track appears to criticize the riot grrrl music scene in the Pacific Northwest,[how?] which Love was associated but not involved with. Alternate mixes of the song that later were released as b-sides included even more satirical lyrics.
In summarizing the record's themes, Spin noted:
Live Through This is both a scruffier and more commercial record than Pretty on the Inside. The angsty rants of yore remain, but they're decorated with a lot more poetry. Milk (as in mother's) is a recurring motif, as is dismemberment. Female victimization remains the overall theme, this time depersonalized into odd, accusatory mini-narratives in which a variety of female characters receive the protection of Love's tense, manic-depressive singing. Hers is a natural songwriting talent, full of excellent instincts, and yet wildly unsophisticated.
Packaging and artwork
Fashion model Leilani Bishop is shown on the cover of the album, shot by photographer Ellen von Unwerth, dressed in beauty pageant attire with a tiara and a bouquet of flowers, with mascara running down her eyes in tears of joy. 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 shares stylistic similarity to the contemporary Mattel Barbie logo.
The back cover of the album features a family photo of Courtney Love during her childhood in Springfield, Oregon, with the individual track listings appearing to the right, printed on embossing tape. Music scholar Ronald Lankford commented on the contrast between the images on the front and back cover, interpreting the back image of Love as symbolizing the "antithesis of the contest winner on the cover. The young girl, then, seems to represent femininity in its natural state, before the fall of adolescence."
Live Through This was released on April 12, 1994 by DGC Records on compact disc and cassette in North America. Overseas, the album received a short-lived LP pressing by City Slang on a standard black vinyl and a limited white vinyl, both of which have become collector's items.
The album debuted on the charts at number 52, never reaching the Billboard Top 40 in the U.S. In December 1994, the record went gold, having sold a total of 500,000 copies, and went platinum six months later for having sold one million copies. As of 2010, the album had 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 is dedicated to the memory of Joe Cole, a roadie for Black Flag and the Rollins Band who was shot to death in December 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 quit the band by the time of Cobain's death in April, 1994. In June 1994, she was found dead by her friend Paul Erickson from a heroin overdose. Two months after Pfaff'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.
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", among other tracks, were written in 1991 during the release of Pretty on the Inside. 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.
Several magazine publications also mentioned the rumors regarding the writing credits; 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." Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote that the main reason Live Through This is a drastic sonic departure from Pretty on the Inside is "Love's desire to compete in the same commercial alternative rock arena as her husband, Kurt Cobain." He acknowledged the rumors of Cobain ghostwriting, stating that "while that's unlikely, there's no denying that his patented stop-start dynamics, bare chords, and punk-pop melodies provide the blueprint for Live Through This. Love adds her signature rage and feminist rhetoric to the formula."
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." Love later addressed the issue, stating: "I wanted to be better than Kurt. I was really competing with Kurt. And that's why it always offends me when people would say, "Oh, he wrote Live Through This." I'd be proud as hell to say that he wrote something on it, but I wouldn't let him. It was too Yoko [Ono] for me. It's like, "No fucking way, man! I've got a good band, I don't fucking need your help."
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 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.
|Christgau's Consumer Guide||A|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Live Through This was lauded by music critics and rock periodicals in 1994. It was ranked the #1 album of 1994 by critics in Rolling Stone, Spin and the Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics' poll. 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." 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'..."
In The Village Voice, Robert Christgau noted the album's less caustic sound but praised Love's songwriting: "Punk aesthetic or no punk aesthetic, Courtney Love's songs wouldn't be compromised and might be deepened by steeper momentum and more articulate guitar noise. But they prevail anyway. Their focus is sexual exploitation, and not just by the media, evil straights, and male predators of every cultural orientation. She's also exploited by Courtney Love, and not only does she know it, she thinks about it."
Musician Magazine wrote, "[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."
"Since Pretty on the Inside, Courtney has learnt the art of writing a decent pop hook," observed Select's Clark Collis. "Disgorging your cathartic trauma in the studio is an admirable pastime but, if you really want to compete with Corgan, Vedder or even 'im indoors, then the Top 40 is still where it's at."
Spin reviewed Live Through This very positively at 9/10, 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."
AllMusic praised the "raw pain" of the lyrics and described the album as an attempt to "compete in the commercial alternative rock arena", stating that notwithstanding the lyrical rawness, "Live Through This rarely sounds raw because of the shiny production and the carefully considered dynamics. Despite this flaw, the album retains its power because it was one of the few records patterned on Nevermind that gets the formula right, with a set of gripping hooks and melodies that retain their power even if they follow the predictable grunge pattern." John Peel listed it among his top twenty favorite albums of all time in 1997.
In 2012, Rolling Stone included Live Through This in its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, ranking it at number 460. It was also included in Time magazine's All-Time 100 Albums list, as well as the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2006). NME declared Live Through This the 84th greatest album of all time in its list of 500 albums, released in 2013.
In May 2014, Loudwire placed Live Through This at number seven on its "10 Best Hard Rock Albums of 1994" list. The album was also ranked at number 15 in Guitar World magazine's "Superunknown: 50 Iconic Albums That Defined 1994" list. Spin named Live Through This 6 on their list Spin: Top 90 Albums of the 90's and 19 on their list Spin 100 Greatest Albums 1985–2005. The album is ranked number 980 in the All-Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd. edition, 2000).
|4.||"Asking for It"||3:29|
|7.||"Credit in the Straight World"||Stuart Moxham||3:11|
|9.||"She Walks on Me"||3:24|
|10.||"I Think That I Would Die"||3:36|
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