It is noted that the Nirvana smiley face logo was created in 1991 and was first used for the launch party for the band’s second record, “Nevermind.” The sophomore album sold an impressive 30 million records worldwide. But where does the logo of the drunk smiley face come from though? We see it on t-shirts, hats, jumpers, and many many tattoos on die hard Nirvana fans. It has been parodied over and over including a design by Marc Jacob’s with the letters “M” and “J” replacing the X’ed out eyes. What does it mean? What is its origin? In the 90’s there was a popular strip club called Lusty Lady that was located in the heart of downtown Seattle.
Opening its doors in the 70s, the marquee that faced 1st street had a small emblem at the bottom of the sign that supported a thirsty smiley face with dazed eyes with “HAVE AN EROTIC DAY!” to the side of it. While it has been reported that a local artist named Robert Fisher created the Nirvana logo, that can be debated as Kurt claims he created it with zero background behind the face. There are several stories on its origin, but none are official, and we may never know just like the backstory of the face of Alfred E. Neuman who is a “fatherless mutant of the public domain”. While Mad Magazine decided to pick their theory behind the What-Me-Worry kid, I chose to believe it’s the parody from the strip club with the Acid House coming in as my second option. While we may never know the history of the smiley face, it has become known as the most recognizable band logo in the world. As of today, the band has sold over 70 million copies of “Nevermind.”
Unfortunately, Lusty Lady closed its doors in 2010 and the left side of the marquee was acquired by the Museum of History and Industry in the South Lake Union neighborhood leaving the smiley face to vanish from the public’s eye. While we may not be able to know the origin of Nirvana’s logo there is one thing we can visit or perhaps two or three or four, five, six, seven, eight… and so on. The origin of Kurt Cobain. “A lot of times, people came here for logging and fishing. Generations of them. In some cases, a lot of the people who came here were single men working out there. Friday night, they would cash their paycheck, go out, and meet somebody. Sometimes these people would end up getting pregnant. Sometimes the men did not want any part of that while the good people would try to raise a family. What would happen is that the families would deteriorate, and the kids would move here, move there. People like Kurt Cobain is no exception. He lived with a variety of his own family members. He’s not the only one.”, explained Will, a local social worker of Aberdeen. Kurt Cobain lived in more homes by the age of 27 than multiple people could live in a lifetime. “No matter how you look at its Kurt Cobain is a tourist attraction. Some people think it is horrible while others think it is fascinating. It is like St. Helens! No one even knew about it till it blew up! Now guess where people go. They wanna go check out Mt. St. Helens!”, says Will. While I spent my summer visiting Aberdeen shopping in thrift stores, eating in diners, and meeting the locals on any given day of the week there are people taking photos of Kurt’s childhood home and the park now known as Kurt Cobain Park which borders up next to the bridge which inspired Nevermind’s “Something in the way”. Before a fire struck, there was once an Aberdeen museum which had a large collection of Nirvana/ Kurt Cobain memorabilia including a couch that was gifted to the museum where Kurt used to sleep on. Luckily, I was able to visit before the museum permanently closed.
While the two current historical landmarks are visited everyday what people do not realize all the homes Kurt Cobain lived in in Grays Harbor County. I decided to have Nirvana’s original drummer, Aaron Burckhard come along and show me Aberdeen through his eyes while I documented every house Kurt lived in in the area.
Cobain’s first home in when he was born was in Hoquiam in 1967. A town just next to Aberdeen known for being the friendliest city in the United States as the welcome sign claims. The Cobain family only lived in the back house for a few weeks and then moved to house in the front. These homes can be found at 2830 1/2 Aberdeen Avenue.
Besides the home in Seattle where Kurt ended his life the 1210 East First Street house in Aberdeen is the second most famous house attached to his name. He spent a large amount of his childhood in this home. The house was purchased for $7,950.
It has been noted that Kurt moved in with his grandparents in 1976 and stayed with them for two years. Owned by LeLand Cobain the house is now owned by Kurt’s uncle, Gary. While we did not discuss this, but I can assume this is the location that inspired the song “Sliver” due to the chorus “Grandma take me home”. While the address is public domain, I prefer not to list the address to this home as it is Kurt’s uncle’s home.
In 1976 Kurt’s parents had a divorce. “I remember feeling ashamed, for some reason. I was ashamed of my parents. I could not face some of my friends at school anymore, because I desperately wanted to have the classic, you know, typical family. Mother, father. I wanted that security, so I resented my parents for quite a few years because of that.”, said Kurt. The divorce had a large effect on his life and in 1977 again in 1978, a young Kurt had to pack his bags and move in with his father in Montesano, WA just hundreds of feet away from the highway that led to Seattle on 413 Fleet Street.
In 1984 Kurt moves in with Dale Crover of The Melvins at 609 West 2nd Street in Aberdeen. This is home where Kurt first meets Buzz Osbourne. The Melvins would often have band practice here. Kurt auditioned to play guitar for the band but didn’t make the cut. He would then be their roadie. Later, Dale would join Nirvana for a very brief stint.
After leaving Crover’s house Kurt was left without a home again and it has been reported that he would at times sleep in the waiting room at the Grays Harbor Community Hospital where he was born before he found his next home. This time, his next home would be at 404 N. Michigan Street in which he shared with a friend.
A year later in 1985, Kurt again parts another home and lives at The Shillinger’s home. As mentioned above, the couch that he slept on was donated to the Aberdeen museum and was lost to a fire.
At 1000 1/2 East 2nd Street just a few blocks away from his previous home Kurt stays in what will be his final home in Aberdeen before he moves to Olympia where he becomes roommates with Dave Grohl. This location was not so much a home, but a shack. Unfortunately, the home has been demolished and is now an empty lot.
Since then, Kurt has lived in 8 additional home including Olympia, two in Seattle, Carnage, and two in Los Angeles, with two hotels in Seattle too along with his wife and daughter, Francis Bean.