Monday, January 31, 2011

90's Hit Parade #92



Hole - Gold Dust Woman

Writing about Courtney Love can be very complicated. On the one hand, she gets so much shit that you want to defend her. On the other hand, the shit she gets is pretty much earned. Courtney Love is, on her best day, an asshole. On her worst day, she's a truly repellent human being. But back on that first hand, so are Jim Morrison, Axl Rose and Keith Moon. And I can hear the reply already: "Hey, I think Axl Rose is an asshole, and I've said so many times." And people DO think Axl Rose is an asshole, but nobody is really obsessed with saying Axl is an asshole the same way they are with Courtney. He doesn't inspire the kind of vitriol that Courtney does. And I don't think you have to be a women's studies major to figure out why. So one ends up having to do all sorts of verbal contortions to defend Courtney without really defending Courtney.

We'll talk more about Ms. Love as we move up the list, but for now, let's talk about this song. "Gold Dust Woman," released on the soundtrack to the second or third sequel to The Crow, is one of those covers that fits the performer so well that you listen to it and you can't believe it was ever NOT a Hole song. Could this really have been a Fleetwood Mac song? Did they write it with the intention of giving it to Courtney Love?* She keeps the gothic majesty of the original, but douses it in gasoline and sets it aflame. It swoops down like a bird of prey, like an avenging angel screaming in triumph over the corpses of her enemies, turning what was once a mournful ballad sung in a funereal hush into an arena rock anthem. You can feel so many emotions here: grief, anguish, wrath, release. It's the complicated mess of emotions that makes up Courtney Love's mental state spat back at the world.

Bonus Reading: Why Courtney Love Matters. Really great read. Read the NYT piece it's commenting on while you're at it.

*OK, Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" doesn't exactly fade into the background like Otis' "Respect" or Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" or Junior Parker's "Mystery Train." It's still probably my favorite song on Rumours (maybe tied with "The Chain"), and since my parents listened to that 8-track on a constant loop for several years during the 70's, it's pretty much got permanent residence in my mind. But man, I love what Hole do with it.

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