The Weight of Epitaph

Rolling Stone. Issue No. 683,  June 2, 1994

 
 

In a special edition to remember his life and legacy, Rolling Stone put a close-up photo of Kurt Cobain staring at the camera on its June 4, 1994 cover. That photo, shown at right, was taken at the Park Trades Center in Kalamazoo (Michigan) on Oct. 27, 1993, according to Rolling Stone and Kalamazoo Gazette archives.

“On good days, Kurt was talkative and eager to play,” says former Nirvana publicist Jim Merlis. “On bad days, no one could make you feel so uncomfortable without saying a word.” October 27th, 1993, was a good day. Nirvana were in Kalamazoo, Michigan, ten days into a U.S. tour promoting In Utero, and Kurt Cobain was excited about that night’s show; two of his favorite bands, the Meat Puppets and the Boredoms, were joining the bill.

And Cobain’s daughter, one-year-old Frances Bean, was in the entourage. She had been shuttling between Nirvana gigs and a studio in Atlanta where her mother, Courtney Love, was recording Hole’s Live Through This. “Just the sight of Frances could change his whole attitude,” Merlis says of Cobain, who was in such a buoyant mood that afternoon he happily sailed through a long Rolling Stone cover session with Mark Seliger.

 
 

Rolling Stone No. 628, April 1992

 
 

Seliger had already shot Cobain on a bad day, for a 1992 cover story about Nirvana’s manic overnight stardom. “Kurt was very resistant,” Seliger recalls. “He didn’t want to be publicized. He didn’t want anything but to be true to his fans and to the music.” To emphasize his discontent, Cobain wore a T-shirt with the now-famous homemade inscription corporate magazines still suck. Twenty months later, in Kalamazoo, Cobain was ready to laugh at the irony of Nirvana’s superstardom. “We arranged to have Brooks Brothers suits as a response to their success,” says Seliger. “Kurt thought it was really funny. He loved it.” Cobain also posed in a female cheerleader’s outfit, complete with pompoms.

But before taking those photos, Seliger also quickly shot individual frames of each band member. And in this commanding close-up of Cobain’s steady, wary gaze, he caught the insecurity, frustration and mistrust that still gnawed at the Nirvana frontman. Two days earlier, in Chicago, Cobain had spoken frankly of his teenage rock & roll dreams and his ongoing war with fame. “I never wanted to sing,” he told Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke. “I just wanted to play rhythm guitar — hide in the back and just play.” But when the big time hit him, in the fall of 1991, he said, “It was so fast and explosive. I didn’t know how to deal with it. If there was a Rock Star 101 course, I would have liked to take it. It might have helped me.” Still, he insisted, life was good and getting better: “I just hope I don’t become so blissful I become boring. I think I’ll always be neurotic enough to do something weird.”

Six months later, on April 8th, 1994, Cobain was found dead, from a self-inflicted gunshot, in a room above the garage at his Seattle home, and Seliger’s portrait, first published with Fricke’s interview, carried the weight of epitaph, on the cover of Rolling Stone‘s special issue commemorating Cobain’s life, music and tragic death.

 
 

 Caption: “Originally an inside opener for Rolling Stone cover story of Nirvana in conjunction with the release of “In Utero”, my first Polaroid (with negative) was by far the most emotional and revealing of his spirit. Two months later Kurt died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to his head. This photograph became the memorial R.S. Cover”

 
 

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Giving Birth to a New Race

“The nexus of Born This Way and the soul of the record reside in this idea that you were not necessarily born in one moment. You have your entire life to birth yourself into becoming the ultimate potential vision that you see for you. Who you are when you come out of your mother’s womb is not necessarily who you will become. Born This Way says your birth is not finite, your birth is infinite.”

Lady Gaga
(talking about the meaning of Born This Way)

 
 

 
 

The first song written and recorded for the album was the title track itself which she wrote in Liverpool and Manchester, England, described by Lady Gaga as a “magical message” song. She wrote it in ten minutes and compared the process to an Immaculate Conception.

“I want to write my this-is-who-the-fuck-I-am anthem, but I don’t want it to be hidden in poetic wizardry and metaphors. I want it to be an attack, an assault on the issue because I think, especially in today’s music, everything gets kind of washy sometimes and the message gets hidden in the lyrical play. Hankering back to the early ’90s, when Madonna, En Vogue, Whitney Houston and TLC were making very empowering music for women and the gay community and all kind of disenfranchised communities, the lyrics and the melodies were very poignant and very gospel and very spiritual and I said, ‘That’s the kind of record I need to make. That’s the record that’s going to shake up the industry.’ It’s not about the track. It’s not about the production. It’s about the song. Anyone could sing Born This Way. It could’ve been anyone.”

Nick Knight directed the accompanying music video, which was inspired by painters like Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon and their surrealistic images. Gaga is depicted as giving birth to a new race during a prologue. A series of dance sequences later, the video concludes with the view of a city populated by this race. Critics noted cultural references to the work of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Björk, late fashion designer Alexander McQueen, as well as to Greek mythology, magical realism and surrealism.

Laurieann Gibson explained the inspiration behind the video to MTV News:
“When she played it for me, it took me a while to find out the visual interpretation that I could give back to her. And so I woke up one night and I got it, and I said, ‘I got it: We have to birth a new race.’ From the gate, Gaga was like, ‘I want Nick Knight for this video. I want a visual.’ She was always birthing something visual in her head, and Nick Knight is just, well, he’s prolific but he’s so genius. It was about pushing the bar of what a music video should be and can be. […] It’s a different time; it’s a different era; there are no limits. It is a viral message. I think that there’s something in there for everyone, and that’s what’s so amazing about the video and so specific about the message.”

Released on Monday, February 28, 2011, the video begins with a brief shot of a unicorn’s silhouette in a steam-filled alley, inside a pink triangle frame. The triangle transitions to a shot of Gaga, with two opposite facing heads, inspired by Janus, the Roman god of transition and beginnings, sitting in an ornate glass throne amidst a star-filled space. As Bernard Herrmann‘s prelude to the movie Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) plays, Gaga tells the story of the creation of an extraterrestrial race that “bears no prejudice, no judgment, but boundless freedom.” Gaga sits in the throne, giving birth to a “new race within the race of humanity.” She explains that this was followed by the birth of evil, due to which Gaga splits into two opposing forces of good and evil. Her new half gives birth to a machine gun and fires it. The prologue concludes with Gaga questioning, “How can I protect something so perfect, without evil?”

 
 

 
 

The video featured full-bodied tattooed model Rick Genest (Rico), better known by his stage name Zombie Boy. Gaga painted her face in a similar way to Genest, in one of the main series of sequences. She said that the sequences displayed the fact that she would not allow society or critics to dictate her sense of beauty. “I tell you what I think is beauty, and hence the scene was of me and Rico defining ourselves in artistic way and not relying on society to dictate it,” she added. The costumes for the video were designed by Nicola Formichetti, who blogged about the various designer pieces shown in it. In the opening sequence of the video, Gaga wore a head accessory by Alexis Bittar, a diamond neckpiece by Erickson Beamon with earrings by Pamela Love, and a stained-glass dress by Petra Storrs. Finger rings were provided by Erickson Beamon and chiffon clothes by Thierry Mugler. For the skeletons sequences, both she and Rico wore tuxedos by Mugler while the slime during the orgy scenes were courtesy of Bart Hess. For her Michael Jackson impression in the alley at the video’s end, Gaga wore shirt and pants by Haus of Gaga, shoes by Natacha Marro, a Billykirk belt and LaCrasia gloves.

Special Tribute to Liz Tilberis

Harper’s Bazaar, July 1999 issue. Tom Cruise’s cover was the last cover approved by Liz before her death just 3 months prior. All ad revenue went to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Models, photographers, stylists, make-ups artists, etc., donated their time for free. There are no editorials. It is the one issue which features the solidarity of the fashion industry for an icon.

 
 

Illustrations by Karl Lagerfeld

 
 

Obituary by Cartier

 
 

Christy Turlington photographed by Patrick Demarchelier

 
 

Guinevere Van Seenus photographed by Craig McDean, clothes by Yohji Yamamoto

 
 

Naomi Campbell photographed by David Bailey clothes by Versace

 
 

Left: Linda Evangelista illustrated by Mats Gustafsson; Guinevere Van Seenus photographed by Richard Burbridge

 
 

Nikki Uberti photographed by Terry Richardson, clothes by Dolce and Gabbana

 
 

Anne Catherine Lacroix photographed by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadinanne, clothes by Balenciaga

 
 

Erin O’Connor photographed by Patrick Demarchelier., clothes by Calvin Klein

 
 

Natalie Portman photographed by Robert Bromann, clothes by Moschino; Cindy Crawford photographed by Mary Ellen Mark, clothes by Malo; Rita Wilson photographed by Sante D’Orazio; Milla Jovovich photographed by Cliff Watts, clothes by Tommy Hilfiger

Music Project

1034339 slimaneMarilyn Manson, Kim Gordon, Beck Hansen, Daft Punk, Sky Ferreira, Courtney Love and Ariel Pink, photographed by Hedi Slimane

 
 

In 2013, Kim Gordon half-wears a Le Smoking, photographed by Hedi Slimane as part of his Saint Laurent music project, premiered here. A portrait series drawing on the relationship between rock icons and the house since its earliest days, the killer move being the artists style themselves in its seasonal and permanent collections to create an image of their own expression.

Inaugurated when the creative shot Christopher Owens as part of Saint Laurent’s reset, the ex-Girl was succeeded by Beck for the SS13 campaign. And follows Slimane’s history clothing Bowie, Jagger, The Libertines, The Kills, Franz Ferdinand; his ongoing photographic Rock Diary featuring emerging and established talents; commissioning show soundtracks by Daft Punk, Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees as well as shooting Sky Ferreira for Saint Laurent’s pre-fall lookbook.

Gordon maintains the signature brilliance of a mannish woman in her picture, even nabbing Hedi’s own scarf. Part suited she treads a tightrope familiar from Sonic Youth, a free spirited girl with total TCB steeliness.

Courtney Love, photographed several times by Slimane over the past decade, is seen at home in a pinstriped suit and silk ruffle shirt wigging out over her guitar. Let It Bleed, Love’s ink locked in standoff with an evening dress, is a statement Mick J has history with, cake sculpture optional.

Marilyn Manson, he who drawled “I’m not an artist but a fucking work of art” follows, complemented by Ariel Pink who shows off his party trick with chipped nail polish. Both wear bikers.

If Yves Saint Laurent was fascinated with the arts – think of the epic Ballet Russes collection of AW76, though not only – this quartet have a subliminal link in Hedi’s exploration of West Coast cultural mythology.

Beyond that? They wear it well, a reminder of the magnetic insouciance that separates a rock star with someone who is simply in a band. Vive la difference.

Text: Dean Mayo Davies
Dazed and Confused

Steven Meisel: Rock The House

Carolyn Murphy: Courtney Love. Jake Schroeder: Kurt Cobain. Dylan Schroeder Murphy: Frances Bean Cobain

 
 

Fanni Bostrom: John Lennon. Audrey Marnay: Ringo Starr. Tasha Tilberg: Paul McCartney and Trish Goff: George Harrison

 
 

Ben Northover: John Lennon. Devon Aoki: Yoko Ono

 
 

Omahyra: Prince

 
 

Karolina Kurkova: Marilyn Manson

 
 

Cyrille Victor: Jimi Hendrix. Matt Duffie: Jim Morrison. Karen Elson: Janis Joplin

 
 

Crew of models: The Rolling Stones

 
 

Hannelore Knuts: David Bowie. Diana Meszaros: Angela Bowie

 
 

Sophie Dahl: Debbie Harry

Like Father… (Musicians)

Frank and Nancy Sinatra

 
 

Sting, Coco Summers and Trudie Styler

 
 

Eric Clapton and his late son Conor

 
 

John Lennon and Julian

 
 

John and his Beautiful Boy, Sean Lennon

 
 

Paul Mc Cartney, Linda Eastman and their daughters

 
 

Paul, Linda and James

 
 

Ringo Starr, former Beatles drummer is pictured with his first wife, Maureen Starkey (died 12/1994) and their new born baby Zak at Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital, 1965

 
 

Lee Starkey, Barbara Bach, Ringo Starr and Francesca Gregorini walk together hand in hand on Starr and Bach’s wedding day, London, England in 1981

 
 

George and Dhani Harrison by Terry O’Neill, 1987

 
 

Pete Townshend holding his newborn daughter Emma

 
 

Roger Daltrey, lead singer of British rock group The Who, at home with his wife Heather and two children, Rosie-Lee and Willow.Image by Leonard de Raemy. September 1975, UK

 
 

Keith Richards, Anita Pallenberg and children

 
 

Mick Jagger, Bianca and Jade

 
 

Mick, Jerry Hall and sons in Jamaica

 
 

Liv and Steven Tyler

 
 

Priscilla, Lisa Marie and Elvis Presley

 
 

David Bowie and Zowie

 
 

Bowie and Alex

 
 

Chris Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow and Apple

 
 

Kurt Cobain, Frances Bean and Courtney Love. Photo Credit: Luis Guzmán, 1992

 
 

Kurt Cobain and Frances Bean

 
 

Elton John and his adopted child Zachary

 
 

Bob  and Jakob Dylan photographed by Eliott Landy, 1968