It perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise that when holidaying, City Nights likes to take a musical trail every now and then.
We’ve visited Graceland, and gotten close to the early days of Elvis’ career with a trip to the hallowed Sun Studios in Memphis.
When in Paris, a trip to the city’s largest cemetery,Pere Lachaise revealed the resting spots of classical composer Chopin, and Doors front man Jim Morrison – which was still under police protection.
And, while plenty of tourists stop off for a beer at LA’s Rainbow Bar and Grill, we’ve rifled through the kitchens!
So, when in Seattle recently, we decided to hop in a hirecar, move away from the tourist stores with their Nirvana T-shirts and soak in the reality of Kurt Cobain’s hometown, with a drive to Aberdeen.
At the Aberdeen Museum of History, fans wanting to pay homage are issued with several sheets of roughly photocopied paper – details of a trail that will take you on a walking tour of Kurt’s town.
When Nirvana broke through to the mainstream with the Nevermind album, they changed the course of music.
They washed away a largely tired and lacklustre, ego-driven scene and brought noise-laden melody, or if you rather melody-laden noise, to the fore.
That is why visitors still flock to the streets of Kurt’s world.
They come from all over, to wander the bedraggled, often ramshackle places where Kurt used to roam, to see his childhood home and the Grays Harbor Community Hospital, where Kurt Donald Cobain was born on February 20, 1967.
Aberdeen, like Seattle, is wet, dreary and grey, and one imagines it is pretty easy to be worn down by the almost perpetual weather woes.
For many visitors to the area, the stop off at the Cobain Memorial Park is possibly the most poignant.
The Memorial Park, a small discreet grassy area leading to the bridge is tastefully decorated with a few monuments – a concrete guitar sculpture, a lyrical inscription and some of Kurt’s words as quotes.
Kurt’s music might have screamed out in angst, but this memorial is more akin to the man behind the music – quiet and vulnerable.
Thousands have stopped by the park, situated at the end of an underwhelming street – to soak up the area favoured by Cobain, and the aforementioned river, where some of his ashes are said to have been scattered.
They leave messages en masse, layer upon layer of words of apprecation are penned, inked, spray-painted and chiselled into the underside of Young Street Bridge, said to have inspired lyrics on the track Something in the Way.
“For me it was curiosity, and it’s where the first Nirvana album came from,” one fan told us, explaining his pilgrimage.
“When their music came out, it meant so much to me as it did to so many people.
“I suppose I just wanted to feel a little bit of what he might have felt living here, following in his footsteps.”
Fans like to express their feelings, pay homage, or satisfy their curiosities by visiting.
Interest has never waned, but in 2014, two decades since Kurt died, at just 27 years old, an increase in visitors paying respects and remembering the man who became an unwilling voice of a generation is a certainty.
Wandering the streets of Aberdeen is a truly interesting experience – from the poverty stricken houses in poor condition, to those occasional totally dilapidated properties, and the litter of kittens, clearly feral, who dance among the grass where Kurt Cobain’s own home once stood, before it too succumbed and was razed to the ground a few years back.
But, like any other place you care to mention, Aberdeen has colour among the grey skyline: Like the beautiful houses on Think of Me Hill, where Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic spent some of his teenage years, or the lady at the museum who furnished us with the documents for the walking tour.
Now in her senior years, she regaled us with stories of growing up in Aberdeen, the grandaughter of Scottish folk who emigrated to the area in search of a better life.
A proud lady with a history to tell and a salt-of- the-earth character, she is more than used to having bedraggled music fans arrive through doors of the museum, which otherwise services a replica retro blacksmith’s and general store.
Kurt left Aberdeen and moved to the college town of Olympia, and penned the majority of the Nevermind opus at 114 Pear Street.
En route back to Seattle we made the obligatory stop at the place where iconic tracks like Smells Like Teen Spirit were put to paper.
It’s a long way from the world stages Nirvana commanded.
This pretty, albeit non-descript home, now occupied by students, is where Kurt created musical marvels – Come As You Are , Lithium, Polly...and so on.
We make tracks back to the city, and the following day visit the Space Needle.
Well, you’ve got to, right?
On site, the EMP Museum is hosting terrifically assembled exhibitions – Women in Music features that meaty dress controversially worn by Lady Gaga, and Hendrix fans have their appetites sated with a classy collection of artefacts and memorabilia from the guitarist, and fellow member of the unfortunate ‘27’ club.
A Nirvana exhibition is also running during our visit – a must-see for anyone with even a passing interest.
Guitars, flight cases, lyrics sheets, personal photographs and belongings, original demos, even a Marshall amp...
It provides the music fan with the history of the band in a measured manner and boasts a colossal amount of rare items.
It has been lovingly compiled, and expertly executed, but can’t compare to the reality of an Aberdeen visit, warts and all.