Ah yes, the bi-yearly Courtney Love-Dave Grohl feud has fired up once again. One of the most contentious relationships in alt-rock belongs to the Foo Fighters frontman and Hole leader who have been, variously, friends, musical peers, bitter enemies, representatives in court cases, and reconciled peacekeepers of the Nirvana legacy.
It might surprise you, given the ample material it provides and juicy gossip it inspires, that I actually don’t like when Grohl and Love are at each other’s throats. It feels petty and silly and completely unnecessary. When the two hugged at Nirvana’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, I felt a wash of warm and fuzzy feelings because these two people, who have experienced so much public drama and private loss, could actually relate to each other and comfort each other, as they should. Life is too short, and bickering won’t resolve the trauma that Kurt Cobain is still gone, so they should really be holding each other up instead of tearing each other down.
Sadly that’s not the case. Earlier this month Love claimed on a now-deleted Instagram post that Grohl and Krist Novoselic forced her to sign a contract that funnels Nirvana royalties meant for Cobain’s family to themselves. Grohl actually got away easy: Trent Reznor was accused of child abuse in the same post. Love has since apologised, but it’s just the most recent event in a long-running feud that doesn’t do anyone any good and doesn’t create anything worthwhile.
Well, actually, that’s not true. It inspires songs, especially two Foo Fighters songs that are more or less accepted in the pop culture hive mind to be about Love: ‘I’ll Stick Around’ and ‘Stacked Actors’.
Of the two, ‘Stacked Actors’ is the more incisive and cutting track. ‘I’ll Stick Around’ was written at a time when Grohl favoured more abstract imagery in his lyrics, and even though ‘I’ll Stick Around’ is the least abstract track on the Foo’s 1995 debut, it could be interpreted more as a song of self-determination than as a direct swipe at Love. Take what you want from lines like “How could it be/I’m the only one who sees/Your rehearsed insanity,” but there at least seems to be some plausible deniability.
No such luck with ‘Stacked Actors’. Various references to dying blondes and sensitive messes paint a damning and highly specific portrait of liars and Hollywood types who desperately attempt to bend the public perception to fit their own narratives. ‘I’ll Stick Around’ took a gripe and turned it into a song of perseverance; ‘Stacked Actors’ is a direct potshot that exists solely to excoriate whomever the “ageing drag queen” happens to be.
For the record, Grohl has denied that ‘Stacked Actors’ is about Love, but the parallels between its lyrics and those for ‘I’ll Stick Around’, plus the heated relationships between the two both at the time and in the present, make it hard to imagine anyone else being the inspiration behind lines like: “Your teary eyes, your famous disguise/Never knowing who to believe.”
I find it strange that there are apparently a million songs (allegedly) written about Love, like Tori Amos‘ effort ‘Professional Widow’ and Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Starfuckers, Inc.’, and yet there never seems to be much discussion on whether Love has written any songs about anyone else. There are a few controlling, asshole-ish men in various Hole songs, why can’t they be Billy Corgan or Trent Reznor or even Dave Grohl? Maybe it’s because Love often goes on the defensive, sometimes discussing the songs written about her more than her own material. Maybe it’s because we have a fascination with Courtney Love the public figure who can inspire so much vitriol.
Either way, ‘Stacked Actors’ and ‘I’ll Stick Around’ have a lot more staying power than some of the more bitchy tracks directed at Love. She seems to take it all in stride: as an individual who has gone through so much public controversy, very little can break Love, not least of which are a few callous lyrics from her ’90s brethren. For his part, Grohl and the Foo’s recently returned to full-scale live performances with shows The Canyon in Agora, California and Madison Square Garden in New York. Neither ‘Stack Actors’ nor ‘I’ll Stick Around’ were featured in either night’s setlist.