Courtney Love speaks at the Union

On Friday the 12th of February, Courtney Love, the woman described by Q Magazine as ‘the most controversial female in rock ‘n’ roll history’ spoke to members of the Oxford Union about her relationship with Britain, her musical inspirations and her views on the current state of the music industry. Talking to a packed debating chamber, she answered only pre-arranged questions, to the disappointment of the spectators who were eager to hear about the darker and less talked-about side of the singer’s life.

On being asked her feelings about being dubbed ‘the most controversial female’ she was quick to note she had also been described as ‘The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll’, on which she prefers to focus. She claims her controversy was borne out of her husband’s (Nivarna singer Kurt Cobain) suicide in 1994. This exacerbated her drug abuse and whipped up a media circus that was quick to jump on any untoward behaviour. Veering off on a tangent slightly, as she did throughout the evening, she proceeded to assert ‘learning from rejection and turning it into something positive is the key to survival in the music industry’. She cited her ‘friend’ (Union members later speculated this was probably Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan) who ‘failed to learn from adversity’ and who ‘made beautiful music in the 90s but now just sucks’.

She mentions her new album several times throughout the night (suggesting her more commercial motives) and calls it ‘an astonishing record’. After ranting about major record labels, and their ‘360 deals’ with which companies own and control every last thing about their artists (‘it’s a terrible state of affairs’) she tells the chamber how she ‘wants that billboard in Leicester Square and Times Square, and wants to win ‘Grammy awards for best album art and best liner notes’. 

Asked about her inspirations, she stated ‘despair is more inspiring than joy, though it has to be kept under a certain level, otherwise it’s debilitating creatively’. In a moment of personal candor (she’s strikingly open throughout the night) Courtney talked of her desperate sadness the previous night: ‘I was so sad, I couldn’t get anything creative out of it. This morning I was a bit better and managed to get a riff.’

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In perhaps the most personal moment of the evening, she talked about how she coped with the high profile suicide of her husband. ‘What Kurt did wasn’t cool. That action was regretted the moment it happened. Everyone expected me to go with him. The thing that made me keep going was my daughter’s life-force.’

In the week of the talk Love had made headlines for the extension of her daughter’s restraining order taken out against her. It was perhaps this that had made her so despairing on the night before she spoke to us, and what made her visibly hyper throughout the evening. Towards the end of her chat, she exclaimed, ‘one mustn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks’. It’s hard not to feel that this is how Courtney Love has always lived her life, and how she will continue to do so.