23 Years Ago: Hole Release ‘Live Through This’
On April 12, 1994, the perception of upstart rockers Hole began to change with the release of their Live Through This album. The band had earned positive reviews for Pretty on the Inside, but was mostly known up to that point because of singer Courtney Love‘s marriage to Kurt Cobain. But there was no mistaking the chops of Hole after Live Through This was released.
There have been misconceptions about the disc over the years as some assumed Live Through This was a reference to Cobain’s death, which actually occurred just a few days prior to the album’s release. In reality, the title was derived from a quote in the film Gone With the Wind and struck a chord with Love, who had been under all sorts of media scrutiny over her relationship with Cobain and her pregnancy thanks to an article in Vanity Fair.
Love told Spin, “The title of the record was not a prediction of the future. It’s, like, f—ing live through what I already live through, you motherf—ers! It wasn’t meant to be about anybody dying. It was about going through f—ing media humiliations … You try it … it ain’t fun.”
The other big misconception was that Kurt Cobain played a large role in the creation of the disc. While the rocker was around at times during the recording and even laid down some backing parts, most of which were scrapped, this was very much a Hole record with Love, guitarist Eric Erlandson, drummer Patty Schemel and bassist Kristen Pfaff serving as the primary forces on the disc.
Erlandson told Rolling Stone shortly after the release of the disc, “The most frustrating thing for me is that people view most female artists as this single person. The thing is, I know for a fact that we’re more of a band, and we’ve always been more of a band. I don’t want to be in a ‘backing band,’ and Courtney doesn’t want that, either. That’s not the way we work.”
Speaking about her drive for the record, Love stated, “I wanted to be better than Kurt [Cobain]. I was really competing with Kurt. And that’s why it always offends me when people would say, “Oh, he wrote Live Through This.” I’d be proud as hell to say that he wrote something on it, but I wouldn’t let him. It was too Yoko for me. It’s like, “No f—ing way, man! I’ve got a good band, I don’t f—ing need your help.”
The creative process initially began with Love, Erlandson and Schemel, with Pfaff being the last addition to the lineup. Erlandson states, “Even if it was just the three of us playing, you could tell something was happening that was bigger than all of us.” A&R man Mark Kates recallss, “I remember sitting in that very small rehearsal room watching them and thinking, ‘No one knows how great this is. No one I work with has any idea how great an album this is going to be.’ That was really special. I knew it would blow people away.”
But publicly, Hole was still under a very big shadow. Schemel stated, “That was always the thing looming that her marriage and her life was bigger than our band. We always had that battle of having to prove ourselves at a legitimate band. All we had were those songs. That was it.”
But oh what songs they had. The first song to strike a chord with listeners was “Miss World,” a track dating back to 1992 after the departures of Jill Emery and Caroline Rue. It was raw, and Love struck a chord with her vulnerable vocals about dealing with self-image and abuse. MTV brought even more fans thanks to the Sophie Muller-directed video starring Love and using a beauty pageant backdrop. The track would break through at radio, becoming one of the band’s first true hits.
“Doll Parts” came next, a song Love penned shortly after meeting and dating Cobain, sharing her own insecurities about the situation. The track came to the vocalist quickly as she recalled penning the song in the bathroom at former punk promoter Joyce Linehan’s home. “Doll Parts” skyrocketed into the Top 5 at modern rock radio back in 1994.
And the third major track from the album proved to be “Violet,” a song allegedly inspired by another one of Love’s well-known exes. She introduced the track on Later … With Jools Holland as stating the song was “about a jerk, I hexed him and now he’s losing his hair,” which led many to be believe she was speaking about Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan. Other songs like “Asking For It,” “Softer, Softest,” “She Walks on Me” and “Jennifer’s Body” have also remained among the favorites for fans of the album.
In Spin’s retrospective on the album, Love stated, “I think it’s pretty flawless for what it is, for the time. For going from Pretty on the Inside, which is atonal and has really brilliant lyrics, to f—ing songs you can sing along to? I just gave it my best. I gave it 100 percent.”
Now, two-plus decades after its release, Live Through This stands as one of the ’90s great albums and a key turning point in Hole’s history in establishing their own identity.