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GrooveOut

by Lawrence Ferber

POWER OF LOVE

Curious about Courtney’s dream lesbian lover? She is a tall, buxom Italian dom

“SELL OUT means one thing. There are no more tickets to my show at Madison Square Garden [because] I sold it out!” proclaims singer/songwriter/actress Courtney Love. Indeed. Never one to mince words or compromise her thoughts—and, often famously, actions—Love’s debut solo album America’s Sweetheart (Virgin) betrays the same fearlessness, honesty, brashness, outrageousness, and passion we’ve come to expect from her. It ain’t always pretty, but that’s the nature of Love.

“I want to be on the Top 40, but there is no reason for me to have to lie about my demons. I am not living a lie,” Love continues, adding that she expects her collaborators to be equally outright, much like pro-gay late husband Kurt Cobain. “There’s a young artist I know, at the very least she is bisexual, and she wanted to do a duet with me. I said, ‘YOU HAVE TO COME OUT,’ at least as a bisexual. And she wouldn’t. I do not know why. There’s a reason actresses lie about it or just don’t comment on it, but I just don’t see why a musical star or an executive has to do it. I’ve tried to come out, but nobody believes I’m a lesbian. It’s like I have COCK written on my forehead.”

The last we heard from Love—musically, that is—was on Hole’s Grammy Award-nominated, platinum-certified 1998 album, Celebrity Skin. Formed in 1989, the alt-rock outfit (which included lesbian drummer Patty Schemel) also made waves with its 1991 debut Pretty on the Inside and 1994’s Live Through This. America’s Sweetheart marks Love’s first departure from the band and its group dynamic.

“I didn’t have to pretend to be in a democracy, even though I do it anyway,” she notes. “I’m a people pleaser—uugggh! I gave myself an alter ego for this record—her name is Dirty Baby. She wrote ‘Life Despite God,’ a.k.a. ‘The Plague,’ with Linda Perry.” Out lesbian Perry, who recently worked on Pink’s Try This, was one of a handful of Love’s collaborators on America’s Sweetheart, including studio powerhouses Josh Abraham (Staind), James Barber (Ryan Adams), Matt Serletic (Grammy winner/Virgin Records chairman), and songwriter Bernie Taupin.

“I NEVER let anyone into my lyric box, but when I let Linda in, well, it was worth it,” Love attests. “There’s the photo of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick kissing in Linda’s studio, and when I saw that, I just knew I was home. She made a difference, and she never overstayed her welcome. I asked ‘Where do you get these magical powers?’ She has a big black girl tattoo—that may be it—but I am her spirit guide for rock. And Bernie Taupin shares lyrics with me on one song on this album, ‘Uncool.’ I grew up on Bernie Taupin’s lyrics, I felt like a fourth grader [working with him].”

The process of creating America’s Sweetheart started off slowly, says Love, who hadn’t written any songs for years. “I sat at home and tried to copy Radiohead’s [album], The Bends,” she admits. “Then I finally wrote ‘Hold on to Me’ and I just kept writing.” On the album’s first single, “Mono,” a fiery and fierce Love blasts assured shouts of “I’m so much better than him!” over ’80s-style power rock guitar grinding. “Hello” is also pretty rocking, with sassy boasts like “I’m about to tell you about the difference you will never make.” “Zeplin Song” humorously razzes the overplaying of the tune by the legendary rock band (“Why does the song remain the same?” she queries).

Love also comes clean on the album, so to speak, about her chemical addictions. In October of 2003, following an arrest for attempting to break into an ex-boyfriend’s home and an overdose daughter Frances Bean Cobain witnessed, Bean was removed from Love’s custody by authorities (the 11-year-old now resides with Cobain’s mother). Love then checked into rehab but her erratic behavior—most recently a three-hour nude jaunt around a rehab center—continues.

Drugs take the fore on songs like “All the Drugs” and “Sunset Strip,” one of the most powerful tunes lyrically and musically. “Rock star, pop star, everybody dies… I got pills ’cause I am the worst and best dressed… I got pills for my coochie because baby I’m sore… take all these stupid pills away” she sings. Asked to elaborate upon these lyrics, Love proffers, “Do you want me to censure myself? I try replacing [drugs] with ‘love’ but it sounds lame.”

“The Plague,” meanwhile, is anything but lame: It’s boiling with emotional turmoil (“you shoulda loved me baby!”). Just don’t tell Love it’s got dashes of Janis Joplin as well. “That is OUTRAGEOUS,” she gags at the comparison. “‘The Plague,’ a.k.a. ‘Life Despite God,’ is a BLUES song! Get new ears. Put your new ears on! It was three hours long. In that song Linda and I are white women stuck in a whorehouse, we drank tequila, and that song was born.”

Pink has credited Perry with an ability to drag one’s demons out. However, Love insists that wasn’t the case in these here parts. “Pink and Linda have a very unique relationship,” Love says. “I’m not knocking Linda’s ‘clients,’ but she drags the ‘clients’ demons out, and I had to wait until the ‘clients’ were done. Then we proceeded to the land of Led Zep, and then we would drag out Linda’s demons, and she helped temper my demons. Like ‘Uncool’ didn’t have enough demons, then I made it full of demons, and then it sucked, so we tempered it. We write in a very John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney] way, and sometimes I get to be the John, which is GREAT!”

Speaking of Johns, Love originally wrote “Uncool” with Elton John’s oft-collaborator Bernie Taupin. Love credits Elton John with having “saved my ass” on occasion. “Don’t tell anyone, but I once had to sit in a jailhouse for saying the word f--k to a stewardess, and I guess everyone said to take me off the bill for the show,” Love recalls, referring to her arrest for causing a disturbance on an airplane prior to a scheduled appearance at a star-studded benefit gig for London’s Old Vic theater. “Elton and, I think, Peter O’Toole said ‘No way, she is in.’” Love made media headlines again that night by showing up in a Donald Duck costume (Elton did much the same in the ’70s), although “John Galliano loaned me this amazing beautiful dress, which was the greatest thing, and no one saw photos. They only saw the duck costume.”

Of course, the world’s vision of Love has included an active artists’ rights activist and the glamorous Hollywood actress who was nominated for a 1996 Golden Globe for her turn in The People Vs. Larry Flynt. “I go between T-shirts and jeans to a person who takes good care of herself,” Love says of her dichotomous rocker/glamazon personas. “The idea I didn’t wax for years freaks me out. I am so big physically, [and] ultra-feminine stuff has always attracted me, more than masculine stuff. I am so big, I love feeling petite.”

Love made her big screen bow in Sid and Nancy, and appeared in other biopics like Basquiat and Man on the Moon. In 2001, she played a New Jersey housewife who has a lesbian affair with Lili Taylor in a feature called Julie Johnson. The film’s U.S. distributor, The Shooting Gallery, went bankrupt prior to the release, so it remains shelved. According to Taylor, Love would play Mazzy Star while shooting their love scenes.

As for what sort of lady would be Love’s dream lesbian lover offscreen, she muses, “Somebody really tall and bigger than me and Italian, really dominant! She would have to be 6’2” and have way bigger tits than me, and she has to shove me up against a wall!”

Interestingly, Love explores all flavors of sexuality in “Princess Ai,” a series of manga (Japanese comic book) she developed with DJ Milky and Japanese manga artist Ai Yazawa (who was responsible for the queer-inclusive Paradise Kiss series). Publisher Tokyopop describes Love’s manga alter-ego as “a smart and talented, yet controversial young woman who utilizes the public stage not only for self-expression but also to hide from her assailants. She is the princess of a mysterious, unknown land, who has escaped to our world and is now taking refuge in the bustling nightclubs of Kabushiki-cho.”

Speaking of nightclubs, Love is planning to put together an all-girl band to tour for America’s Sweetheart. Does this additional solo step mean her Hole is, er, closed up for good—or just relaxing after a lot of action?

“Considering that the number-one plastic surgery in America is tightening the hole, I’m just doing my Kegel exercises,” Love says with a laugh. “There will ALWAYS be fire in the hole.”

Lawrence Ferber reported on queer movies at the Sundance Film Festival for our March issue.


If you have any comments about this article, please email them to letters@outsmartmagazine.com.