Kurt Cobain (1967-1994) performs with Nirvana on MTV Unplugged at Sony Studios in New York City, November 18, 1993. Photo: Getty Images
I learned Kurt Cobain had died on the evening of the day the news broke. I was 15, on a babysitting job across the street, and I was told by one of my young charges that the lead singer of Nirvana had killed himself. I didn't believe him. Why would I? He was only nine.
But he had seen it on the evening news, and this was back in the days before I was a news junkie, before I listened to the radio, before internet, before mobile phones, before social media. Cobain had died on April 5, but his body wasn't found until three days later.
Could this happen today? Surely people would have become suspicious when he didn't answer his phone or update his Facebook status. Would Kurt have used Facebook? Disdained Twitter? We'll never know. But what I do remember is that I had blond, lank hair that I hadn't brushed in some time.
That's because 1994 was The Year I Didn't Brush My Hair. I think it had something to do with Kurt Cobain, but it was probably more obscure than that.
I can't remember even liking Nirvana all that much. But I remember, as I dialled my best friend with shaking fingers, feeling my very first twinge of that very specific excitement generated by learning of a celebrity's death. Excitement, uncertainty, confusion. How should I feel? My friend was tearful. "I love him so much. I can't believe he's gone," she said, deadpan. We weren't the wailing type.
Days later, poring over news images, I couldn't help feeling a surge of pride that I was wearing the same sneakers - Converse One-Stars - Kurt was when he died. They were visible in that awful photo, the one of his leg and hand. Would that photo run today? Of course it would - we would have had access to them all within minutes. Back then, even though I wasn't a diehard fan, I think I knew The Day Kurt Died would be a defining moment of my generation.
Where was I The Day Kurt Died? Babysitting, with unbrushed hair, wondering how to feel. Kurt would have been proud.