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Single Serving 
Song: Come as You Are 
Artist/Band: Nirvana 
By psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka, Dr. BLT 

To sample Dr. BLTís cover of this Nirvana song, hit this link: 
Come as You Are: Dr. BLT 
http://www.drblt.net/music/ComeAsUAreDemo2.mp3 

I never met Curt Cobain, but I did meet his now widow, Courtney Love, a rock goddess in her own right.  I met her the day I also met Don Henley, whoís song, One of these Nights, performed by his classic, class act, the Eagles, is compared to Come as You Are in this review.  

They were in attendance at a hearing in Sacramento in which artists such as Henley, Love, and numerous other country and rock stars were speaking in defense of themselves and other artists locked into long, oppressive record contracts with record companies asking much of the artist, but offering little in the way of any kind of support. 

I had read about their appearance in the Capital buildings in the USA Today earlier as I sipped coffee at a coffee house right across the street from where the hearing was to be held.  

I felt sympathy for their cause, and so I penned a song of support for it that very morning. I made sure that I was there to show my support, and to offer copies of my song lyrics to both Love and Henley.  Both graciously received them, but Henley appeared markedly aloof, and Love, friendly (dare I say flirtatious?) and exceedingly appreciative (I sensed, in a genuine way.)  

Of course her vulnerable spirit, a spirit that still seemed to be influenced by the spirit of her deceased rock ďgodĒ husband, ended up contributing to what appeared to be a mental and emotional breakdown that began just months after my pleasant encounter with her.  

I think she loved her husband, and I doubt that she was responsible in any way for his death, as some conspiracy theorists have suggested.  But, based on my study of his lyrics, and some of his other writings, and based on my brief, but telling encounter with Courtney, I wouldnít be surprised if their relationship was marked by the very same urgent ambivalence and ambiguity that is contained the lyrics to the song, Come as You Are.  

As you will soon discover, if you havenít already, as a result of listening to this quintessential rock anthem, the song could have been more aptly entitled Come/Go as You Are.   
 

Come
As you are
As you were
As I want you to be
As a friend
As a friend
As a known memoryÖ 

The first half of the verse is the introduction to the ambivalent, ambiguous invitation.  It is the ambivalence, along with the ambiguity, that make the lyrics every bit as interesting as the music is intense.  

These lines draw in the listener, no ambiguity here, no ambivalence here.  What good would that do?  It would cause the listener to stop and turn around, without ever knocking at the door.  

Take your time
Hurry up
The choice is your
Dont be late
Take a rest
As a friend
As a known memory
Memory ah
Memory ah
Memory ahÖ 

Enter ambiguity.  Enter ambivalence.  Itís like the classic approach/avoidance conflict, introduced to us by Kurt Lewin (1890-1947)  the very first known psychologist to experimentally explore the phenomenon of conflict.  This approach/avoidance conflict involves an individualís experience of tension and anxiety brought about by being simultaneously attracted and repulsed by the same goal.  

This approach/avoidance conflict was one of three psychological scenarios introduced by Lewin that characterize the motivational processes of human beings, the other being approach-approach, and avoidance-avoidance.  Of the three, the approach-avoidance motivational phenomenon is depicted as the most difficult to resolve.  What one is left with is the very sort of ambivalence and ambiguity represented in the lyrics to this powerfully delivered, deft grunge classic. 

Come as you are
Doused in mud
Dipped in bleach
As I want you to beÖ 

I canít read what was, at the time, left of Curt Cobainís brain, but this line reminds me of the line in the Eagles classic, One of these Nights, where the line reads, ďIíve been searching for the daughter of the devil himself, Iíve been searching for an angel in whiteÖĒ  

Whether he is expressing his own wish, or the wish of a character he portrays through the song, he is expressing a conflict of desires, based on the projection of two conflicting sides of self---the dark side, and the light side, the good, and the evil, or at least the side perceived to be evil.  

And when he adds, ďAs I want you to be,Ē a line repeated from the first verse, one gets the impression of a narcissist wanting to shape an object of his desire into his own image, thus gaining a sense of control over something experienced as out of control, and unbearably chaotic.  

As a trend
A a friend
As a known memory ah
Memory ah
Memory ah
Memory ah 

A friend and a trend?  They seem to be near-opposites.  A friend is someone whoíll stick with you through thick and thin, through good times and bad.  A trend may be flashy, and fun, but it is fleeting.  Friendship, true friendship is eternal.  A trend is truly ephemeral. 

And I swear
That I donít have a gun
No I donít have a gun
No I donít have a gunÖ 

This sounds eerily prophetic, given Curt Cobainís final nemesis.  And itís like by repeating the line heís trying to make himself believe a lie. 

Memory ah
Memory ah
Memory ah
Memory ah {donít have a gun}

And I swear
That I donít have a gun
No I donít have a gun
No I donít have a gun
No I donít have a gun
No I donít have a gun 

Itís not working for me.  How about you?  Are you convinced he doesnít have a gun, or is the incessant repetition getting you to believe just the opposite? 

{memory ah}
{memory ah} 

Iím still working on the interpretation of the ďmemory ahĒ part, but I can say, unequivocally, and without ambiguity or ambivalence, that the song, with itís rich melancholic melody and burning guitar urgency, will be permanently etched in my memory, as will the desperate sense of urgent ambivalence expressed in the lyrics.  

Curt Cobain himself is now a memory.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
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