Synopsis of Pop Music

“Oh, make me over,
I’m all I want to be,
A walking study,
In demonology...”

The alternative-rock juggernaut changed the face of rock and roll forever in the early 1990’s, and one of the most important groups at the revolution’s forefront was the Courtney Love-led quartet Hole. The charismatic and outspoken Love was only 24 when she formed Hole, but she had already amassed a lifetime’s worth of experiences: She had lived in places as diverse as New Zealand and Taiwan, had played major roles in films like Sid And Nancy, and had performed in early lineups of Babes In Toyland and Faith No More. Needless to say, she had developed a unique outlook on life and had plenty to write about.

More importantly, Courtney Love had the songwriting skills and the formidable voice to bring a little grrrl-power to the male-dominated rock and roll scene. All she needed was the right band to help her make her talents known to the world. She took the first step in 1989 when she hooked up with guitarist Eric Erlandson via a newspaper ad. Together, they assembled the first version of Hole and built an in-your-face sound that topped off a guitar-driven white noise style with Love’s incisive and often venomous lyrics. Meanwhile, Love developed an equally upfront style as the group’s front woman, cutting an imposing yet impressive figure with her bleach-blond hair, smeared-on red lipstick, and baby-doll dresses.

In 1991, Hole released their debut album, Pretty On The Inside. Songs like “Good Sister/ Bad Sister” and “Garbage Man” careened along with punk-styled frenzy as Love let loose with snarling vocals that perfectly lived up to the often-enraged tone of her lyrics. More importantly, a close listen revealed that Love had a gift for melody beneath all the anger and punk firepower. The album became a hit with alternative press critics on both sides of the Atlantic and Hole was soon being courted by major record labels.

Surprisingly, three years would pass before Hole released a new album. A major reason for this extended hiatus was the fact that Courtney Love had fallen for Kurt Cobain, the lead singer for Nirvana and a leading light of the new “alternative rock” scene. They married in early 1992 and were soon gracing the covers of magazines everywhere. Despite frequent barbs from the press, including a Vanity Fair cover story that accused Love of doing heroin while pregnant, the couple stayed together and had a daughter, Frances Bean. In 1993, Love and Erlandson returned to the studio with a new rhythm section to create Hole’s second album, Live Through This. The new songs were as fiery as ever but boasted a new, more careful sense of pop songcraft.

A week before Live Through This came out, rock fans everywhere were stunned by the news that Kurt Cobain had committed suicide. Another tragedy followed a few months later when Hole’s then-current bassist, Kristen Pfaff, died of a heroin overdose. Despite these sad events, the power of Hole’s music shined through and Live Through This was soon being showered with praise. Songs like “Doll Parts” and “Miss World” boasted powerful arrangements that balanced their energetic attack with moody interludes and provided an excellent showcase for Love’s raw, emotion-drenched vocal style. Live Through This was voted Album of the Year in Rolling Stone’s Critics Poll and became a platinum-selling hit.

In the concert arena, Hole soldiered on with new bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur. Their performances soon became ‘the’ show to see amongst alternative rock devotees. The focus was Love, who lived up to her image as the bad girl of rock by cutting herself on stage, arguing with the audience, and frequently throwing herself into the mosh pit. Just the same, there was more to Courtney Love than these over-the-top antics, and she soon revealed this by mounting an impressive, self-designed image makeover. The first step was reviving her acting career with roles in films like Feeling Minnesota and Basquiat. She also won critical raves for her performance as Althea in The People Vs. Larry Flynt.

By 1996, Courtney Love had reinvented herself as a lovely grand dame who appeared at the Oscars and wore Versace dresses. Fans wondered if she had thrown over her music to be a superstar, but she put these doubts to rest by returning to the studio with Hole. In 1998, they emerged with Celebrity Skin, an album that brought their one-two punch of punk edginess and pop songcraft to a new level. Love also brought in a newfound world-weary wit to temper her venom as she explored the plateaus and pitfalls of fame on songs like “Malibu” and “Reasons To Be Beautiful.” The end result was an album that made many year-end Top-10 lists and was nominated for the Best Rock Album honors at the Grammy Awards.

Today, Courtney Love divides her time between Hole and an ever-more-successful acting career. Her latest acting gigs include acclaimed performances in the Andy Kaufman biopic Man In The Moon and Beat. She is also a fervent defender of the First Amendment and has recently voiced support for the embattled free-music service Napster. No one knows what direction Hole or Courtney Love will take next, but maybe we're better off not knowing. Pretty or ugly, angry or sunny, sweet or sour, this is one band that lives to surprise, and the ride's always better when you don't know what's around the bend.

Artist Release History

07/31/91 - Pretty On The Inside
04/12/94 - Live Through This
10/28/97 - My Body The Hand Grenade (rarities compilation)
09/08/98 - Celebrity Skin

Pop Sub Categories


Essential Music Albums

Live Through This (Geffen)

Band Members

Courtney Love lead vocals, guitar
Eric Erlandson guitar
Jill Emery (1989-91) bass
Caroline Rue (1989-91) drums
Kristen Pfaff (1993-94) bass
Patty Schemel (1993-98) drums
Melissa Auf Der Mar (1994-99) bass
Samantha Maloney (1998- ) drums

Other Pop Music Links