"Where does the name Courtney Love come from, anyway?"

"Straight out of nowhere."

Lois Maffeo/Mike Applegren interview, early 1991

The story as I have heard it: in the mid 1980s, 2 young aspiring punk rockers lived together in Portland, Oregon. Lois Maffeo and Love Michelle Harrison (who went by the somewhat less hippie-recalling "Michelle") used to joke about the perfect rock star name: Courtney Love. Eventually things would go sour (from the accounts I have heard, Harrison was not the easiest person to live with... Go figure) and one of the women would escape to a quiet life of indie-rock obscurity, while the other would go on to full-blown rock stardom with every last one of the attending cliches thereof, complete with the biggest and most controversial rock-and-toll marriage since John and Yoko. Both would go on to use the name they'd created.

The Courtney Love that you haven't seen on the cover of Spin was a two-piece band consisting of Maffeo and Yoyo Recordings founder Pat Maley. The work they did is not much different than Lois's later releases under her own name. Simple, stripped down acoustic guitar and drums, with slightly clever, unpretentious lyrics drawn from Maffeo's life and relationships. The band would eventually break up after a few singles, a number of compilation appearances, and a whole host of legal threats from the woman who felt that she owned the name.

This isn't groundbreaking music, or revolutionary, but it doesn't try to be. The band formed to play at a party in Olympia in 1989 and happened to just keep it going for a couple years. I think it's pretty safe to say that within the spectrum of rock, Courtney Love (the band) and Courtney Love (the person) are about as far from one another as you can get, and I consider that a big point in the band's favor. Certainly worth checking out if you like the idea that punk doesn't mean 120 decibels and Rock doesn't imply publicity agents...


"I am fascinated by Courtney Love, but the same way I am by someone who's got Tourette's syndrome walking in Central Park." - Madonna

Probably most famous for being married to the once lead singer of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain. Occasionally referred to as Courtney Love-Cobain, she is the lead singer of Hole.

Born on the 9th July 1964 in San Francisco, California, USA, Love was named Love Michelle Harrison at birth by her off-beat parents Hank Harrison, a Grateful Dead devotee, and Linda Caroll, a psychologist. She is also related to children's author Paula Fox, who is her biological grandmother.

Love didn't have the greatest start to life. Aged 3 she was left with a friend of her mothers when her parents went to live in New Zealand. From then on she was installed in numerous boarding schools and taken to live on hippy communes in Europe and New Zealand where she didn't feel cared for. Courtney herself said,

"The only people that liked me at this time were men: male teachers, male principals, male therapists. Kids hated me."


Despite being a headstrong individual, she didn't like herself for a while either. Even when working as a stripper, she claimed that no-one looked at her because she was fat. Because of this she has had extensive plastic surgery on her face and body.

After the stripping she went on to play in early incarnations of Babes in Toyland and Faith No More until 1986 when she approached Alex Cox for an audition in Sid and Nancy. Despite not being given the part of Nancy, the role which she wanted, she was given the smaller role of Gretchen. This led to bit parts in other films by Alex Cox such as Straight to Hell. This kickstarted her movie career.

James Moreland

In 1989, Love married James Moreland, a marriage which proved to be very brief, as they were also divorced in the same year. This year Love started up her own alternative rock band called Hole. As well as being the lead singer she plays guitar in this Los Angeles based outfit. Hole as well as Love surrounds itself with controversy, usually instigated by Love herself which thrills and enthralls their fans. This may be one of the reasons that after being a popular underground band, they grew until they released their first album, Pretty On the Inside in 1991 and beyond.

Kurt Cobain

The next year Love married again. This time happily to Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain on the 24th February 1992. The same year, Frances Bean Cobain was born on the 18th August. Frances Bean has been in the limelight for most, if not all of her life, even having a celebrity godmother in Drew Barrymore.

Love's fragile stability and happiness wasn't to last too long though, as her husband commited suicide two years later on April 4th 1994, which shocked the music world and left Love and their child reeling. Love carried on living her life in the way that she always did, much to the disgust of the media and the public, and was even questioned whether she was involved in some way in the death of her husband. This didn't stop Love getting into trouble with the press by herself. On May 28th 1998, journalist Belissa Cohen sued Love for "assault, battery, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress" after she tried to photograph Love at a fashion show in Los Angeles.

Celebrity Skin

The same year Hole released Celebrity Skin, their third album. The style of music was still the same as previous albums, with strong lyrics in guitar based tracks. The album was a success and helped make Courtney Love one of the most recognisable and talked about females in the record industry with multi platinum record sales under her belt.

March 2002 was to become the beginning of a new episode in Love's life. She decided that she wanted to be released from her recording contract which she originally signed with the rest of Hole, with Geffen Records. To do this she didn't hire a entertainment lawyer as usual in this type of situation, but instead hired a Californian commercial litigation lawyer, Barry Capello, and filed over a dozen complaints which ranged from unfair competition to breach of contract. If she were to succeed in this trial it would revolutionise the whole basis in which artists contracts have been based. Presently contracts can be for up to seven albums which takes a rough average of 15 years, but under Californian labour laws, a personal service contract can't be forced to sign a contract for longer than 7 years.

As well as wanting her contract dissolved, she wants all the master copies that her record company has of the band Hole, and all their videos.


This lawsuit is based on the fact that Love believes that Celebrity Skin was neglected during its release due to many financial and managerial changes in the record company which held Hole's contract. Hole originally signed with Geffen Records, a record company which didn't give the highest paid contracts, but were more thoughful about their treatment of the bands they signed.

"I went there for its history (of breaking rock artists), I want to be big. I don't want to be Ani DiFranco. I wanted to be a star."

Geffen were absorbed into Interscope whilst Celebrity Skin was being recorded and released, which led onto many other business transactions.

The lawsuit started off as a discussion to renogotiate Hole's contract, as many artists did just after the first merger which converted Geffen into Interscope. However, the renegotiation started to turn nasty when Love decided that Interscope didn't like Hole. The debate spiralled out of control leaving Love out for blood as opposed to money.

Musician's Union

On the basis of this Love wants to form a Musician's Union and has received encouragement from stars such as Michael Stipe, Bush, Prince and U2 as well as other artists who are concerned about how music is distributed on the internet. Don Henley, Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette have all spoken in congress to try and fight for artists rights. The case has gone so far as there are rumours that artists such as Morissette are witholding completed albums until Love's case becomes clearer. Love is moving in a slightly different direction though. She wants to create a union which helps give recording artists health and pension plans, similar to a scheme which is presently in place for actors and athletes.

Love didn't always have the view she has today. When Pearl Jam challenged Ticketmaster over their alleged monopolization of the concert ticket industry in 1994, she didn't stand up with them, and they subsequently failed.

"Eddie Vedder was right. When he took on Ticketmaster, nobody stood up with this guy. That image of him standing up alone in front of Congress has haunted me".

"The contract itself needs to change; it's impossible to mend. If I have to stand alone, I'll stand alone. I love fighting. I wake up every day rich. I wake up every day with a movie career. I've got three movies lined up. I'm this weird ex-stripper-junkie, and I don't give a shit. If I don't do this, who can?"

"I want my name on the anti-corporatization law."

Love has been linked to many men since being widowed. In December 1999 she was dating Jim Barber, but in May 2001 she refused to name the father of a child she miscarried.

As Love herself says,

"I'm not a woman, I'm a force of nature."


Television and Film Credits


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