Hole was an American alternative rock band that formed in Los Angeles, California in 1989 by vocalist, lyricist, and rhythm guitarist Courtney Love, and lead guitarist Eric Erlandson. The band had a revolving line-up of bassists and drummers, their most prolific being drummer Patty Schemel, and bassists Kristen Pfaff (d. 1994) and Melissa Auf der Maur. Over the duration of their career, Hole went on to become one of the most successful female-fronted rock bands of all time, selling over 3 million records in the United States alone.
Initially part of Los Angeles' punk rock scene, the band collaborated with Kim Gordon for their critically acclaimed debut album, Pretty on the Inside (1991), following it with the more commercially viable Live Through This (1994), which was widely acclaimed and reached platinum status within a year of its release. Because of Love's lyrics, which explicitly discussed issues of body image, identity, and sexual exploitation, Hole became the most high-profile musical group of the 1990s to openly discuss feminist issues in their songs. The band also gained considerable media coverage due to Love's reckless and disturbing live performances. In 1998, their third release, Celebrity Skin, garnered them four Grammy nominations before they eventually disbanded in 2002 to pursue other projects.
In 2009, Hole was reformed by Love with new members, despite Erlandson's claim that the reformation breached a mutual contract he had with Love; the reformed band released the album Nobody's Daughter (2010), which received mixed critical response and was a commercial failure. In 2014, Love confirmed in an interview with BBC that she was writing new material and that a reunion with the band's previous members was being planned, which would include herself, Erlandson, Auf der Maur, and Schemel. Though Love retracted the statement, she said in an interview with Pitchfork on May 1 that a reunion was likely happening, and that it would be occurring in 2015.
Background and formation
Hole formed after Eric Erlandson responded to an advertisement placed by Courtney Love in Recycler in the summer of 1989. The advertisement simply read: "I want to start a band. My influences are Big Black, Sonic Youth, and Fleetwood Mac." "She called me up and talked my ear off," said Erlandson. "We met at this coffee shop, and I saw her and I thought "Oh, God. Oh, no, What am I getting myself into?" She grabbed me and started talking, and she's like "I know you're the right one", and I hadn't even opened my mouth yet." In retrospect, Love said that Erlandson "had a Thurston [Moore] quality about him" and was an "intensely weird, good guitarist." In his 2012 book, Letters to Kurt, Erlandson revealed that he and Love had a sexual relationship during their first year together in the band, which Love also confirmed.
Love had lived a nomadic life prior, immersing herself in numerous music scenes and living in various cities along the west coast. After unsuccessful attempts at forming bands in San Francisco (where she was briefly a member of Faith No More) and Portland, Love relocated to Los Angeles, where she found work as an actress in two Alex Cox films (Sid and Nancy and Straight to Hell). Erlandson was a California native and a graduate of Loyola Marymount University, and was working as a royalties manager for Capitol Records at the time he met Love.
Love had originally wanted to name the band Sweet Baby Crystal Powered by God, but opted for the name Hole instead. During an interview on Later... with Jools Holland, Love claimed the name for the band was inspired by a quote from Euripides' Medea which read "there's a hole that pierces my soul." Additionally, Love cited a conversation with her mother as being the primary inspiration for the band's name: "My mother is this new age psychologist and I said, "I had this terrible childhood", and she said, "You can't have a hole running through you all the time, Courtney."" Love also acknowledged the "obvious" genital reference in the band's name, alluding to the vagina, though stated that the primary source of the name was the conversation between her and her mother.
1989–1991: Early work and indie success
In the months preceding the band's full formation, Love used Michael "Flea" Balzary's rehearsal space in Los Angeles to begin writing. The band's first official rehearsal took place at Fortress Studios in Hollywood with Love, Erlandson and Lisa Roberts on bass. According to Erlandson, "these two girls show up dressed completely crazy, we set up and they said, "okay, just start playing something." I started playing and they started screaming at the top of their lungs for two or three hours. Crazy lyrics and screaming. I said to myself, "most people would just run away from this really fast." But I heard something in Courtney's voice and lyrics." Initially, the band had no percussion until Love met drummer Caroline Rue, and later recruited a third guitarist, Mike Geisbrecht. Hole's first show took place at Raji's, a small bar in Hollywood, in September 1989. By early 1990, Geisbrecht and Roberts had both left the band, which led to the recruitment of bassist Jill Emery.
Hole released their debut single "Retard Girl" in April 1990, and followed it with "Dicknail" in 1991, released on Sympathy for the Record Industry and Sub Pop, respectively. According to disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer, Love would often approach him at a Denny's on Sunset Blvd. where he went for coffee in the mornings, and convinced him to give "Retard Girl" airtime on his station KROQ-FM. As the group began to generate income as an underground band, A&R representatives started to appear at their shows. When approached by a label representative who told Love the band needed a more "full sound", she simply replied "fuck off."
In 1991, the band signed onto Caroline Records to release their debut album, and Love sought Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth to produce the record. She sent a letter, a Hello Kitty barrette, and copies of the band's early singles to her, mentioning that the band greatly admired Gordon's work and appreciated "... the production of the SST record" (either referring to Sonic Youth's album Sister or EVOL). Gordon, impressed by the band's singles, agreed to produce the album, with assistance from Gumball's Don Fleming. The album, titled Pretty on the Inside, was released in August 1991 to positive reception from underground critics, branded "loud, ugly and deliberately shocking", and earning a spot on Spin's "20 Best Albums of the Year" list. It was also voted album of the year by New York's Village Voice and peaked at number 59 on the UK albums chart. The album spawned one single, "Teenage Whore", which entered the UK Indie Chart at number one, as well as the band's debut music video for the song "Garbadge Man".
Musically and lyrically, Pretty on the Inside was abrasive and drew on elements of punk rock and sludge metal, characterized by overt noise and feedback, chaotic guitar riffs, contrasting tempos, graphic lyrics, and a variation of Love's vocals ranging from whispers to guttural screaming. In later years, Love referred to the album as "unlistenable", despite its critical accolades and eventual cult following. The band embarked on a European tour in the fall of 1991 with Mudhoney and Daisy Chainsaw supporting. They also toured intermittently in the United States between July and December 1991, playing primarily at hard rock and punk clubs, including CBGB and the Whisky A Go Go, where they opened for The Smashing Pumpkins. The tour included a fair amount of chaos, and Love smashed her guitar onstage in a fit of anger at their last show of their US tour. It was during the tour that Love initially became romantically involved with Kurt Cobain of Nirvana (the two had initially crossed paths in 1989 in Portland), later becoming pregnant in December 1991.
1992–1995: Mainstream success and Pfaff's death
Courtney Love and Eric Erlandson began writing new material for a second Hole album in 1992, in the midst of Love's pregnancy. Love's desire to take the band in a more melodic and controlled rock format led bassist Emery to leave the band, and drummer Caroline Rue followed. In an advertisement to find a new bass player, Love wrote: "[I want] someone who can play ok, and stand in front of 30,000 people, take off her shirt and have 'fuck you' written on her tits. If you're not afraid of me and you're not afraid to fucking say it, send a letter. No more pussies, no more fake girls, I want a whore from hell." In April 1992, drummer Patty Schemel was recruited after an audition in Los Angeles, but the band spent the rest of the year without a consistent bassist.
Hole signed to Geffen's subsidiary DGC label with an eight-album contract in late 1992. In the spring of 1993, the band released their single "Beautiful Son", which was recorded in Seattle with producer Jack Endino as a fill-in bass player; Love also played bass on the single's b-side "20 Years In the Dakota". Shortly after, Love and Erlandson recruited Janitor Joe bassist Kristen Pfaff. The band performed several concerts throughout 1993 (including the Phoenix Festival on July 16), mainly performing material from their upcoming major label debut, Live Through This, which they recorded at Triclops Studios in Marietta, Georgia in October 1993.
Live Through This was released on April 12, 1994, four days after the body of Love's husband, Kurt Cobain, was found in their Seattle home, having committed suicide. In the days following his death, Love refused to discuss the album with the media, and mourned with fans outside her and Cobain's home. A recording of her reading his suicide note was played at a memorial service in Seattle, where she arrived shortly after the ceremony to distribute some of his clothing to fans. In the wake of Love's personal tragedy, Live Through This was a critical success. It spawned several popular singles, including "Doll Parts", "Violet", and "Miss World", going multi-platinum and being hailed "Album of the Year" by Spin magazine. NME called the album "a personal but secretive thrash-pop opera of urban nihilism and passionate dumbthinks", and Rolling Stone said the album "may be the most potent blast of female insurgency ever committed to tape".
Despite the critical praise for Live Through This, furious rumors circulated insinuating that Cobain had actually written the majority of the album, though the band vehemently denies this. "There's that myth that Kurt [Cobain] wrote all our songs— it's not true," said drummer Schemel. "Courtney and Eric wrote Live Through This." The band did, however, state that Love convinced Cobain to provide backing vocals on "Asking for It" and "Softer, Softest" while visiting the studio, and music producers and engineers present during the recording sessions noted that Cobain seemed "completely unfamiliar" with the songs. According to Rolling Stone rock journalist Gavin Edwards, Love and Cobain had written songs together in the past, but opted to not release them because it was "a bit too redolent of John and Yoko". Incidentally, Love has revealed that the alternate mix of "Asking for It" featuring Cobain, was planned to be released as a single before his death.
In June 1994, bassist Kristen Pfaff died of a heroin overdose in Seattle, and the band put their impending tour on hold, pulling out of the upcoming Lollapalooza festival. Spending the summer out of the media spotlight, Hole recruited bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, and returned to the stage on August 26 at the Reading Festival in England, giving an infamous performance that John Peel described as "teetering on the edge of chaos." The band embarked on a worldwide tour throughout late 1994 and for the duration of 1995, with appearances at the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas, Saturday Night Live, the Big Day Out festival, MTV Unplugged, the 1995 Reading Festival, Lollapalooza 1995, and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they were nominated for the "Doll Parts" music video. Love's reckless stage presence during the tour became a media spectacle, drawing press from MTV and other outlets due to her unpredictable performances. While touring with Sonic Youth, Love got into a physical fight with Kathleen Hanna backstage at a 1995 Lollapalooza festival and punched her in the face. Toward the end of the tour, the band released their first EP, titled Ask for It, in September 1995; it featured 1991 Peel session recordings of "Doll Parts" and "Violet", as well as covers of The Wipers' "Over the Edge" and "Pale Blue Eyes" by The Velvet Underground.
1996–1999: Hiatus, and Celebrity Skin
Hole was thought to be on hiatus in 1996 due to Love's rising movie career after she landed a lead role in The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996). Despite the reported hiatus, the band recorded and released a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" for The Crow: City of Angels (1996) soundtrack, the band's first studio song to feature Melissa Auf der Maur on bass. Hole released two retrospective albums during this time: firstly, their second EP, titled The First Session (1997), which consisted of a complete version of the band's first recording session at Rudy's Rising Star in Los Angeles in March 1990, some of which had been bootlegged widely years prior. It featured the group's first ever recorded track, "Turpentine", which had previously been unreleased to the public.
The same year, the band released their first compilation album, My Body, The Hand Grenade (1997), which was produced chiefly by Erlandson; Love designed the packaging and artwork on the album. The album was conceived as a retrospective on the band's career, featuring early singles, b-sides and recent live tracks. Although Hole as a band did not perform during 1996 and 1997, members of Hole performed separately, including Love's guest appearance at a Smashing Pumpkins show in February 1996, at which she performed "Silverfuck" and "Farewell and Goodnight", with Smashing Pumpkins' frontman Billy Corgan. Auf der Maur and Schemel also performed a show in Toronto in July 1996. Erlandson collaborated with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and director Dave Markey in the short-lived project, Rodney & the Tube Tops, with whom he released one single.
In 1997, the band entered Conway Recording Studios in Los Angeles after many "fruitless attempts" in Miami, New Orleans, London, and New York to record a follow-up to Live Through This. Hole's third studio album, Celebrity Skin (1998) adopted a complete new sound for the band, incorporating elements of power pop, and Love drawing influence from Fleetwood Mac and My Bloody Valentine. The studio work on Celebrity Skin took almost a year and a half— according to Erlandson, Love was more focused on song-writing and singing than playing guitar. In addition to the band, Billy Corgan entered the studio and helped perfect the songs. Love, who felt she was in a creative slump, referred to Corgan's presence in the studio to "a math teacher who wouldn't give you the answers but was making you solve the problems yourself."
Corgan was credited with co-writing five of the twelve songs on the album, and upon its release made references that he should have "been given credit [for writing the entire album]." Erlandson responded to Corgan's statements in a Rolling Stone interview, commenting: "We were working on all the stuff that Courtney and I had already written. Billy really facilitated things, in a way... I would bring in the music, Courtney would start coming up with lyrics right away, and [Billy] would help map it all out." Erlandson also stated: "Courtney writes all her own lyrics. Nobody else is writing those lyrics and nobody ever has." One journalist took note of the controversy when reviewing the album, stating: "Back in 1994, the acclaim for Live Through This was undercut by whispers that Love's late husband wrote the album. Combine those conspiracy theories with the unfounded but persistent rumor that Cobain was actually murdered, and it is no surprise that, in the song "Celebrity Skin", Love calls herself a walking study in demonology."
Although Schemel is listed as drummer in the liner notes of the record, her drumming does not actually appear on the record; she was replaced by session drummer Deen Castronovo, under pressure from producer Michael Beinhorn. After the replacement, Schemel quit the band. Though Love and Erlandson had authorized Schemel's replacement, both expressed regret in retrospect, and Love stated in 2011 that Beinhorn was notorious for replacing drummers on records, and referred to him as "a Nazi". After Schemel's departure, the band hired drummer Samantha Maloney for their upcoming tours and music videos.
Celebrity Skin was a critical success with strong sales and successful singles, including the title track, "Celebrity Skin", "Malibu", and "Awful". The album received unanimously positive reviews, with praise from music periodicals such as Rolling Stone, NME, and Blender, as well as a four-star review from the Los Angeles Times, calling it a "wild emotional ride" sure to be "one of the most dissected and debated collections of the year." The album charted incredibly well, peaking at number 9 on the Billboard 200, and garnering the band its first and only number 1 single, "Celebrity Skin", which topped the Modern Rock Tracks. "Malibu" was the album's second successful single, making it to number 3 on the Modern Rock Tracks.
In the winter of 1998–99, Hole went on tour to promote Celebrity Skin, joining Marilyn Manson, who was promoting his album, Mechanical Animals (1998) on the "Beautiful Monsters Tour". The tour turned into a publicity magnet, and Hole dropped out of the tour nine dates in, due to both the majority of the fans being Manson's, and the 50/50 financial arrangement between the groups, with Hole's production costs being disproportionately less than Manson's. Manson and Love often mocked one another onstage, and Love attacked Manson's stage antics, which included tearing up a Bible during performances: "You know, whenever somebody rips up the Bible in front of 40,000 people, I think it's a big deal," she said during a 1999 interview. Hole played one last show on the tour after a poorly received concert at Portland's Rose Garden Arena, which ended with Manson fans booing the band.
The band continued to book shows and headline festivals after dropping off Manson's tour, and according to Auf der Maur, it was a "daily event" for Love to invite audience members onstage to sing with her for the last song at nearly every concert performance. On June 18, 1999 during Hole's set at the Hultsfred Festival in Sweden, a 19-year-old girl died after being crushed by the mosh pit behind the mixing board. Hole played its final show at Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver on July 14, 1999.
1999–2002: Dissolution and disbandment
In October 1999, Auf der Maur quit Hole and went on to become a touring bassist for The Smashing Pumpkins. Samantha Maloney also quit a few months later. The band's final release was a single for the movie Any Given Sunday (1999). "Be a Man", released in March 2000, was an outtake from the Celebrity Skin sessions.
Love and Erlandson officially disbanded Hole via a message posted on the band's website in 2002. After the split, the four musicians each took on projects of their own. Erlandson continued to work as a producer and session musician, eventually forming the experimental group RRIICCEE with controversial artist, Vincent Gallo and Love began a solo career, releasing her debut, America's Sweetheart in 2004. Melissa Auf der Maur also embarked on a solo career, and released her self-titled debut album in 2004, which also included Erlandson on lead guitar on the track, "Would If I Could." Her second album, Out of Our Minds, was released on March 30, 2010.
Hole's original body of work includes thirteen singles, six Grammy nominations, three LPs, three EPs, one compilation album and 10 music videos.
2009–2012: Nobody's Daughter, name dispute
On June 17, 2009, NME posted two in-depth blogs, and links to two interviews, of Courtney Love announcing the reunion of Hole. Days later, Melissa Auf der Maur stated in an interview that she was unaware of any reunion, but said Love had asked her to contribute harmonies to an upcoming album. Eric Erlandson stated in Spin magazine that contractually no reunion could take place without his involvement, citing that he and Love "have a contract". In a later interview, Erlandson explained how "[Courtney's] management convinced me that it was all hot air and that she would never be able to finish her album. Now I'm left in an uncomfortable position."
Hole launched a new website and various social media pages on January 1, 2010, and performed on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in February. On February 17, 2010 they played a full set at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, with support from Little Fish. On March 16, the first Hole single in ten years, was released, titled "Skinny Little Bitch", debuting at No. 32 on Billboard's Alternative Singles Chart and receiving airplay on Active rock and alternative radio.
Nobody's Daughter was released on April 26, 2010 worldwide on Mercury Records, and was received by music critics with moderately positive acclaim. Rolling Stone gave the album three out of five stars, but noted "[while Love] was an absolute monster vocalist in the nineties, the greatest era ever for rock singers... She doesn't have that power in her lungs anymore – barely a trace. But at least she remembers, and that means something in itself." The magazine also referred to the album as "not a true success", but a "noble effort". Love's voice, which had been noticeably raspier (likely due to years of scream-singing, drug abuse, and smoking) was compared to the likes of Bob Dylan. NME gave the album a 6/10 rating, and Robert Christgau rated it an "A-", saying, "Thing is, I can use some new punk rage in my life, and unless you're a fan of Goldman Sachs and BP Petroleum, so can you. What's more, better it come from a 45-year-old woman who knows how to throw her weight around than from the zitty newbies and tattooed road dogs who churn most of it out these days. I know—for her, BP Petroleum is just something else to pretend about. But the emotion fueling her pretense is cathartic nevertheless." In support of the release, Hole toured extensively between 2010 and 2012 throughout North America and Europe, as well as performing in Japan, Russia, and Brazil.
On March 28, 2011, Love, Erlandson, Patty Schemel and Auf der Maur appeared at the New York screening of Schemel's documentary Hit So Hard: The Life and Near-Death Story of Patty Schemel at the Museum of Modern Art. The appearance was the first time in thirteen years that all four members appeared together in public. Schemel had expressed a desire to record with Love, Erlandson and Auf der Maur stating "nothing has been discussed, but I have a feeling." After the screening, the four took part in a Q&A session where Love stated: "For me, as much as I love playing with Patty – and I would play with her in five seconds again, and everyone onstage – if it's not moving forward, I don't wanna do it. That's just my thing. There's rumblings; there's always bloody rumblings. But if it's not miserable and it's going forward and I'm happy with it… that's all I have to say about that question."
In May 2011, a music video for "Samantha" was shot in Istanbul, although it remained officially unreleased. In September 2011, Scott Lipps joined the band, replacing drummer Stu Fisher. In April 2012, Love, Erlandson, Auf der Maur and Schemel reunited at the Public Assembly in New York for a two-song set, including "Miss World" and the Wipers' "Over the Edge," at an after-party for the Hit So Hard documentary. The performance marked the first time the four members performed together live since 1995.
On November 29, 2012, Love stated on her Twitter account for her upcoming clothing line: "From now on [the band is called Courtney], Hole is dead", implying that she was abandoning the Hole moniker and returning to performing as a solo artist. On December 29, 2012, Love performed a solo acoustic set in New York City, and in January 2013, performed at the Sundance Film Festival under her own name. She booked further performances across North America as a solo act, with Larkin, Dailey, and Lipps as her backing band, also stating she had planned to release a new album.
2013–present: Potential reunion
In May 2013, when asked about possibly reuniting with past members of Hole, Love alleged on the Opie and Anthony show that Eric Erlandson had stolen over seventy guitars from her that had been in storage, some of which belonged to her late husband, Kurt Cobain, and that because of that she refused to work with him again. However, on December 28, 2013, Love posted two photos of herself with Erlandson on Facebook and Twitter, with a caption reading: "And this just happened… 2014 going to be a very interesting year." Love also tagged Melissa Auf der Maur as well as Hole's former manager, Peter Mensch, in the post, alluding to a reconciliation and possible reunion in 2014.
On April 2, 2014, Rolling Stone reported that the Celebrity Skin line-up of the band had reunited (with Patty Schemel in lieu of Samantha Maloney). Rolling Stone falsely reported Love's upcoming solo single, "Wedding Day" to be a product of this reunion. Love although denied the claim a reunion was set in an interview on April 5 and said "We may have made out but there is no talk of marriage. It’s very frail, nothing might happen, and now the band are all flipping out with me".
On May 1, in an interview with Pitchfork, Love commented further on the possibility of a reunion, stating:
In the same interview, Love also said that the intent of the reunion would be to release a new album, and also stated it had been "a mistake" releasing Nobody's Daughter as a Hole record in 2010. "Eric was right—I kind of cheapened the name, even though I'm legally allowed to use it. I should save "Hole" for the lineup everybody wants to see and had the balls to put Nobody's Daughter under my own name."
Musical style and influences
Initially, Hole drew inspiration from no wave and experimental bands, which is evident in their earliest recordings, specifically "Retard Girl", but frontwoman Love also drew from a variety of influences. Love, who had grown up in Portland, was influenced by local punk band Wipers, UK post-punk groups such as Echo and the Bunnymen and Joy Division, and classic rock such as Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac. The band's first album, Pretty on the Inside, was heavily influenced by noise and punk rock, using discordant melodies, distortion, and feedback, with Love's vocals ranging from whispers to guttural screams. Love described the band's earliest songwriting as being based on "really crazy Sonic Youth tunings." Nonetheless, Love claimed to have aimed for a pop sound early on: "There's a part of me that wants to have a grindcore band and another that wants to have a Raspberries-type pop band," she told Flipside magazine in 1991. Both Love and Erlandson were fans of the notorious LA punk band The Germs. In a 1996 interview for a Germs tribute documentary, Erlandson said: "I think every band is based on one song, and our band was based on "Forming"... Courtney brought it into rehearsal, and she knew, like, three chords and it was the only punk rock song we could play."
The band's second album Live Through This, captured a less abrasive sound, while maintaining the group's original punk roots. "I want this record to be shocking to the people who don't think we have a soft edge, and at the same time, [to know] that we haven't lost our very, very hard edge," Love told VH1 in 1994. The group's third album, Celebrity Skin, incorporated power pop into their hard rock sound, and was heavily inspired by California bands; Love was also influenced by Fleetwood Mac and My Bloody Valentine while writing the album. The group's 2010 release, Nobody's Daughter, featured a more folk rock-oriented sound, utilizing acoustic guitar and softer melodies.
The group's chord progressions by and large drew on elements of punk music, which Love described as "grungey", although not necessarily grunge. Critics described their song style as "deceptively wispy and strummy," combined with "gunshot guitar choruses." Although the group's sound changed over the course of their career, the dynamic between beauty and ugliness has often been noted, particularly due to the layering of harsh and abrasive riffs which often bury more sophisticated arrangements.
Lyrics and songwriting
Love once said that lyrics were "the most important thing" to her when writing music. Her songwriting dealt with a variety of themes throughout Hole's career, including body image, rape, child abuse, addiction, celebrity, suicide, elitism, and inferiority complex; all of which were addressed mainly from a female, and often feminist standpoint. This underlying feminism in Love's lyrics often led the public and critics to mistakenly associate her with the riot grrrl movement, of which Love was highly critical.
In a 1991 interview with Everett True, Love said: "I try to place [beautiful imagery] next to fucked up imagery, because that's how I view things... I sometimes feel that no one's taken the time to write about certain things in rock, that there's a certain female point of view that's never been given space." Charles Cross has referred to her lyrics on Live Through This as being "true extensions of her diary," and she has admitted that a great deal of the lyrics from Pretty on the Inside were excisions from her journals.
Throughout Hole's career, Love's lyrics were often referential to other works of art and literature: Pretty on the Inside contains references to The Ballad of East and West by Rudyard Kipling; the title of the band's album Live Through This (as well as lyrics from the track "Asking for It") is directly drawn from Gone With the Wind; and the group's single "Celebrity Skin" (the title track to their 1998 album), contains quotes from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and Dante Rossetti's poem A Superscription. Love had had a minor background in literature, having briefly studied English literature in her early twenties.
Throughout the duration of the 1990s, the band received widespread media coverage due to Love's often rambunctious and unpredictable behavior onstage. The band often destroyed equipment and guitars at the end of concerts, and Love would ramble between songs, bring fans onstage, and stage dive, sometimes returning with her clothes torn off of her or sustaining injuries. Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt, who toured with Hole in 1995, recalled Love's erratic behavior onstage, saying "She would just go off and [the rest of the band] would just kind of stand there." The majority of Love's chaotic behavior onstage was a result of heavy drug use at the time, which she admitted: "I was completely high on dope; I cannot remember much about it." She later admonished her behavior during that time, saying: "I [saw] pictures of how I looked. It's disgusting. I'm ashamed. There's death and there's disease and there's misery and there's giving up your soul... The human spirit mixed with certain powders is not the person, it's [a] demonic presence."
Love's onstage attire also garnered notoriety, later being dubbed the title "kinderwhore", which consisted of tattered babydoll dresses and smeared makeup. Kurt Loder likened her onstage attire to a "debauched ragdoll", and John Peel noted in his review of the band's 1994 Reading Festival performance, that "[Love], swaying wildly and with lipstick smeared on her face, hands and, I think, her back, as well as on the collar of her dress, [...] would have drawn whistles of astonishment in Bedlam. The band teetered on the edge of chaos, generating a tension which I cannot remember having felt before from any stage." Rolling Stone referred to the style as "a slightly more politically charged version of grunge; apathy turned into ruinous angst, which soon became high fashion's favorite pose."
The band's set lists for live shows were often loose, featuring improvisational jams and rough performances of unreleased songs. By 1998, their live performances had become less aggressive and more restrained, although Love continued to bring fans onstage, and would often go into the crowd while singing.
In spite of Love's often polarizing reputation in the media, Hole received consistent critical praise for their output, and was often noted for the predominant feminist commentary found in Love's lyrics, which scholars have credited as "articulating a third-wave feminist consciousness". Love's subversive onstage persona and public image coincided with the band's songs, which expressed "pain, sorrow, and anger, but [an] underlying message of survival, particularly survival in the face of overwhelming circumstances." Music journalist Maria Raha expressed a similar sentiment in regard to the band's significance to third-wave feminism, stating, "Whether you love Courtney [Love] or hate her, Hole was the highest-profile female-fronted band of the '90s to openly and directly sing about feminism."
While Rolling Stone compared the effect of Love's marriage to Cobain on the band to that of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, they noted that "Love's confrontational stage presence, as well as her gut-wrenching vocals and powerful punk-pop songcraft, made her an alternative-rock star in her own right." Author Nick Wise made a similar comparison in discussion of the band's public image, stating, "Not since Yoko Ono's marriage to John Lennon has a woman's personal life and exploits within the rock arena been so analyzed and dissected."
The band has been cited as a major influence on several contemporary artists, including indie singer-songwriter Scout Niblett, Brody Dalle (of The Distillers and Spinnerette), Sky Ferreira, Lana Del Rey, and the British rock band Nine Black Alps. The band ranked at #77 of VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Artists.
- Courtney Love – vocals, guitar (1989–2002, 2009–2012)
- Eric Erlandson – guitar (1989–2002)
- Mike Geisbrecht – guitar (1989)
- Errol Stewart – guitar (1989)
- Lisa Roberts – bass, backing vocals (1989–1990)
- Caroline Rue – drums, percussion (1989–1992)
- Jill Emery – bass (1990–1992)
- Leslie Hardy – bass, backing vocals (1992–1993)
- Kristen Pfaff – bass, backing vocals, keyboards (1993–1994; died 1994)
- Patty Schemel – drums, percussion (1992–1998)
- Melissa Auf der Maur – bass, backing vocals (1994–1999)
- Samantha Maloney – drums, percussion (1998–2000)
- Micko Larkin – guitar (2009–2012)
- Shawn Dailey – bass (2009–2012)
- Stu Fisher – drums, percussion (2009–2011)
- Scott Lipps – drums, percussion (2011–2012)
- Pretty on the Inside (1991)
- Live Through This (1994)
- Celebrity Skin (1998)
- Nobody's Daughter (2010)
Awards and nominations
MTV Video Music Awards
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- Burns, Lori; Lafrance, Mélisse (2002). Disruptive divas: feminism, identity & popular music. Taylor & Francis, Routledge. ISBN 978-0-8153-3554-2.
- Carson, Mina Julia (ed.). Girls Rock!: Fifty Years of Women Making Music. The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0813123103.
- Diehl, Matt (2007). My So-Called Punk. St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 978-0312337810.
- Edwards, Gavin (2006). Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-307-34603-2.
- Erlandson, Eric (2012). Letters to Kurt. Akashic Books. ISBN 978-1-61775-083-0.
- Feigenbaum, Anna (2007). Tasker, Yvonne; Negra, Diane, eds. Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture. Console-ing Passions. Duke University Press. p. 135. ISBN 978-0822340324.
- Halperin, Ian (2000). Who Killed Kurt Cobain? The Mysterious Death of an Icon. Citadel Press. ISBN 978-0806520742.
- Hole: Celebrity Skin (songbook). Cherry Lane Music. 1999. ISBN 978-1575601373.
- Klaffke, Pamela (2003). Spree: A Cultural History of Shopping. Arsenal Pulp Press. ISBN 978-1-55152-143-5.
- Lankford, Ronald D. Jr. (2009-11-25). Women Singer-Songwriters in Rock: A Populist Rebellion in the 1990s. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0810872684.
- Meltzer, Marisa (2010-02-02). Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music. Faber & Faber. ISBN 978-0-86547-979-1.
- Schippers, Mimi A. (2002). Rockin' out of the Box: Gender Maneuvering in Alternative Hard Rock. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-3075-8.
- Strong, Catherine (2011). Grunge: Music and Memory. Ashgate. ISBN 978-1409423768.
- Strong, Martin Charles; John Peel. The Great Rock Discography. Canongate Books. ISBN 1-84195-551-5. Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)
- Hole on Myspace
- Hole's channel on YouTube
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