Before she was a sweary, capslock-bashing feminist icon and the undisputed Queen of Twitter, Caitlin Moran was a music journalist. Writing for the now defunct Melody Maker from the age of 16 left her with a barrel-load of rock’n’roll stories, many of which she’s now worked into her thinly-fictionalised autobiographical novel ‘How To Build A Girl’.
Holding court in a backroom at London’s Groucho Club, she reels off many of these tales – including her dad picking her up from a Manic Street Preachers gig and wanting to tell Richey Edwards to “cheer up”, and going to a deserted funfair in Milan with the Beastie Boys where they all got “caned out of our tiny fucking minds.”
One story stands out above the rest, and that’s the “seven or eight hours” she spent talking to Courtney Love for a feature on Hole in 1994. “During that conversation she told me about losing her virginity, the first time she fucked Kurt, the first time Kurt took E, all this stuff,” says Moran. “I left pretty much everything off the record apart from this one bit where she said Billy Corgan was a really great fuck. Two weeks later, Kurt killed himself. Everett True from Melody Maker rang me up and said: ‘The rumour I’m hearing is that Courtney was fucking Billy Corgan while Kurt was in rehab. He saw your interview about Billy being a great fuck and that’s why he skipped going back to rehab and shot himself.’ I was hearing this on my 18th birthday. I’d turned 18 and killed the spokesperson for my generation. Soz!”
The Smashing Pumpkins had been the first band Moran ever reviewed live – an occasion which makes it into the novel, in which her dad tells Billy Corgan that the grunge icons are “a tight little unit.” A few years after Cobain’s death, she ran into Corgan again. “I told him that Courtney had said he was a really great fuck,” she says. “He paused for a bit and then he said: ‘Well if Courtney says I’m a great fuck, I probably am.’ He looked at me, and I’ve never fancied him in my life, but the way he looked at me made it very clear he would know his way around a vagina. I went very red and very stuttery. Eventually I blurted out: ‘You look like [80s children’s TV puppet] Mooncat. We had to wrap up quite quickly after that.”
Beneath the tales of rock’n’roll excess, ‘How To Build A Girl’ is really a bildungsroman that deals with the awkward way in which teenagers come to terms with their own sexuality. “I wrote this book because I’d read ‘50 Shades of Grey’ and it terrified and annoyed me in equal measure,” explains Moran. “One in three women in this country have read that book, which has a teenage girl protagonist, which is rare, and yet the plot is her being spanked on the clitoris with a hairbrush in exchange for an iPad from a shady, fucked-up pervy billionaire. Ladies! Let me tell you a story about what would really happen if you were a teenager and went out with someone who is powerful and into pervy sex. It was mainly to stop women going out with fucking asshats that I wrote this book.”
Originally published in NME, 5 July 2014.