The Nirvana frontman penned the song about the rape and torture of a 14-year-old girl in Tacoma, Washington back in 1987. Love, speaking to the LA Times on the 30th anniversary of Nevermind, argued Cobain’s decision to sing the song from the point of view of the rapist would not fly with today’s sensibilities.
“Polly is a remarkable song – about the rape and torture of a 14-year-old girl, a real event Kurt read about in the newspaper – and he chose to sing it from the criminal’s perspective,” Love said. “You can’t write that song today, from the point of view of the perpetrator. Kurt would definitely not be allowed to sing Polly today, and I think that’s pretty sad.”
Gerald Arthur Friend, the American serial rapist and kidnapper from Lakewood, Washington who inspired Polly, is currently serving two consecutive 75-year terms at Airway Heights Corrections Center.
Elsewhere in her interview, Love expressed that she was “very firmly in the club” that believes the band should have chosen In Bloom as Nevermind’s lead single, in lieu of the megahit Smells Like Teen Spirit. Her rationale was that it might have made the bands rise to fame – which has been argued to be a factor in Cobain’s suicide in 1994 – less intense.
“I’m not really a fan of the idea that it all ‘could have’ been that different,” she said, “but In Bloom might have shifted things. He might have survived had somebody else [became famous first]. Like Eddie Vedder, somebody who had good infrastructure.”