“Beautiful Son” is the great forgotten Hole single. It was released when Courtney Love’s band was best known for the unholy squall of Pretty on the Inside. (At that point, Love herself was probably best known for having married Kurt Cobain.) “Beautiful Son” anticipated the gut-punch power of Hole’s Live Through This: a simple, tuneful riff matched with personal lyrics and raw vocals, a chocolate valentine wrapped in barbed wire.
To promote the single (issued by the European label City Slang), Hole appeared in March 1993 on the British late-night TV show The Word (the same program where Cobain had played with Nirvana in 1991 and introduced “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by saying, “I’d like all of you people in this room to know that Courtney Love, the lead singer of the sensational pop group Hole, is the best fuck in the world”). Host Mark Lamarr misidentified the song as “Brother Son” and prattled over the noisy coda, but the audience responded wildly.
The show marked one of the first public appearances by Hole’s new bassist, Kristen Pfaff – the previous year, Love had written an ad looking for a new bass player “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.”
Later that year, Pfaff would record Live Through This with the rest of Hole; in June 1994, she would be dead from a heroin overdose.
On this day, Pfaff and drummer Patty Schemel locked in as Hole’s rhythm section, while guitarist Eric Erlandson played a powerful guitar riff that was second cousin to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Love addressed a man with cross-dressing tendencies (presumably Cobain): “You look good in my dress,” she sang, landing somewhere in between gender-role manifesto, celebrity journalism, and love letter.