What does Come As You Are mean?

Nirvana: Come As You Are Meaning

Tagged: Drugs [suggest]
Album cover for Come As You Are album cover

Song Released: 1992

Come As You Are Lyrics

Come as you are,
As you were,
As I want you to be.
As a friend,
As a friend,
As an old enemy.
Take your time,
Hurry up,
The choice is yours,
Don't be late.
Take a rest,
As a friend,
As an old memory.
Memory, ah.
Memory, ah.


    #1 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Oct 14th 2009 !⃝

    Some very interesting interpretations here, good reading.

    I've always considered it a heroin song, if I am perfectly honest. The overall sound/tone is incredibly dreamy and 'smacked-out' to me - like a grunged-up Lou Reed. There are definite references to heroin too. The main ones:

    Mud: simply slang for heroin, specifically the gloop that forms after cooking and which is drawn into the needle.
    Bleach: Used for cleaning/disinfecting needles (which is allegedly why the album Bleach was named so).

    I am definitely feeling the relationship thing many have mentioned, but it is incredibly common for heroin users to form relationships with either imaginary entities, the ritual of 'shooting up' or the paraphernalia used (see anything by William Burroughs – someone Kurt admired very much). To this end I think “Come As You Are” is explicitly about Kurt's relationship with the needle and his musings on it. I know a lot of my own writing focuses on such things. If you smoke cigarettes I'm sure you've stared at one in wonder before. If you have done other things, likewise.

    When interpreting songs I first try to figure their general meaning/feeling and then inject myself into them, so forgive me if what follows is simply my projection.

    “Come as you are,
    As you were,
    As I want you to be.”

    Kurt was fond of this technique and many write him off as simply playing with words for cool affect. However, taken in the context of a man staring at a needle, I think a definite meaning reveals itself. I'm not sure if the needle is speaking to him or he to the needle - I'm not even sure it matters.

    “Come as you are” - in the now. This is saying to me, “I won't judge you”
    “As you were” - in the past. To a purer state, I favour childhood as an interpretation (as in Pink Floyd's “Comfortably Numb”)
    “As I want you to be” - in the future? The promise of creation of identity? Could also simply be “Come, as I want you to be” meaning I want to make you alive/let you experience things.

    “As a friend,
    As a friend,
    As an old enemy.”

    The needle is his friend and his enemy.

    “Take your time,
    Hurry up,
    The choice is yours,
    Don't be late”

    There is so much this part can mean and it would be an essay in itself. The ritual is so, so important in the preparation, cooking, drawing and shooting of heroin and I think it could refer to this. It could also be about time between relapse, the promise of regressive/progressive trips, the memory of those first moments after shooting (something incredibly quick yet slow).

    “Come doused in mud,
    Soaked in bleach,
    As I want you to be”

    This is the clincher for me and my reference point in my interpretation. The needle is filled with heroin (doused in mud) and soaked in bleach, it simply cannot mean anything else in my eyes. Anything else I will concede.

    “As a trend,
    As a friend,
    As an old memoria”

    Believe it or not, heroin was fashionable and 'trendy' back in this day. Memoria is a very peculiar word here as it is Latin and, while translated as memory, has a very particular context in which it is used. A memoria, as I understand it (long time since I studied Latin), is a recollection of an argument. Staring at a needle may bring all his old excuses flooding back.

    Then we have the legendary gun part:

    “I swear I don't have a gun”

    I like the interpretations here on that – essentially that I am open and bear no grudge to you. You also shoot a gun, so that could be some fancy use of words. Has he given in and shot up? Is he in denial? A gun is also a way of smoking heroin (you dip a cigarette into it and smoke it that way). Very unlikely, but maybe he has been slowly easing back into heroin use through smoking it and has reached the stage where he wants to inject. He may be justifying it in the terms of “I don't have the means to make a gun”.

    The video is very interesting too. Water is a massive theme with the pool and the waterfall down the stairs. We see a baby floating (with borrowed imagery from the Album cover, which I'm going to assume is simply for promotional purposes i.e. The dollar bill), the band floating, a dog looking up to the deluge with a collar on. The dog I find interesting because it risks drowning if it enjoys the water for too long. Along with the baby we see sperm so I think we're dealing with a regression to a very early stage here. Again it just screams “Comfortably Numb” to me, a song which shares some very common themes with this.

    “There is no pain you are receding
    A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.
    You are only coming through in waves.
    Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.
    When I was a child I had a fever,
    My hands felt just like two balloons.
    Now I've got that feeling once again
    I can't explain, you would not understand
    This is not how I am.”


    #2 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Nov 18th 2007 !⃝

    "come as you are" means to be yourself. When Kurt says "I don't have a gun", it means he's not going to judge you if you are just yourself.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Jun 18th 2009 !⃝

    "Come as you are
    as you were
    as i want you to be"

    I believe these lyrics mean don't pretend be real the way you were when it was just you and me, thats the way i want you to be means

    "Come doused in Mud, cept in Bleach, as I want you to be.
    As a trend, as a friend, as an old Memory ahhh."

    this means I know whats real, your not so pure you don't have to act for me. dont act like everyone else, i'm your friend, don't you remember that i know the real you?

    "And I swear that I don't have a gun
    No, I don't have a gun
    No, I don't have a gun"

    This means i wont hurt you i'm not hiding i'm being real please trust me

    oh and "Memory ahh" means i know you remember

  4. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 9th 2020 !⃝

    An old fashioned love song(as Curt Cobain said)about a man wanting a woman to come back to him just as she is,as she used to be in his memories no matter what her reputation is(doused in mud) or how she is now clean of sin(soaked in bleach)take her time(like women do)but hurry up(men are impatient)and come as a friend or as an old enemy(woman is man's best friend and enemy)a memory.And I swear I don't have a gun."Is that a gun in your pocket or you are just happy to see me?"said May West.He is waiting for his love to come with something that looks like a gun but it is not.

  5. anonymous
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    Nov 8th 2019 !⃝

    Doused in mud (like clothes when dirty by the mud)... Soaked in bleach (like clothes cleaned of dirt)… but as an analogy for a person just to come as they are. My interpretation.

  6. anonymous
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    Aug 26th 2017 !⃝

    Doused in mud, Soaked in bleach. People clean syringes with bleach and mud could stand for heroin.

  7. anonymous
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    Aug 13th 2017 !⃝

    It's about meeting his drug dealer with out him scaring his dealer off...."take your time, hurry up" is just showing consideration towards him...but he really wants him to hurry up..."I swear man I don't have a gun" he won't rob him...

  8. anonymous
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    Mar 26th 2015 !⃝

    Hello! Great stuff here, I agree with at least one thought of each interpretation posted above, but that's it!
    Haven't any of you ever considered using the word "Gun" as a metaphore, in pop rock music, as being perhaps (more like obvious) a sexuel connotation?!
    Need I mention The Beatles "Happiness is a warm gun", which also has often the argument on one side as being about herion and on the other side, sex. A metaphore of a man's, yea, well you know what mean.. I consider it's personally to be about both anyway, and at the same time ...one shouldn't get locked down by interpretations, as one grows older the meanings change, what a song meant to me at 14 is worlds away from how I see it today! Paul Mccartney said it well "I'm all for each individuel interpreting lyrics according to their own experience and what it personally means to them, unless it's so far off base I've got to say somnething, like when they said Can't buy me love was about a prostitute"
    So all of the above are good correct and fun! Bye!

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  9. anonymous
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    Feb 10th 2014 !⃝

    My interpretation is imagery. I imagine smoking a cigarette in peace. Sitting on a curb or a sidewalk. Nobody is around. I feel humble, I feel numb, i feel calm. Much like morphine does... However i think that shooting people discourages the VERses lyrics.. I would rather not have a gun. I choose to not have a gun, a mouth, words.

    Now as I was, and as I will and should be, I am now face to face with you. did I change? did I change my attitude and persona because its you? was I acting cool before and not now? or am I cool now and not before.. am i still innocent?

    innocence is this songs meaning. Come bearing no harm and no harm will be dealt. Its spiritual.

    being douged in mud can simply mean your life is dirty. being soaked in bleach could be that of a christians life, or a tidy life, and choices of course.

    but in the end, you will die, so take your time or hurry up as kurt did. Sink through school and the dream and wake up, finish your cigarette. suns in my eyes...

  10. anonymous
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    Apr 2nd 2013 !⃝

    makes me think of the fashion and clothing styles of the 90's. The Docs, the flannels, ripped jeans, and thrift-shop tshirts. Grunge fashion wasn't about dressing up... it was dressing down. It was to roll out of bed and just show up. I mean... Kurt married Courtney Love not in a suit or a tux... but in his pajamas. Ta Da!

  11. anonymous
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    Jan 3rd 2013 !⃝

    Well, first it shocked me when I heard of his suicide. First thing I thought of was him singing, "and I swear that I don't have a gun". All I could think of is he had this planned and, he was being ironic in telling us about it.

  12. anonymous
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    Oct 5th 2012 !⃝

    @ Jun 9th 2011, 15:53 Interpretation

    I definitely get the drug vibe in a way I never did when I was a kid listening to Nirvana. That's what's great about Nirvana, the lyrics don't need to reveal themselves to make sense - they're more subjective than objective, infused with feeling over description.

    As for your fourth possibility, that may not be going out on a limb as much as you think. He seems to have had another side that manifested before his depression: a fascination with death and, in particular, a plan to become a famous rockstar and kill himself at the height of his fame. Perhaps 'the plan' is lots of people restrospectively creating a legend, but there are plenty of sources from unrelated people that report this.

    Things we do know: he made a a mock suicide video in his teens; he is known to have had a snuff video of a real suicide (revolver in the mouth); he was the fourth or fifth suicide in his family (two of which were gun wounds); there is a police record of a visit to the Cobain household after Courtney called to report that he was locked in the bathroom threatening suicide with a gun.

    There were also a few near-death situations not involving guns, but only one of these is viewed as a possible suicide attempt (and only retrospectively).

    Personally, I've always thought it was an open fantasy of his and, given his narcissism, intelligence and existential-slant, I'm sure he was well aware of the legacy that rockstars like Ian Curtis and Sid Vicious left.

    Could he have predicted the manner of his death? Absolutely. Did that mean he was serious? Probably not. Unfortunately, throw depression into the mix and that kind of idealistic fantasy can be deadly (if you'll excuse the pun).

  13. anonymous
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    Aug 30th 2012 !⃝

    ABSOLUTELY WRONG! the name why the album was called bleach is because they have once seen a stand sponsorising bleach. since bleach was having success at that time they decided to call theyr first album that to have more success

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  14. anonymous
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    Jun 29th 2012 !⃝

    defenitely about being who you REALLY are and not to worry about what other things . He speaks about himself though as if he's talking to himself . It was for us to get an insight on what he felt like at the time , which was a fake . He has plenty of quotes in which he brings up how much being something your not is a waste of your life . Even in his suicide note he states it . He wanted us to know he didnt want to be something he wasn't . But what I don't understand was that ALL his music came from his head . It's all him . He never changed anything to fit in . He just became famous and felt that his fame was created because he changed himself but it wasn't true . Kurt must've had a lot of misconceptions about himself &'d a huge guilty conscience . I never heard of anybody feeling like a thief for taking the life of his kid by raising it in the media . He was so deeply confused by all of it and became depressed , thus leading to his suicide . So the next time you listen to " come as you are " , think of it as him arguing with himself .

  15. natez
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    May 31st 2012 !⃝

    Thorn495, you're exactly right! The whole song makes a bit more sense then. Here's some more on that note... This is the story of the prodigal son. God is the source of all goodness, of all peace and all joy and yet we repel from that name in popular music, we won't have it so we would throw it under the label "Christian rock" or whatever and never hear from it again but the message is persistent because it is true. "Come as an old enemy", once living in denial but now letting in faith (through infinite forgiveness). "I swear I don't have a gun" tells us to not fear Him. By the way, Kurt was not a "Christian" but there is only One God in actuality and that is source of this message. Check out On a Plain... "It is now now time to make it unclear, to write off lines that don't make sense... and one more special message to go and then I'm done and I can go home." This is the first special message and the second special message he gave before he went home was, "All in All is All we are" (John 17:21-23). Don't pass this off, there's something profound to be learned here.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  16. Stereocrisis
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    May 23rd 2012 !⃝

    Okay, after each line, I'll give my opinion of what I get out of the lyrics. All great art has more than one meaning.

    Come as you are, Be yourself
    As you were, Be child like. Innocent?
    As I want you to be. Contradiction to conform.
    As a friend,
    As a friend,
    As an old enemy. I like this line, because Kurt liked to play on words, and use double meanings. But he also used words that when slurred, it can sound like different words all together. "an old enemy" could possibly be heard as "a known enemy".
    Take your time,
    Hurry up,
    The choice is yours,
    Don't be late. Contradictions here. Sounds like filler almost, which it probably was. But the sounds of words was Kurt's deal. The emotion in the melody sounds like a yearning. For friends? Fans? Not too sure, but is sounds great.
    Take a rest,
    As a friend,
    As an old memory.
    Memory, ah.
    Memory, ah.
    Memory, ah. That yearning for old friends and old memories to still have the same passion, and to still be real. But they are memories.

    Come doused in mud, I have a theory that Kurt was getting racial here. Come Black or Brown
    Soaked in bleach, Come White. Or This could mean soaked in Bleach, Nirvana's previous record.
    As I want you to be.
    As a trend, Come in any fashion
    As a friend,
    As an old memory, ah.
    Memory, ah.
    Memory, ah.
    Memory, ah.

    And I swear that I don't have a gun.
    No, I don't have a gun.
    No, I don't have a gun.

    He doesn't have a gun. No fight in him. Won't fight you. Be yourself and he won't judge.

    Memory, ah.
    Memory, ah.
    Memory, ah.
    Memory, ah.
    (Don't have a gun)

    And I swear that I don't have a gun.
    No, I don't have a gun.
    No, I don't have a gun.
    No, I don't have a gun.
    No, I don't have a gun.

    (Memory, ah)
    (Memory, ah)

    These are my opinions. Probably some truth in these, but in either case, whatever you get out of music, and song meanings should be your own opinion. Kurt made art, and sometimes an artist doesn't quite "get it" him or herself.

  17. anonymous
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    Apr 5th 2012 !⃝

    i'm just interested in the "memory, ah" part which is more a "me moria" (as it sounds more like it) which means "i'm dying" in espanol! n well yes the whole lyrics itself is about being urself n not 2 B afraid cuz there wont B any harm!

    Black Aroma- am47btW@gmail.com

  18. mojoe
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    Feb 12th 2012 !⃝

    I always assumed the "No, I don't have a gun" refrain referred to his insistence that he wasn't going to force you to do anything against your wishes, as peer pressure or whatever might do.
    Thus, come as you are and behave as you wish without fear of reprisal.

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