What does Come As You Are mean?

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Nirvana: Come As You Are Meaning

Tagged: Drugs [suggest]

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.


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    Oct 14th, 2009 10:56pm report

    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.”


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    Nov 18th, 2007 11:36pm report

    "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.


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    Dec 22nd, 2007 12:35am report

    What is really interesting is if you take the lyrics and pretend they are a deity speaking to you, does it make more sense to you?

    I picture wingless angels in a lounge playing this song on their jukebox in an alternate reality along with some other behind the scenes action when life begins..

    I think some of those In Utero concert photos where Kurt was standing in front of the winged anatomy woman just right so the wings she had looked like they were pinned to him may not be such a coincidence..

    All the imagery (in the video) is also beautiful and powerful. It's like the song for the beginning of your life for the end of it.. and on to the next one...

    "And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty four thousand, who were redeemed from the earth." - Revelation 14:3

    Come as you are..


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    Mar 26th, 2015 3:09am report

    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!


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    Feb 10th, 2014 2:22pm report

    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...


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    Apr 2nd, 2013 4:27pm report

    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!


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    Jan 3rd, 2013 1:47am report

    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.


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    Oct 5th, 2012 10:43am report

    @ 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).


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    Aug 30th, 2012 8:21pm report

    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


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    Jun 29th, 2012 6:56pm report

    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 .


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    May 31st, 2012 5:46am report

    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.


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    May 23rd, 2012 5:16pm report

    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.


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    Apr 5th, 2012 4:22pm report

    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


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    Feb 12th, 2012 2:40pm report

    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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    Jan 21st, 2012 1:50pm report

    I really love this song the only meaning that this song has for me is through kurts lyrics is one of his addiction for heroin through his troubled times found solice in the drug and probably inspired his work he sees it as a kind of freind.In the here and now He is who he wants to be,but still has the memory of wanting it again and the euphoric feeling it gave him.I think the references to "mud" is definately the heroin, the bleech is probaly a term for cleaning or disinfecting the needle and the gun mostly is a reference to the serynge and that he is admitting or swearing that he isnt using,because he is where he wants to be in a better place I think this was his enemy in relity he couldnt escape it.


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    Dec 2nd, 2011 12:35pm report

    Kurt said this song is simply about people and what they're expected to act like. He also said that just because he uses "I" in a song doesn't mean he's necessarily talking about himself. he pulls from other peoples experiences, tv, and what he's read...source: http://kurtcobain.com/interviews/nevermind-its-an-interview/


    Dominique Ng
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    Dec 1st, 2011 12:19am report

    Yeah I agree with the interpretation that come and you will not be judged. There is also a parallel with Rumi's poem:
    "Come, come again, whoever you are, come!
    Heathen, fire worshipper or idolatrous, come!
    Come even if you broke your penitence a hundred times,
    Ours is the portal of hope, come as you are."


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    Oct 22nd, 2011 10:14pm report

    first and foremost kurt always would let you know he hated when people looked too closely into his lyrics. so u really cant look too closely, "come as you are" basically just be yourself or truly "cum" as you are, just be who you really are straight, gay, bi.I came to this conclusion(no pun intended)when you hear the emphasis of come as well as the slight pause after,it is more noticeable in the unplugged version. "i dont have a gun" he has nothing to hide, he truly is who he is. "come as a friend, as a known enemy" the term "known enemy" could refer to the public stereotype of gay or bi people , seeing them as wrong or the enemy. it also makes sense when you consider the fact that kurt had some gay friends and was looked at as gay by most people when he was younger.
    My Opinion,

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