NIRVANA – ” MTV Unplugged ” Recorded November 18th, 1993

Posted: November 18, 2017 in MUSIC
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Image result for photos from NIRVANA - " MTV Unplugged

On This Day – In 1993, Nirvana recorded their MTV Unplugged special at Sony Studios, New York. Nirvana As opposed to traditional practice on the television series, the band played a setlist composed of mainly lesser-known material and cover versions of songs by The Vaselines, David Bowie, Lead Belly,  and the Meat Puppets whose Cris and Curt Kirkwood joined Nirvana onstage.

The set was released nearly a year later “MTV Unplugged in New York” as a live album by the band. It features the acoustic performance on November 18, 1993, for the television series MTV Unplugged. The show was first aired on the cable television network MTV on December 16th, 1993.

MTV Unplugged in New York was the first Nirvana album released following the death of Kurt Cobain. The album has become the group’s most successful posthumous release, The performance was released on DVD in 2007.

Nirvana had been in negotiations with MTV to appear on its acoustic-based show for some time. It was while touring with the Meat Puppets that Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain finally accepted. The band wanted to do something different from a typical MTV Unplugged episode for its performance. According to drummer Dave Grohl, “We’d seen the other Unpluggeds and didn’t like many of them, because most bands would treat them like rock shows and play their hits like it was Madison Square Garden or somewhere similair, except with acoustic guitars.” The group looked at Mark Lanegan’s 1990 album The Winding Sheet as a source of inspiration. Among the ideas the band members came up with included covering David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” and inviting members of the Meat Puppets to join them on stage. Still, the prospect of performing an entirely acoustic show made Cobain nervous.

The band dedicated two days to rehearsals. The rehearsal sessions were tense and difficult, with the band running into problems performing various songs. During the sessions, Cobain disagreed with MTV as to how the performance should be presented. Producer Alex Coletti recollected that the network was unhappy with the band’s choice of the Meat Puppets as guests (“They wanted to hear the ‘right’ names – Eddie Vedder or Tori Amos or God knows who,” Coletti recalled) and the dearth of hit Nirvana songs on the setlist. Upset, the day before filming was set to take place, Cobain refused to play. However, he appeared at the studio the following afternoon. Cobain was suffering from drug withdrawal and nervousness at the time; one observer said, “There was no joking, no smiles, no fun coming from him … Therefore, everyone was more than a little worried about his performance.”

Nirvana taped its performance for MTV Unplugged on November 18th, 1993, at Sony Studios in New York City. Cobain suggested that the stage be decorated with stargazer lilies, black candles, and a crystal chandelier. Cobain’s request prompted the show’s producer to ask him, “You mean like a funeral?”, to which the singer replied, “Exactly. Like a funeral.”  Nirvana was augmented by guitarist Pat Smear and cellist Lori Goldston, who had been touring with the band. Despite the show’s premise, Cobain insisted on running his acoustic guitar through his amplifier and effects pedals. Coletti built a fake box in front of the amplifier to disguise it as a monitor wedge. Coletti said, “It was Kurt’s security blanket. He was used to hearing this guitar through his Fender Amp. He wanted those effects. You can hear it on the song ‘The Man Who Sold the World.’ It’s an acoustic guitar, but he’s obviously going through an amp.”

Unlike many artists who appeared on the show, Nirvana filmed its entire performance in one single take.  The band’s fourteen-song setlist included a single song from its debut album, Bleach, four songs from the 1991 album Nevermind, three tracks from the then-recently released In Utero, and six cover songs. The group shied away from playing its better-known songs; the only contemporary hit the band performed was its 1992 single “Come as You Are”. Ten songs in, Cris and Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets joined the band onstage to perform three of their group’s songs with Nirvana. The set ended with a performance of the traditional song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”, following the arrangement of blues musician Lead Belly, whom Cobain described right before the song as “his favorite performer ever”. This rendition has been regarded as one of the greatest live single song performances of all time.

Music critic Andrew Wallace Chamings described, “For the final line, ‘I would shiver the whole night through,’ Cobain vocal jumps up an octave, forcing him to strain so far he screams and cracks. He hits the word ‘shiver’ so hard that the band stops, as if a fight broke out at a sitcom wedding. Next he howls the word ‘whole’ and then does something very strange in the brief silence that follows, something that’s hard to describe: He opens his piercingly blue eyes so suddenly it feels like someone or something else is looking out under the bleached lank fringe, with a strange clarity. Then he finishes the song.” After the band finished, Cobain argued with the show’s producers, who wanted an encore. Cobain refused because he felt he could not top the performance of that song.

 

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The MTV Unplugged In New York performance was released on DVD on November 20th, 2007. The DVD release featured the entire taping, including the two songs (“Something in the Way” and “Oh Me”) excluded from the broadcast version. Bonus features consisted of the original broadcast version of the performance, a 1999 MTV special titled Bare Witness: Nirvana Unplugged featuring the recollections of MTV producers and audience members, and five songs taped during the pre-show rehearsal: “Come as You Are”, “Polly”, “Plateau”, “Pennyroyal Tea”, and “The Man Who Sold the World”.

Nirvana 

  • Kurt Cobain – lead vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Krist Novoselic – acoustic bass, accordion , acoustic rhythm guitar
  • Dave Grohl – drums, backing vocals,

Additional musicians

  • Pat Smear – acoustic guitar,
  • Lori Goldston – cello,
  • Cris and Curt Kirkwood – acoustic bass and backing vocals

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