Posts Tagged ‘Nirvana’

Songlife 1967-72″ is a 6 LP deluxe boxset containing all 5 of Nirvana‘s pioneering studio albums, alongside the never before released 1972 recording “Secrets”. Limited to 1,000 copies worldwide, the set contains The Story Of Simon Simopath (1967), All Of Us (1968), Dedicated To Markos III (aka Black Flower) (1969), Local Anaesthetic (1971), Songs Of Love And Praise (1972), and Secrets (1972). – 

Nirvana were essentially the duo of Irishman Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Greek Alex Spyropoulos – who, following a chance meeting in London during the summer of 1966, took a long, strange trip together. Songlife represents the first time the band’s recorded output has ever been collated together on one release and is an engrossing body of work to explore.  These albums sit comfortably with some of the other great works of the time (the Zombies, The Kinks and the Pretty Things included). And whilst Nirvana are most famous for their British psychedelic classic “Rainbow Chaser”, as the music contained here displays, there was so much more to them than just that celebrated single, for they reached far and wide into the musical stratosphere with a technicolour vision.  

Four of the original albums have been remastered from their original ¼ inch tapes and the box itself comes with a 52-page booklet featuring liner notes from renowned author Peter Doggett, interviews with Patrick and Alex from Nirvana, full discography, rare newspaper clippings, previously unseen photos, posters and sleeves, and an exclusive Gered Mankowitz print signed individually by the band. Of key interest to fans will be the ‘Secrets’ album which was only recently unearthed in its entirety, its origins began as a musical score that Nirvana had planned on bringing to London’s Theatres and stages in the early Seventies.

Nirvana’s story remains a wonderful tale of artistic ambition and entwined within it lies a roll call of supporting cast heroes that includes The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Traffic, Chris Blackwell, Salvador Dali, Francoise Hardy, Tony Visconti, and many more.  The enduring beauty of Nirvana is, that over 5 decades since their paths crossed, Patrick and Alex remain good friends to this day with both of them residing in Greece. Says Patrick Campbell-Lyons, “Now, as young elderly men, I can say with pride and joy that our friendship is as strong as it was fifty years ago. We see each other often, here in Athens, and respect each other’s creative space. And once in a while we write and record a new song together. Those moments are special, like our friendship.” 

 Includes • All albums remastered for this release• 52 page 12” x 12” book with extensive liner notes, interviews, discography and ephemera• Stunning never before seen Gered Mankowitz photo session• Individually signed print by Alex Spyropoulos and Patrick Campbell-Lyons  ——–

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England’s Reading Festival has long welcomed artists large and small from around the world, and sometimes it welcomes back performers who have become global stars since their previous appearance. So it was on August 30, 1992, when Reading hosted Nirvana for the second year running. As we now all know it turned out to be one of the most exhilarating sets ever performed, not just by Nirvana, but by any band, any time, anywhere!
At the point when the band played the famous festival a year earlier, in the summer of 1991, they were halfway down the bill. They’d released their first record, ‘Bleach,’ on Sub Pop in 1989, but despite critical approval, it hadn’t troubled the charts. The ‘Nevermind’ album and its seminal opening single ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ were still a couple of months from release at the time of Reading 1991. When they came back 12 months later, Nirvana were a multi-platinum sensation and the biggest thing in rock music for a generation. ‘Nevermind’ had started a five-year run on the Billboard 200 that would deliver US sales alone of ten million copies.

On that Reading return, Kurt Cobain mocked rumours around the festival site that he had been hospitalised with a drug overdose by coming on stage In a wheelchair, pushed by music journalist Everett True, and faking a collapse. He was met by Nirvana’s bassist Krist Novoselic, who shook his hand and told the audience that “with the support of his friends and family, he’s gonna make it. Cobain pretended to struggle to his feet as he stood up in front of the microphone, sang a line from the Amanda McBroom song “The Rose,” then collapsed to the ground. After lying motionless briefly, Cobain returned to his feet, put his guitar on and the band immediately started their set.
True later recalled to Clash magazine that the wheelchair stunt “had been planned the previous night as a burn on those who’d been gossiping about Kurt and his wife [Courtney Love], who’d just given birth to Frances Bean: ‘Kurt’s in hospital, Kurt’s been arrested, Kurt’s OD’d, Courtney’s OD’d, the baby’s been born deformed…Nirvana’s drummer Dave Grohl recalled in a 2018 interview  “I remember showing up to Reading ’92 and there being so many rumours that we weren’t going to play, that we had cancelled. I walked backstage and some of my best friends in bands that were opening would see me and say, ‘What are you doing here?’ And I’d go, ‘We’re fucking headlining!’ And they’d be like, ‘You’re actually going to play?!’ I didn’t realise there was any question that we were going to play.”

The performance at the festival was immortalized on the ‘Live At Reading’ CD and DVD, a film that had been bootlegged by fans for years and was finally officially released in 2009. The film, and the set, featured Nirvana staples including ‘Teen Spirit,’ ‘Come As You Are,’ ‘All Apologies’ and ‘Lithium’ as well as covers of tracks by bands like the Wipers and Fang. No one could know that the performance would turn out to be Nirvana’s last in Britain.

The performance included almost all of Nevermind, along with several songs from their 1989 debut album “Bleach”, the Sub Pop 200 compilation track ” and set list regulars “Aneurysm,” “Been a Son” and the 1990 single, “Sliver” It also included a cover of the Wipers’ “D-7,” which had been released as a b-side on the “Lithium” single in July 1992, and Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right In” The band also performed the unreleased songs “tourette’s,” “All Apologies” and “Dumb,” all three of which appeared on their final studio album, “In Utero”, in September 1993. Cobain introduced “All Apologies” by announcing, “This song is dedicated to my 12-day-old daughter, and my wife. She thinks everybody hates her,” and then encouraged the crowd to chant, “Courtney, we love you!”

The performance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the band’s 1991 breakthrough single, incorporated part of the 1976 track by USA band Boston single “More Than a Feeling” at the beginning, a reference to the similarities between the two songs’ main guitar riffs. The show ended with Cobain playing the American national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” and the band smashing their instruments.

The Band:
Kurt Cobain – vocals, guitar
Krist Novoselic – bass guitar, backing vocals on “The Money Will Roll Right In”
Dave Grohl – drums, backing vocals

In 2011, Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band recorded a cover of the entire Nirvana album, “Nevermind”. Assuming you’ve heard of that one, I’ll just let you know that this is the first vinyl pressing of it and it’s limited to 500 units on regular ol’ black vinyl. There’s a picture to the left (or above, if you’re on mobile).

From Kevin: “It’s basically impossible for me to talk about Nevermind objectively. I recognize its canonical place as a cultural artifact, and that there is nothing unique about being one of the tens of millions of people for whom that album was literally life-changing.That doesn’t make it any less true. I played it for my parents, and I play it for my daughter. It’s unquestionably the most important music I’ve ever heard.

It engaged and clarified murky looming interior early adolescent messinesses, introduced me to entire aesthetics and subcultures and sociopolitical sensibilities and non-traditional iterations of masculinity to which I am indebted to this day, encouraged me to write songs and yell and sing and play guitar and worry less about expertise and more about expression, and helped define whole friendships, installing in us a language we still speak fluently.

It made things seem possible. It was a magic trick, a ubiquity that felt like an insurrection, something that was everyone’s and yours, too. We recorded this because we wouldn’t have done any of what we’ve done – or even known each other – without this record.

It felt like a fitting tribute to its spirit to knock it out in a basement over a weekend. That’s how I learned it in the first place, 28 years ago.

releases on November 22nd, 2019. It’ll be on digital platforms that day. Records will start shipping immediately and if you buy from our webstore we’ll also email you a link to download the album immediately on that day.

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Named one of the 10 best live albums of all time by Rolling Stone, Nirvana’s “Unplugged in New York” will be reissued on 2LP vinyl in celebration of the 25th anniversary of its 1994 release.Expanded to include 5 rehearsal performances previously only available on DVD, the anniversary release also features an exclusive gatefold jacket including anniversary silver foil detail on the front and back cover.180gm black vinyl.

The performance which became the most enduring image of indie rock’s founding idol. Featuring unique acoustic renditions of their legendary hits as well as the captivating cover of Bowie’s Man Who Sold The World. It features an acoustic performance taped at Sony Music Studios in New York City on November 18th, 1993 for the television series MTV Unplugged. The show was directed by Beth McCarthy and first aired on the cable television network MTV on December 14th, 1993. As opposed to traditional practice on the television series, Nirvana played a setlist composed of mainly lesser-known material and cover versions of songs by The Vaselines, David Bowie, Meat Puppets (during which they were joined by two members of the group onstage), and Lead Belly.

When you get your own MTV Unplugged session, it is seen by many bands and artists as a career highlight: an intimate moment in time where you can lay yourself bare for your fans to see, often cementing yourself as one of the greats. The likes of Lauryn Hill, Oasis and Eric Clapton are just a few of the names that have graced the MTV stage as part of their Unplugged sessions.

One of the most iconic MTV Unplugged sets came in 1993 when Seattle grunge gods Nirvana took to the stage to unequivocally write their names in the history books. Backed by a youthful Dave Grohl on drums and bassist Krist Novoselic, the spotlight shone on enigmatic frontman Kurt Cobain. The producers behind the show always wanted artists to play their biggest hits, however Nirvana had different ideas. Their set was packed full of B-sides and covers, swapping out the more obvious crowd pleasers for something more against the grain.

Kicking things off with ‘About A Girl’, it becomes quite clear that this was going to be something special, and a whole world away from the heavy, melodic assault that they were renowned for.

The anthemic ‘Come As You Are’ drew a raucous cheer from the assembled crowd, as Cobain nonchalantly recited the lyrics. Their cover of The Vaselines’ ‘Jesus Don’t Want Me For A Sunbeam’ saw Novoselic swapping his bass for an accordion, while Grohl’s ability to play the bass and percussion at the same time continued to wow the crowd.

A cover of David Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ is an obvious highlight, with many people often preferring this version to the original. A couple of B-side gems follow this, with ‘Pennyroyal Tea’ and ‘Dumb’ being stripped down to their bare bones. The band return to their best selling album ‘Nevermind’ for the next few tracks, with folky renditions of ‘Polly’, ‘On A Plain’ and ‘Something In The Way’, satisfying the crowds lust for their more popular cuts.

As the set draws to a close, Nirvana call upon their friends Cris and Curt Kirkwood from the band Meat Puppets. With the Kirkwood brothers joining them onstage, they rip through three of their band’s songs: ‘Plateau’, ‘Oh, Me’ and ‘Lake Of Fire’, each shifted from their punky roots to be delivered as folky lullabies that the crowd lap up.

The final two songs on the album are the ones you get the most goosebumps from. The eerily chilling delivery of ‘All Apologies’ hits you right in the heart as soon as Cobain squawks the opening impassioned lines.

However, it’s the last song, a cover of a traditional folk song that the group renamed ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’ that equally amazes and unsettles you. As Cobain wails “my girl, my girl, don’t lie to me,” pain etched all over his voice, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up instantly. Little did we know that, just a few months later, Cobain would take his own life at his home in Seattle.

The original album was released posthumously in 1994, almost a year after it was recorded and quickly went on to become one of the best-selling records in the MTV Unplugged series, a huge testament to a band who stepped far away from their comfort zone and created a piece of art that has stood the test of time.

Words: Mike Wood

Nirvana Live At The Paramount

Nirvana’s “Live at the Paramount” is the sound of the band on the rise. Recorded just one month after the release of Nevermind, the concert ranks alongside Live at Reading as one of the great live documents of the band. Fans who know the 1996 live compilation From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah could very well be staggered to hear the relentless intensity of the group at one of their early heights. The famed show which took place on 31st October 1991 at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre will be released as a double LP. It includes a 12″x 24″ poster insert, and a cloth VIP replica pass of those handed out during the original concert.

This marks the first time the concert has been released independently, it previously was included as bonus material on the Nevermind [20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition].

From the Vaselines cover ‘Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam’, which they would later reprise on Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged, to the jangly ‘About A Girl’ and their seminal hit ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, it’s a setlist that dreams are made of, and put Kurt’s jagged and seering voice front and centre. The conclusion to the 19-song set includes ‘Rape Me’, a song that wouldn’t appear on a studio release until 1993’s In Utero.

One can hear the crowd moshing along like it’s just another lost Halloween night out, unknowingly witnessing music history. For anyone who wasn’t around during the band’s peak, this release offers the closest replication to an in-concert experience.

Released as a concert film for the 20th anniversary of Nevermind, Live at the Paramount was released in April for the first time on vinyl, in a 2xLP set.

The album “Nevermind” turned Nirvana from unknowns to the biggest musical act in the world and positioned frontman Kurt Cobain as the face of grunge. Although a sensational album, it’s follow-up record “In Utero” that cemented Nirvana’s legacy. Unhappy with the over polished production of Nevermind and concerned with accusations of selling out, Cobain ditched producer Butch Vig for Steve Albini and set about recording an album capturing the harsh, punk influenced sound of their debut Bleach.

In a detailed four-page proposal to the band, Albini laid down his ground rules, the most shocking being his refusal to accept royalties. “I think paying a royalty to a producer or engineer is ethically indefensible. I would like to be paid like a plumber: I do the job and you pay me what it’s worth,” he wrote. “There’s no way I would ever take that much money. I wouldn’t be able to sleep.” He suggested Pachyderm Studios for its isolation in the woods, claiming that recording in a city would cause distractions. He also banned visits from Geffen Records staff members, whom he called “front office bullet heads.”

Albini believed in working fast without over-thinking, so the band cut the album in just two weeks. “If a record takes more than a week to make, somebody’s fucking up,” he wrote in the proposal. The speed at which they recorded, combined with the raw, visceral sound and minimal production, differed greatly from Nevermind, an album that was incredibly clean and streamlined.

In the February 1993, Nirvana made their way to the secluded Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, to begin work on their third album. The last time they had stepped foot in a studio, they were a little known Seattle band that had just left Sub Pop for David Geffen’s DGC. Now, with a multiplatinum album that knocked Michael Jackson off the charts and turned them into one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, they were under immense pressure to follow it up.

“In Utero” achieved this in spades. Draining opener “Serve The Servants” (“Teenage angst has paid off well”), thrash influenced “Very Ape” and cascading hit single” Heart-Shaped Box” were raw sounding tracks exemplifying Cobain’s want of an abrasive sounding record. “Dumb” and the moving finale of “All Apologies” offered lighter moments amongst the chaos, and although Cobain claimed the lyrical content of the album impersonal, it’s hard not to draw parallels between In Utero’s themes and Cobain’s life at that time. It’s 41 minutes of raw, uncompromising rock that was unlike anything else in the pop landscape. Cobain, disenchanted by his overwhelming fame and the widespread media coverage of his personal life, was ready to vent.

Cobain’s bleak worldview was on full display. Many of the songs are best remembered for their gut-wrenching, stripped-back acoustic renditions on MTV Unplugged, but In Utero is treasured among hardcore fans as Nirvana in their purest form. The original title was “I Hate Myself and Want to Die”.
“Nothing more than a joke,” Cobain told Rolling Stone. The line, which first appeared in Cobain’s journals in mid-1992, became the working title for the follow-up to Nevermind. “I’m thought of as this pissy, complaining, freaked-out schizophrenic who wants to kill himself all the time. And I thought it was a funny title. But I knew the majority of people wouldn’t understand it.”. Fearing the title would result in the same legal trouble Judas Priest faced three years prior when two fans shot themselves, Krist Novoselic urged Cobain to rethink it. The other working title wasVerse, Chorus, Verse, but Cobain finally settled on In Utero, which he took from a poem of Courtney Love’s.

Nirvana

Cobain had one goal in mind: to bring the band back to their punk-rock roots. Their millions of new fans may have reveredNevermind, but Cobain thought it sounded “candy-ass” and way too commercial. So he recruited esteemed engineer Steve Albini (who had recorded Pixies, the Breeders, the Jesus Lizard and other Cobain faves) and headed for the woods in rural Minnesota

Cobain wrote “Rape Me” to dramatically condemn rape and emphasize his support for women, but the song sparked immediate controversy. “Over the last few years, people have had such a hard time understanding what our message is, what we’re trying to convey, that I just decided to be as bold as possible,” he told Rolling Stone. A huge supporter of the riot grrrl movement and a fan of bands with female members like the Breeders and the Raincoats, Cobain wanted In Utero to pave the way for more female artists. “Maybe it will inspire women to pick up guitars and start bands,” Cobain said in 1993. “Because it’s the only future in rock ‘n’ roll.”

Wal-Mart and Kmart refused to carry “In Utero” because of the song “Rape Me” and the graphic imagery on the back cover.
Cobain agreed to change the title of “Rape Me” to “Waif Me,” while the back cover was softened to comply with the demands. “When I was a kid, I could only go to Wal-Mart,” he told his manager Danny Goldberg. “I want the kids to be able to get this record.” 

Understandably, “Rape Me” caused other issues for the band, most notably at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards when network executives told the band that if they played the song they’d immediately cut to commercial. Feeling challenged, Cobain played a bit of the song when they walked out and then went directly into a blazing rendition of “Lithium.” 

All three members received credit on “Scentless Apprentice,” an extreme rarity for the group since Cobain normally wrote the songs himselfThe raging “Scentless Apprentice,” inspired by Patrick Süskind’s 1985 novel Perfume, is the only track on the studio album co-written by Cobain, Novoselic and Grohl. (On Nevermind, they shared credit on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and its B side “Aneurysm.”) “Scentless Apprentice” was recorded in just one take. “Nobody said, ‘We should do it again,’” Grohl said “Because that was the fucking take.”

Cobain wrote out a detailed vision for the “Heart-Shaped Box” video with William Burroughs as the star. “William and I sitting across from one another at a table (black and white),” he wrote. “Lots of blinding sun from the windows behind us holding hands staring into each other’s eyes.”

By the time he approached Burroughs, he had decided to cast him as an elderly Jesus, even offering to conceal his identity. “I realize that stories in the press regarding my drug use may make you think that this request comes from a desire to parallel our lives,” he wrote in a letter. “Let me assure you that this is not the case.” Though Burroughs declined the offer, Cobain finally got to meet his beat hero at his home in Kansas that fall. 

After Cobain met Courtney Love in 1990, Love gave Dave Grohl a heart-shaped box to give to Cobain. She filled it with items that matched Cobain’s taste — a porcelain doll, dried roses and other tokens — and sprayed some of her perfume on it. As Cobain and Love’s romance blossomed, the item became a symbol of their love. It was also the one item in their home they had in common.

 

“Pennyroyal Tea” was one of Nirvana’s first songs to showcase the soft-loud-soft formula they became famous for. It was first written and recorded on a four-track with Dave Grohl in Cobain’s house in Olympia, Washington. It went through several permutations before its release on In Utero, including instrumental takes recorded by Jack Endino in 1992. “Pennyroyal Tea” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” were debuted live the same night, at the O.K. Hotel in Seattle in 1991. “Pennyroyal Tea” was slated to be the third single for In Utero,but was cancelled after Cobain’s suicide in 1994.
After Cobain’s death, the label decided to recall copies of the single, which had a B side of “I Hate Myself and Want to Die,” and destroy them. But copies had already been sent overseas and somewhere between 200 and 400 of them reached the fan community.

Nirvana’s brief stint with superstardom began with the release of their groundbreaking, smash hit album “Nevermind” in September 1991. For two-and-a-half years the group dominated rock radio, with many calling Kurt Cobain the voice of his generation (though the man himself was not particularly fond of this designation). Nirvana only made one stop in New Orleans during that time—a December 3rd, 1993 concert at the UNO Lakefront Arena—but fortunately there’s a decent audience recording of the show floating around online.

All but the night’s first two songs can be heard on the recording, which provides a fascinating taste of the band’s live sound. The band’s raw style came through quite nicely on their albums, but apparently it was even more pronounced in concert.

Nirvana in New Orleans. December 3rd, 1993
Setlist Radio Friendly Unit Shifter*, Drain You*, Breed, Serve The Servants, Come As You Are, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Sliver, Dumb, In Bloom, About A Girl, Lithium, Pennyroyal Tea, School, Polly, Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle, Milk It, Rape Me, Territorial Pissings, Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam, The Man Who Sold The World, All Apologies, Scentless Apprentice, Heart-Shaped Box, Blew

*Not included on recording

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

Before we had RIYL algorithms and Spotify discovery playlists, we had Kurt Cobain. The Nirvana frontman wasn’t just one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed alt-rock artists of the early ‘90s, he was also its foremost tastemaker. Cobain’s conflicted relationship with fame has been well documented, but one benevolent side effect of his discomfort in the spotlight was that he used every opportunity to redirect it onto lesser-known artists, and not just ones from his immediate community. While the media was hyping the Seattle scene, Cobain was leading impressionable kids down underground pathways that extended from Scotland to Japan.

This was a guy who could get an obscure, out-of-print punk record reissued by a major label by name-dropping it an interview, or who could effectively play armchair A&R rep and score a deal for an unsung artist by just by wearing their t-shirt. Even if only a tiny fraction of the 10 million people who bought Nevermind were willing to check out a record based on his recommendation, it was enough to turn groups like Shonen Knife into international club headliners, and enough to transform The Wipers’ once-obscure early ‘80s releases into canonical punk classics for future generations to discover.

Since his 1994 suicide, Cobain’s life and work have been put under the microscope many times over, through numerous biographies, documentaries, and barrel-scraping box sets. But one of the most illuminating pieces of detritus can be found in the 2002 scrapbook Journals: a handwritten list of his 50 favorite albums of all time. It’s a document that illustrates how, behind all the disaffected cool, Cobain was just a list-making music nerd like the rest of us. And based on the most recent entry—PJ Harvey’s 1992 debut Dry—it was a practice he indulged in even after his face was all over Rolling Stone and MTV. (He even divided his entries with lines as if he were designing the flippable label cards in his own imaginary jukebox.)

Kurt’s list reveals a typical punk-rock initiation process: You’ve got the pioneers (The Stooges, the Sex Pistols), their more extreme hardcore spawn (Black Flag, Fear), the detouring post-punk experimentalists (Public Image Ltd., Gang of Four), and the mutant recombinant offspring who fuse and abuse all of the above (Flipper, Butthole Surfers). It’s the last iteration that had the most audible impact on Nirvana, particularly on bludgeoning Bleach-era tracks like “Paper Cuts” (which bears both the bone- and soul-crushing heft of ‘80s Swans), Incesticide oddities like “Hairspray Queen” (which finds Kurt squealing like a young Gibby Haynes), and In Utero crushers like “Milk It” and “Scentless Apprentice” (where Kurt chews on the tin foil spit out by Scratch Acid’s David Yow). And then there’s the only band to earn three slots on Kurt’s list: Portland underground demigods The Wipers, whose relentless momentum and hoarse-throat hooks set the fiery pace for Nirvana corkers like “Breed” and “Territorial Pissings.” (Funnily enough, after once admitting that The Clash’s Sandinista! disappointed him as a kid because it didn’t align with his perceptions of punk, Kurt includes the much more commercial follow-up, Combat Rock—perhaps as a commiserating reminder that he wasn’t the first punk who had to deal with becoming popular.)

Like many kids born in the late ‘60s, Kurt’s first musical obsession was The Beatles. Their melodic sensibility formed a crucial strain of his musical DNA that withstood his eventual conversion to punk, leading to breakthrough moments like “About a Girl.” (Tellingly, Kurt’s favorite Fab Four record isn’t a typical muso pick like Revolver or the White Album, but the band’s winsome U.S. debut, Meet the Beatles, whose brevity and simplicity are more compatible with his passion for DIY indie rock.) Meanwhile, his adolescent affinity for mid-‘70s Aerosmith was entrenched enough that he would (partially) name a song after them, and while David Bowie was a less obvious influence on Nirvana, the band’s reverential cover of “The Man Who Sold the World” forged their spiritual connection with rock’s original iconoclast. But Kurt was also willing to own up to inspiration from less-respected hit-makers—listen to the verses of The Knack’s “Good Girls Don’t,” and you’ll hear the sort of slack, sardonic delivery he brought to Nirvana songs like “On a Plain.” His list also betrays a growing fascination with ’40s folk pioneer Lead Belly that would ultimately yield one of Cobain’s most chilling performances.

Nirvana’s explosive success couldn’t have happened without the fuse-igniting efforts of their immediate alt-rock antecedents—both close to home and beyond. “Negative Creep” is essentially Mudhoney’s “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More” flipped from 33 rpm to 45. The crash/burn/rebuild structure of Sonic Youth’s “Silver Rocket” would reappear in smoothed-out form on the alternately rousing and brooding “Drain You.” The whisper-to-scream hysterics of the Pixies, can of course, be heard on any number of Nirvana songs, but bassist Kim Deal’s Breeders offshoot was an equally profound influence, with the nocturnal, string-scraped atmosphere of Pod filtering down to In Utero respites like “Dumb” and “Penny Royal Tea.” And though the radiant, paisley-patterned jangle of R.E.M.’s Green may not be as perceptible, the wry, self-reflexive quality of “Pop Song 89” feels like a spiritual successor to Nirvana’s own meta-rock commentaries, like “In Bloom.”

Embarrassed somewhat by Nevermind’s big-budget studio polish (which he infamously compared to a Mötley Crüe record), not to mention the increasingly slick nature of alternative rock, Kurt used his pop-star pulpit to champion the virtues of amateurism. In the collapsible sing-alongs of ‘60s outcasts The Shaggs, he heard something stranger and more radical than anything you could find on 120 Minutes. Through his beloved Vaselines, he learned how to balance playful melodies atop rickety punk-rock foundations. And in the solitary serenades of Daniel Johnston and the giddy garage-rock of Shonen Knife, he heard the purest manifestation of the childlike emotions he tried to access on songs like “Sliver.” But while his fondness for ramshackle post-punk and lo-fi indie pop brought out Nirvana’s more playful side (best heard on Incesticide’s odds ‘n’ sods and the more whimsical moments of the MTV Unplugged set), for Kurt, that music was also represented an effective weapon for dismantling rock’s patriarchal power structure. Nirvana may not bear the direct musical influence of minimalist, female-fronted bands like The Raincoats, Young Marble Giants, and Kleenex, nor is there anything in their catalog resembling the homoerotic joke-folk hijinks of The Frogs, but they undoubtedly inspired him to become the preeminent male-feminist and pro-gay rock star of his generation, one who was willing to write indictments of rape (“Polly”) and machismo (“Mr. Moustache”), and who happily used his liner notes to tell the racist and homophobic jocks in his audience to fuck off. (Though one can’t help but wonder if, he were around today to make a similar Top 50 list in this post-poptimist age, he might include more than one hip-hop record.)

When Nirvana’s album “Bleach” hit record stores 28 years ago today, not a single person in the industry saw it as the debut effort by a band that would change the world. The top album in the country that week was The Raw & The Cooked by Fine Young Cannibals, followed by the Beaches soundtrack at #2.  Metal bands like Poison and Mötley Crüe were packing arenas, Tiffany and Debbie Gibson were ascendent and the last thing on anyone’s mind was this grunge trio from Seattle.

Bleach is the debut studio album by the American rock band Nirvana, released on June 15th, 1989 by Sub Pop. It was recorded for a mere $606.17 at Reciprocal Recording in Seattle. Local guitarist Jason Everman cut the check for the sessions, so they listed him as a member of the group even though he didn’t actually play on the album. “We still owe him the $600,” said Kurt Cobain  “Maybe I should send him off a check.” It was packed with songs they’d been playing live for months, including “Floyd The Barber” (essentially an ultra-violent piece of Andy Griffith fan fiction), “Love Buzz” (a Shocking Blue cover) and “About A Girl,” a poppy song that showed the group’s impressive range.

“Even to put ‘About a Girl’ on Bleach was a risk,” Cobain has said, “I was heavily into pop, I really liked R.E.M., and I was into all kinds of old ’60s stuff. But there was a lot of pressure within that social scene, the underground-like the kind of thing you get in high school. And to put a jangly R.E.M. type of pop song on a grunge record, in that scene, was risky.”

The album failed to dent the charts when it came out, but it did impress many critics, earning public praise from Sonic Youth and eventually move 35,000 units despite very little mainstream press. It was enough to get the attention of David Geffen’s DGC, which bought the group out of their Sup Pop contract. Going onto a major was a controversial move for any band from the punk rock world, but Cobain rationalized it was the best way to expose the masses to their movement.

“That’s pretty much my excuse for not feeling guilty about why I’m on a major label,” Cobain told Rolling Stone in 1992. “I should feel really guilty about it; I should be living out the old punk-rock threat and denying everything commercial and sticking in my own little world and not really making an impact on anyone other than the people who are already aware of what I’m complaining about. It’s preaching to the converted.”

Bleach’s follow up LP “Nevermind” would convert more people to Nirvana than he could have possibly imagined when he signed with DGC. Here’s a complete show they played at Chicago’s Cabaret Metro on September 30th, 1989 packed with Bleach tunes – back when they were just one of many grunge bands struggling to gain a profile away from the tiny Seattle rock scene.

Set list:

  1. Intro
  2. School
  3. Scoff
  4. Love Buzz (Shocking Blue cover)
  5. Floyd the Barber
  6. Dive
  7. Polly
  8. Big Cheese
  9. Spank Thru
  10. Token Eastern Song
  11. About a Girl
  12. Stain
  13. Negative Creep
  14. Blew