OK, so we’ve shown that Nirvana played more songs from Side A of Bleach on a consistent basis — so what? Well, let’s keep digging before pre-emptively drawing conclusions. I totally admit that I’ve always enjoyed Side A of Nevermind more than Side B, I’m very aware that’s a personal preference and I’m totally desirous that endless repetition may have drained a little life from the songs therein…But it made me wonder…
Even though it risked skewing the results I wanted to make this as full an exploration as possible so I commenced stat-gathering from the moment the first song to feature on Bleach, Nevermind or In Utero came into existence — I do feel what’s most pertinent is what the band played once the full album was built but…What the hey, 1989!
OK, fine, the year is Side A orientated because that’s what’s in existence. And 1990?
1990, again, is totally dominated by Side A — the main surprise is how little of Nevermind even appears at all; In Bloom and Stay Away appear in April/May surrounding the Smart Studios session, Lithium isn’t recorded as making an appearance until October, likewise Something in the Way in November — Lithium potentially makes its first showing on a date we don’t have a full set-list for, 1990 has a lot of holes. Surely 1991 offers more to this query?
It does…But once again Nirvana is decisively Side A focused. Of 69 full set-lists, Nirvana plays more songs from Side B on four occasions (Sept 20, Sept 27, Nov 6, Nov 29) and only achieves parity at further ten show; in other words, at 55 of 69 shows Nirvana played more Side A tracks — that’s 80% of the time. I counted Endless Nameless as part of Side A, reasonably enough, despite its bonus track status, but without its presence what we’d be seeing is a year in which, of 69 full set-lists, Nirvana played more songs from Side A on 62 occasions and only played more songs from Side B on a grand total of two dates — 90% domination.
So, how did things change after the release of Nevermind? If anything it got worse, here’s 1992:
There’s one occasion all year when Nirvana played more songs from Side B, seven draws — again, the removal of Endless Nameless from consideration would deduct significantly:
What the hey; we’re looking at a year with 28 complete set-lists in which Nirvana preferred Side A of Nevermind on either 20 occasions or 23 occasions and Feb 22 is the only date Side B won. In 1992 it isn’t just that Nirvana preferred Side A, it’s that they’re regularly playing the whole of that side; they do so on twelve occasions and only once do they drop below five.
Above we’re looking at 1993 and 1994 respectively and the trend continues; 37 full set-lists in 1993, only one in which Side B features more (they play only one song from Nevermind on August 6) and only four draws — 32 wins for Side A or 86% of the time in other words — while in 1994 this alters to a complete 100% record in favour of Side A. On 39 occasions Nirvana played the whole of Side A, no wonder Kurt Cobain was bored of it, but still, that was the preference.
So, what to conclude? Well, start with the simple numbers:
In the case of Bleach, OK, the Side A dominance could be explained away by the fact that there were more songs on Side A. But on Nevermind there are more songs on Side A yet more songs are played from Side A on 207 of 235 set-lists (88%)and more or even on 229 of 235 occasions (97%) on which Nevermind songs are played; that’s crushing dominance to Side A yet again.
In the case of Nevermind, one argument (derived from something someone stated on the LiveNirvana forum) could be that Side A was Nirvana’s more commercial material; that would imply Nirvana were either playing the crowd-pleasers or were being forced to do so; or, as I simply believe, I think Nirvana played the songs they knew were their best. You choose. And anyways, we still have In Utero to consider but so far Nirvana preferred Side A (adding together number of occasions on which Bleach tracks appeared plus number of occasions on which Nevermind tracks appeared) on 448 of 476 occasions. Side A was a win and/or a draw on 470 occasions (99%); there were only six occasions EVER where Nirvana favoured Side B of Nevermind. So…How about In Utero?