Sat listening to what will apparently be the last compilation of Jimi Hendrix studio outtakes; People, Hell and Angels. In terms of its coherence, it’s unity, it’s actually a fairly faultless posthumous compilation, the core of it is from recording sessions in March to December 1969 with two holdovers from March and June 1968 respectively. Of course, it’s immediately telling that there are twelve songs here drawn from eight studio sessions; Mar ’68, June ’68, Mar ’69, Apr ’69, May, June, a separate June session, Aug, December. It’s simply obvious that there’s no way the full resources remaining to the bearers of Nirvana’s archive could compete.
What a fresh Nirvana compilation could do best would be to simply give the fans what they’ve been wanting for a long time; essentially, not Nirvana, but Kurt Cobain. It’s unclear whether this presents issues around copyright or around who gets the cash — God knows what the legal front looks like — but it doesn’t feel insurmountable. So, what would it look like?
Disc one: Fecal Matter — what else? There’s a few versions of this material floating round online and the biggest surprise is always how decent the sound quality is. There’s no way, until an official source decides to kick this out, of knowing precisely how much material, how many alternative takes, how many versions of the track listing there were. A single compendium pulling it all together and closing the chapter on this one would be welcomed. Heck, while I’m in wish fulfilment mood, maybe there really is a copy of the 1982 Organised Confusion tape…
Disc two: Certain quantities of Kurt Cobain’s more experimental urges from the early years of Nirvana have long since made it out onto the bootleg market and trading circles. Again, an official survey of this neglected terrain would be welcomed. Cobain is essentially portrayed as a musician finding his way gropingly, over several years, toward pop-punk which utterly underrates the variety of his sonic experiments and less musically-inclined directions. The core of such a disc is well known; Montage of Heck, Escalator to Hell, perhaps whatever full source exists of The Landlord is a Piece of Shit from Hell. It’s hard to believe that the only addition to his avant-garde test runs was Beans or the minute or so acoustic Black and White Blues. If not then I’d be happy to take the full recording Cobain made to be edited down for the collaboration with William S. Burroughs — if the original still exists that is.
Disc three: What else could people possibly desire more than, firstly, the full Nirvana jams from January 1994, plus whatever practice take of You Know You’re Right exists, with the rumoured basement demos from March tacked on? The only way to make it better would be if there were further home demo efforts recorded post-In Utero. If not, well, Nirvana’s attempts from July 1993 at working up an acoustic set could yield interest. If Courtney Love was able to yield up the Nighty-Nite joke songs, perhaps a more developed version of Stinking of You, maybe a couple more duets, that’d feel complete.
After that, realistically, I’m not sure there’s a lot to say though the urge to hear everything continues to egg me on. Yes, the 1991 take of Sappy, the January 1991 studio session, and, if they don’t do it on the In Utero anniversary edition, that Lullaby shred from February 1993. The studio take of Seasons in the Sun from January 1993, would be nice to have also — maybe the alleged radio show duet with Calvin Johnson on D7. I’d love to hear more of the untidy rehearsal versions of tracks, the unhoned versions as they developed and of course the acoustic homework — but I can’t point to a specific track or era that would appeal most deeply.
The only issue I can see? If this lot got out I’m not sure anyone would believe there wasn’t something else hidden. Belief is a powerful thing.