The Most Popular Nirvana Songs: Another Measure

Yesterday I pointed out the eighteen Nirvana songs that were played more than one hundred times, today, I want to cut the information a different way to illuminate a slightly different result.

I took the spreadsheet I’m working with — prepared my genius of a comrade Shrikant Kabule of Mumbai — and replaced the numbers recording how many times in each month each song was played between 1987-1994. Instead I inserted a 1, so that the total added up was simply a record of each month in which a song appeared at least once. The total live history of Nirvana extends for a total of 58 months so coming even close to that theoretical maximum is impressive; here’s the number of songs performed in more than twenty individual months:


There’s an obvious similarity and coincidence with the list of the Nirvana songs played more than one hundred times — and, of course, my decision to draw the lines at one hundred plays and twenty months are arbitrary and worth baring in mind — but there are differences; the arrival of Sliver, Stain and Dive into the top fifteen means there’s now five non-album tracks on the list. The reason? Well, I believe it’s down to the long spell in 1989-1990 when Nirvana were working up new songs for a 1990 album that never happened. Nirvana may not have played as many shows as they did in 1990-1991, Nirvana set-lists may have been considerably and consistently shorter prior to reaching headliner status in 1992-1994, but certain songs had a relatively earlier start at a time when the shorter set-lists meant Nirvana were more selective about repeating songs and more likely to chop-and-change.

What we’re looking at here is the difference between quantity and longevity; some songs were of declining persistence and made way for the In Utero era songs, others seem to have been readily usable no matter how the set-lists changed and/or solidified over the years. The songs at the top of the list were played from the first month in which they made an appearance and almost within exception right until the end on March 1, 1994. To emphasise that point, here’s the list of songs from the list above that were on Nirvana’s final set-list:


Eleven of the twenty most persistent songs made it all the way to the end.


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