Today’s thought was sparked by a gentleman from Canada called Greg, all thanks to him not only did he purchase a copy of Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide today but he made me realise something blindingly obvious I’d been missing (I’m sure most of you spotted it.)
I’ve rambled endlessly about the chances of missing Kurt Cobain demos from 1993-1994 (re: don’t hold your breath for anything in 1994, see the early edition of the Dry as a Bone sample chapter contained in the About tab of this site and taken from the Dark Slivers book – https://nirvana-legacy.com/about/.) I’ve also stated that barring a few tweaked versions, a few alternative takes, the odd jam (Sappy ’91, Hairspray Queen ’89, January ’94) there’s very few hopes of much in the studio outtakes category – if the In Utero Deluxe does bring together the 1992 In Utero demos from Laundry Room Studios and Word of Mouth Productions then it’s done. That’s left me with the feeling that truly interesting material that hasn’t seen official release exists in two categories; Nirvana rehearsals and Kurt Cobain home demos.
In the latter category I’ve accidentally always wrapped in an entire sub-category; Kurt Cobain collaborations with Courtney Love. Over the years Courtney has been a source for bootleggers of rare material, has played songs on radio shows a long while back, has mentioned unknown songs in interviews with names that aren’t known from other sources – with the exception of the increasingly easily available Fecal Matter demo, Courtney is the most likely source of something fresh. Gratitude to the LiveNirvana site which presently lists the following known or potential Kurt/Courtney tracks;
While the quality of material that has become visible so far is of mixed standard to say the least – the Hole contributions from Cobain are as wasted and ephemeral as he may have ever sounded on record, Stinking of You isn’t a song it’s a shred of an idea – there’s still more material potentially from this source than any other. In total, on top of home work with just Cobain and Love together, there’s a total of five known practices (Hole in January ’93, Hole in October ’93, Cobain/Love/Erlandson sometime in ’93, Cobain/Love/Grey/Bjelland sometime in ’93, Cobain/Love/Schemel in early ’93) featuring Cobain with Courtney and others – more practices and jams than he engaged in with his Nirvana comrades during the 1993-1994 period. Heck, the much vaunted 1994 basement demos with Pat and Eric perhaps rightfully belong to this category also.
What’s striking is the absence of any acknowledgement of this work on the With the Lights Out box-set. It suggests a determination on the part of Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl to ensure that the name Nirvana meant the true band, plus Kurt alone, with a refusal to accept his collaborations with their DGC sister band or its denizens as any part of the official tale. While that’s a fair approach to the Nirvana legacy it isn’t a full reflection of the Cobain legacy anymore than the absence of his pre-Nirvana work (all but one song) or his more experimental urges from the 1987-1989 period. Kurt’s final two years saw him retreat from Nirvana and it’s within that retreat that we’ll find whatever remained of his song writing urges.
Of course the big question becomes one of time. In the chapter from Dark Slivers mentioned above (https://nirvana-legacy.com/about/) I tried to indicate the limited time available in 1994 for writing and creation. Remember that Kurt Cobain seems to have been an ‘on paper’ creator of lyrics, not someone who improvised lines live, so he needed time to sit down and work on material. All descriptions of his working practice for music also seems to involve time spent alone – his fastest/biggest period of creations (mid-1990 to mid-1991) coincided with his greatest isolation. Therefore the question for everyone is to work out how much time he had from February 1992 onwards while staying in hotels and on drugs, then how much he had in 1993 after recording sessions for Nirvana, around being a father and husband, around being a big addict, and prior to heading back out touring later in the year. I’ll leave that open for the optimists and pessimists to debate.