Nirvana: Lollapalooza Tour EP 1994

Posted: July 1, 2013 in After In Utero - The Final Year 1993-1994

Someone on LiveNirvana (www.livenirvana.com) kindly shared the reference from Rolling Stone magazine (June 16, 1994) stating:

Despite increased demand for Nirvana songs in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, the band’s label, Geffen Records, recently chose propriety over profits. It scrapped two Nirvana projects in the works: a third single from In Utero, ‘Pennyroyal Tea,’ and a CD-5 to be released during this summer’s Lollapalooza tour, on which Nirvana were expected to perform. An album and a video documenting the band’s appearance on MTV Unplugged (the album reportedly including songs that never made the telecast) were under discussion, but Ray Farrell of Geffen’s sales department says it’s ‘too sensitive a time’ to consider releasing it. (A bootleg recording of the Unplugged telecast is already circulating.)”

The quotation confirms that there were indeed plans for Nirvana to capitalise on the Lollapalooza tour that was to take place that year from July 7 to September 5 with a new EP. The proposed tour EP would have been the third time Nirvana capitalised on a tour in such a way following the Blew EP of 1989 (intended for their first European tour) and the Hormoaning EP of 1992 (intended for their first Asia/Pacific tour).

The most significant difference, however, was that in 1994 the archive of potential songs for inclusion was threadbare. In 1989 the band had still had to return to the studio to kick-out a couple of new originals despite having a number of unreleased leftovers most of which would eventually appear on Incesticide in 1992. In 1992 meanwhile, for the Hormoaning EP, Nirvana had scraped together two previous released single tracks then appended material from a BBC radio session to flesh out the release. At the start of 1994, the band hadn’t been on radio since November 1991 and in terms of completely finished and polished originals had nothing that was less than a few years old.

The belief has, therefore, always been that the January 1994 sessions at Robert Lang Studios were about cobbling together a song or two ready for whatever further releases might be needed in 1994-1995 after the release of the Pennyroyal Tea single, with the EP the prime beneficiary. My issue, however, is that there’s never been any confirmation of that statement.

Examining the session leads to ambiguities. There was apparently no pressure at all in January to finish anything completely; You Know You’re Right being the only song to emerge in arguably complete form. An interview with Pat Smear found at the Nirvana Fan Club does feature Cobain telling Smear that he’d be able to overdub his guitar onto the recording but that still could suggest either that, yes, You Know You’re Right was finished and just needed mixing and the added track, or that Cobain was being polite to the new guitarist. The feeble results of the session are generally deemed to be a consequence of Cobain’s essential uncertainty whether to continue as part of Nirvana at all and that seems right but this session is still a rarity in that so little was accomplished; the equivalents would be the full session spent on Sappy in 1990 or the abandoned instrumental of Frances Farmer will have her Revenge on Seattle from 1992. Nirvana, if something was needed imminently, tended to turn up the goods.

Also, it’s unclear when Nirvana were first invited to perform at Lollapalooza and, therefore, when the EP idea started rolling around. Certainly it was on the agenda by March 1994 but were both the invitation and the EP idea mooted before the end of January? It’s unclear and, again, it seems a stretch to suggest that the Robert Lang Studios session, already booked in late 1993, was repurposed to prepare for a Lollapalooza EP so soon (potentially) after receiving the invite.

Instead, a more realistic view of the January 1994 studio session was that it was about getting the band playing again in a creative sense — actually trying new stuff rather than just repeating material on stage ad infinitum. In that case though, with no recent radio performances, with no more obvious and recent unreleased and complete original Nirvana songs, it would suggest that the Lollapalooza EP could only really be either a live CD or a rip from the MTV Unplugged show. Yet, on that last point, the Rolling Stone quotation seems to suggest the latter was under consideration as a totally separate project so what’s left that could have made up this EP?

The answer, I believe, lies in remembering the distribution of Nirvana’s singles. There had been no singles from In Utero released directly in the U.S. therefore only Verse Chorus Verse (Sappy) and I Hate Myself and I Want to Die on The Beavis and Butthead Experience had made it to U.S. audiences. Lollapalooza, as a U.S. only tour at that time was an opportunity to gather together the single tracks Marigold and M.V., plus I Hate Myself and I Want to Die (also a B-side on the Pennyroyal Tea single) and Verse Chorus Verse into a single release to an audience that had not previously had easy access to these songs. That would have annulled any pressure on Nirvana to re-enter the studio any time soon in 1994, would have meant they didn’t need to waste whatever new material they came up with (given they had so little and were doing so little together) on an EP and would have had a genuine value to a 1994 U.S. audience.

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Comments
  1. ZedsDead says:

    Very cool topic. Being a longtime Nirvana fan I’ve considered what this EP may have contained but never indepth like this.
    Based on Nirvana’s release history with EP’s and singles it would have 4-6 tracks and most likely contained any of the 5 In Utero b-side tracks (even rehashing the already available 2 songs) a song from Unplugged (after all Where Did You Sleep Last Night did end up on the Pennyroyal Tea single) or just live tracks from the In Utero tour.
    I highly doubt You Know You’re Right would have made it’s debut on this EP considering there was a plan to go back to Robert Lang Studios to finish and that Novoselic stated that they booked that studio time to just “do something” creatively.
    On a side note I wish they’d of done something more with the Jam they did at Langs. They played it several times in concert and most notably in San Diego with improvised lyrics.

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