Nirvana: Hormoaning and its Place in the Discography

Posted: July 2, 2013 in Incesticide

The straight history of the Hormoaning EP by Nirvana was that it was the second time Nirvana released an EP to support an international tour. The Blew EP of 1989 had been intended to support the band’s European tour but had been delayed — the Hormoaning EP landed right on time in February as Nirvana were criss-crossing Australia for 11 shows, prior to the one in New Zealand, the four in Japan and the pair in Hawaii.

In the case of Blew, Nirvana had been forced, because of a lack of serviceable leftovers, to retreat to the studio to prepare a few new songs; its notable that already, in mid-1989, Nirvana didn’t want to return to the songs of January 1988 nor to Big Long Now, the only leftover original from the Bleach sessions (barring the revised Hairspray Queen). By 1992 the band’s archive was more capacious, but it was still devoid of originals that were finished ready to be released, and so the result was a reliance on previously released B-sides and radio session recordings.

Unlike the later emptiness of mid-1993 when Nirvana really did have next to nothing left, it’s very clear how many relatively new songs Nirvana had in the back pocket in early 1992; Old Age, potentially Tourette’s, All Apologies, Dumb, Rape Me, Sappy, Verse Chorus Verse, Token Eastern Song — that’s without looking toward Opinion and others. What Nirvana lacked throughout winter 1991-spring 1992 was time. The success of Nevermind had taken everyone off-guard and so the band were out touring right through until just after New Year, then doing several days of TV appearances in New York until heading home on the 12th before a first show in Australia just 12 days later.

Similarly, Hormoaning wasn’t a priority — it was a ‘nice to have’ opportunity for added sales rather than a ‘need to have’ release. The official sum quoted on Wikipedia is an eventual complete run of 15,000 copies in Australia and an unknown number in Japan; it doesn’t state how many of these were pressed and ready to go by February 5, 1992 — far less undoubtedly. With an existing album flying off the shelves, unlike Bleach’s initially delayed and limited presence in Europe, there wasn’t the same impetus behind the release to be worth driving Nirvana back into the studio. The result is the cobbling together of the Smells Like Teen Spirit single B-Sides with the four BBC session tracks from October 1990 — a quick fix.

Today — given the ready availability of the SLTS single, given D7’s presence on With the Lights Out, given the Incesticide album — the Hormoaning EP is a bit of a nothing, I have it on my shelf but there’s no real reason ever to pick it off and load it up. What I’m interested in, however, is getting back to the mentality of the time; Incesticide wasn’t yet on the radar, it hadn’t been conceptualised let alone had a track-listing prepared — this release was the first time Cobain, Nirvana, and/or someone at Geffen had looked to this radio session of covers as a source, the December 1992 release simply reconfirmed a thought that someone came up with sometime in the last days of 1991. If you’ve read Dark Slivers you’ll know I point to various evidence that significant thought and effort went into the track listing of Incesticide — the transplanting of this previous effort into that compilation, rather than being an after-thought, is made to look ever more important to Kurt Cobain; sharing his good fortune with his favourite bands seemed so important to Cobain that he did it twice in one year.

Similarly, the Hormoaning EP, on import, was the only official way to get hold of those BBC songs for ten months, the best part of a year — for that brief spell it was a genuine rarity for Nirvana fanatics and their chief chance of hearing more ‘original’ Nirvana material barring the one fresh original on the Lithium single, the smattering of live tracks on the singles, the release of D7 on a special edition version of the Lithium single. For ten months the EP was genuinely something rare and fresh…Then it reached obsolescence, it’s vital life curtailed.

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