Nirvana: Lollapalooza Tour EP 1994

Someone on LiveNirvana ( 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.


The Key Category of Missing Kurt Cobain Songs: Love Collabos

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 – 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;

CourtneyLove-KurtCobain Potential Collaborations

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 ( 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.

Much on With Nirvana’s Legacy…? Do Re Mi as Dream Pop


Just enjoying perusing my copy of the Cause & Effect Vol.1 triple 7″ set. I was made aware of the release, and of the Joyful Noise label, via Adam Harding of Dumb Numbers. This bloke has done a lot for my listening habits this year – a few months he even gifted me a link to this little beauty:

I admit I actually stated that I prefer it to the Cobain solo demo; it was such a surprising reconfiguration, the muscular backing rhythm giving some heft even as the vocals retain the fragility of the original effort, while still using backing vocals to give the song a gorgeous dreamy effect. It’s light and heavy all at the same time and I totally adore it.

As for the Cause & Effect set, heck what’s not to like? There’s something lush about vinyl and the packaging on this one is wonderfully intricate – outer package, inner sleeves decorated with images of the various artists, coloured vinyl on the inside… I don’t want to fetishise the object(s) but it did give me pleasure studying these this morning and seeing how much effort had gone into them. Buy it! Go buy it! You’ll also find the new LP from David Yow (former Scratch Acid, formerly The Jesus Lizard, definite vocal influence on early era Kurt Cobain) and the new EP from Sebadoh too. Goodies!

Meanwhile Duluth, Minnesota’s finest – Trampled by Turtles – are playing a batch of shows in the U.S. and have an entertaining new video up which made me chuckle:

And what of my 2012 meisterwerk, Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide? Well, it rolls on alongside my efforts on the blog front, alongside fresh ideas germinating and generally sprouting in a way that makes it hard to find time around work to translate it all into full-blooded words on paper… I admit, on the topic of object-focused fetishism, a normal Saturday morning topic, that people often asked me last year whether I’d considered just doing it as an e-book. I was very firm that given I was writing, ultimately, out of pride and ego, that I wanted to hold the physical object in my hand, I wanted a book, not just data on a screen. It was the right choice. OK, it meant I worked hard to make the words what I wished of them, to make something I felt said new, interesting stuff about Nirvana, about Incesticide, about Kurt Cobain – but it felt great seeing the book. I’ve got about 20 copies of the second print run left now, not bad, not bad. Just drop me an email at if you want to inquire about it.

Inner and Vinyl

Dave Grohl and Songs for Nirvana

Much gratitude to the individual who posted this video, two very listenable interviews with Dave Grohl in which he comments on having shared music with Kurt Cobain, then later mentions the state of estrangement within Nirvana. If you can tolerate the tedium.

Dealing with the latter first, he’s fairly plain-speaking about the division in the band; “I don’t do drugs…There was, like, the people who did the drugs, then the people who didn’t do the drugs. I didn’t do the drugs so I was just out of that world you know? And if you’re in it, you’re in it, if you’re not, you’re out.” He then moves onto say, in response to a direct question about whether the band was breaking up, “it was important that we take a break. I think everyone felt that way, it was time to take a break.”

Certainly no criticism of Dave Grohl, but I admit I see this last comment as rather a salve for the soul rather than a fair representation of the position of Nirvana in early 1994. Why so? Well, Nirvana had already staged their break — Nirvana played not a single show for five months of 1992, a total of sixteen shows June-October but most of that in the June-July spell in Europe. 1993 was even more barren; five shows in nine months, only three after the duo in Brazil in January. And it wasn’t like the band were studiously practising either, Kurt joined them for a maximum of 21 days in studio for the entire two and a half years after Nevermind — and remember, at best estimate, the band played for six days at most of the twelve days at Pachyderm. I’ve already commented numerous times on the trend in Kurt Cobain’s song-writing also, in each previous year of Nirvana’s existence he’d brought six-twelve songs forward to the band; in the final year…Well, you all know the answer there.

Given the broken state of the band long before April 1994, it’s hard to see how anything other than the total dissolution of Nirvana would have solved whatever issue Kurt Cobain had with being part of the band as a business entity, as a musical vehicle, let alone as a functioning community of creative companions. I’ll admit that Dave Grohl’s comments here do remind me to place more emphasis than I sometimes do on the influence of the drug factor as a divider between Kurt Cobain’s cocoon and his band mates. Note made.

With regard to the initial comments, Dave’s comments are very clear indeed; Kurt was aware of two songs — Alone+Easy Target and Exhausted. This conforms to the best sources (basically check LiveNirvana, it rocks) but what interests me is the nature of his reaction to the songs. He loves the music for Exhausted but wants to use the music while remaining in control of the lyrical aspect of Nirvana. While he’s the known voice of Nirvana, while he’s rightly recognised as the key creative force, it makes it clear how much the band was a vehicle for his self-expression and, within that, how much emphasis he placed upon the words. Even with his own writer’s block in latter years it seems that sharing writing duties simply wasn’t going to happen. As an aside, for Alone+Easy Target it seems he wanted to snatch the chorus though whether that refers to the chorus line or the backing riff it’s unclear.

Kurt Cobain’s literary nature is underrated. His lyrics were not ad-libbed live, he wasn’t an improviser. Dave Grohl explains “he’d stay up late at night, for hours, with a notebook just writing and writing and writing…He enjoyed writing a lot.” Cobain’s closest connection to the blues came from the way the guitar was a way of accompanying words, not a raison d’être all its own. Cobain was brutally critical of his own guitar-playing skills and he was increasingly disparaging of the limitations of the instrument and its clichéd nature by the early Nineties. On top of that, in all the years the band was in existence, all the time they shared with true innovators of the guitar, like Sonic Youth, there’s no indication he ever actively sought to expand or advance his guitar vocabulary or to learn more about his instrument. The guitar was a functional object serving the song form and, in turn, the words.

The switch in Kurt Cobain’s lyric-writing, from early story songs and character sketches, toward a more impressionistic grab-bag sourced from his Journals, can be seen as a reaction to the increasingly hectic schedule of Nirvana as the time to whittle away at a single piece of WRITING (not just a song, true writing) fell away. Its notable that his most extensive phase of writing — winter 1990 through spring 1991 — coincided with a long period of relative quiet for Nirvana.

The Bright Side

Kurt rested back in the teak wood porch chair and cracked a smile recalling the previous night’s shenanigans. Krist had been kicking the phone some four weeks to get him to go, he only really went to please him. The night had passed glad-handing balding ex-somethings and joking how that was the same thing they thought of him. He’d given the thank you speech hunched in behind the podium like it might hide him from view. He was sure the stage lights would pick out the wrinkles setting in and pre-empted with a joke about getting ready to play Iggy in a biopic someday. He wasn’t going to say he still couldn’t stomach much beyond macaroni cheese and strawberry milkshakes. Out front on leaving, a few cameras still hanging around sparkling, some wise-cracking fan had hollered “Kurt! Hey Kurt! What keeps you rocking out?” He was proud of rustling up the answer; “a healthy lifestyle,” before ducking his head under the lintel of the SUV and getting well gone of the whole scene.

His arm had pinpricks of heat like a kid was snatching the sun through a magnifying glass. He knew where each ray landed, he’d long since studied the precise dots of scarring. At least he’d stopped shooting before he hit his early thirties and grew those Keith Richard folds, he’d upset the Universal PR team with some line about “Keith’s been modelling his own Keith Richard’s Halloween masks for thirty years.” They’d already lost it seeing he’d hacked his hair short again — they’d been handing out glossies of the trademark shoulder-length blonde, the photographer had only been out a week back. They should have been grateful he hadn’t dyed it for spite.

They tolerated each other; Kurt and Universal. The rumours would circle the house every few years — that he had crated tapes mounted up in the bathroom, in the basement. The money still flowed, anniversary releases, a live disc or two, the greatest hits that was their way of telling him they didn’t see any difference between inactive and broken up — either way he was on their list of missing in action, presumed near dead. He was quietly proud that his artwork was selling steadily even as his other voices told him it was on name alone. He tended not to invite anyone to the openings if he knew they were the sort to gush at him how great it all was. The songs had more or less dried up but each year brought a little fresh material letting him replay expressions of the same old vocabulary and keep enough pieces out there people knew he existed.

He kept the guns around mostly from habit. The nearby range frightened him if only because it reminded him some of his neighbours were those back-to-nature-weekenders on break to cook barbecue food, pose rugged and blast off guns with ear protectors on before fleeing back to the city. Fright of his life two summers back; a meaty carcass he’d hauled up into the woods and strung from the branches, he’d been lining up a shot on it, had kept back-stepping until his confidence of a hit was stretched taunt, necessary to give some challenge. The gentle twirl and swing of the flesh — elbow against the ground, barrel balanced and breathing steadied — he was near mesmerised by the swaying pink lump. A split second more he would have fired. Instead some nervous fawn of a sixteen year old pushed out through shaking branches and gave the meat a tentative poke with the end of a thick hunk of wood, then a more determined thwack that set it jiggling on the rope. He’d shouted over and the kid took off, still every time he got back down to take the shot he couldn’t clear that image of another timid victim sitting hidden beyond the crosshairs. He gave up and stashed the gun back in its beige nylon bag, wedged it in the cubbyhole in the closet for another day that hadn’t yet come round to dawning.

The view from the porch went only so far, out into a riot of border vegetation marking the fence round the Carnation property. Frances might visit this weekend. Then again, she had a habit of not showing — he couldn’t resent the selfishness, it maybe was his own fault. He couldn’t see himself playing the disciplinarian, she was too used to playing her parents against one another and all he could do was tell her over and again he wished it all wasn’t so. The last time he’d tried refusing her she’d stuck the knife in by calling him Don all day. He screwed his eyes up at the sun and just wished she’d show up and play nice that weekend, stop playing with her make-up long enough to say a few words to him. It wasn’t her fault. She blamed both of them for taking her happy childhood — he assumed she wanted even or…He should get round to moving that dead tree, it’d been there as long as he had, blotting the view. He shielded his eyes and peered at it. Far too familiar a sight, such a bore.

The TV had replayed some backstage interview during the footage of the other night’s ceremony. Mic crackling with crowd noise and venue buzz of crew motion and post-gig adrenalin, he still winced at some of what he came out with. He told himself he hadn’t been that bad, it didn’t matter, but still that needling sense that he was letting himself off easy. The darkness was a memory of someone else. For the moment he rested his sun-closed eyes, set his bare feet up on the porch railing while remembering boys funning around igniting cigarettes between one another’s toes.

Rolling Stone: April 2013

For all the scorn aimed in the direction of Rolling Stone magazine by Kurt Cobain, it’s a tricky job detaching the history of Nirvana from that publication. Even the other week, the magazine gave the most extensive coverage of the anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s demise even if there was little new added to a very familiar tale. Looking further back, the most well-known images of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana are primarily taken from photo shoots done for the magazine, all those t-shirts and posters of the guy’s sad-eyed face, the front cover of With the Lights Out; we’re staring at Rolling Stone magazine. Similarly, sometime in late 1992, Rolling Stone contributor Michael Azerrad was requested to write the official account of the band as part of the efforts to counteract the fallout of the Vanity Fair piece. To this day the book he created, Come as You Are, is the most quoted source of material on Nirvana and the ur-text to which all other accounts have harked back to. In essence, and in spite of flaws (an awful lot of people have fair reason to feel they were portrayed negatively and/or selectively), Michael created the bible on Nirvana, another win for Rolling Stone. Even Kurt’s semi-protest t-shirt when he first posed for them has become iconic.

Anyways. You’ll have noted the early posting hour. I have a train to catch in one hour, 3.08am, a flight taking off at 5.45am. It’s holiday time. Hopefully something that will bring more time to create for here. Do bear with me. Oh, and do please cross your fingers that the walk across Battersea isn’t like that time the Police had thrown up a cordon thanks to that teeny-tiny incidence when the two guys had been kneecapped up on Falcon Road. That was most irksome when trying to stroll down in the early hours.

I Hate Myself and I Want to Die — I Love Myself and I Want to Live

The former Cobain line is extremely well known. Just like the famous “here we are now, entertain us” from Smells Like Teen Spirit it’s a flippant statement Kurt Cobain claims to have used regularly as a default — “I hate myself and I want to die” in response to inquiries about how he was feeling in 1992, “here we are now, entertain us” when arriving at parties. In each case he liked the line so much he incorporated it musically; one as a song title, the other as a stand-out chorus line. Despite his claims that lyrics were irrelevant or unrevealing, the truth is a significant number of the words, phrases and ideas he incorporated were very personal even if unanchored from any overall narrative or theme — the Curmudgeon/Oh the Guilt examples being another case ( I believe that there’s one more example that has been thoroughly overlooked.

I Hate Myself and I Want to Die was a response specific to 1992 though Cobain was unclear whether he was simply taking aim at the social expectation of having to say “fine” in response to the pleasantry “how are you?” (a topic he’d already taken on in Blew and Come as you Are); whether it was a consequence of his much-vaunted stomach pain; a reaction to his lack of enjoyment of fame and the demands of high-level professional musicianship; or just him being snot-nosed and bratty with those he didn’t feel like being nice to.

The response flipped, however, in 1993 to assurances to all-and-sundry about his pride in being a father, to the cessation of his stomach problems (Rolling Stone, January 1994: “my stomach isn’t bothering me anymore…I’m eating…It just raises my spirits”), to the kinds of positive forward-looking plans with which he ended the band’s official biography, Come as you Are by Michael Azerrad. He told writer David Fricke in early 1994 “I’ve never been happier in my life” and a year earlier explained to the L.A. Times “I knew that when I had a child I’d be overwhelmed and it’s true…I can’t tell you how much my attitude has changed since we’ve got Frances. Holding my baby is the best drug in the world.” Surrounding that with the resumption of touring in October 1993 (having played only 21 shows in eighteen months since March 1992) and with the constant barrage of declarations of love toward his wife, it’s almost possible to believe that the sarcasm-infused aggression of 1992 was over and done.

The problem is that the ‘flip’ initially arose from the deepest calamity the new Cobain family were to experience in their early days; the danger that their drug abuse was going to lose them their baby. The PR-exercise that took place in late-1992 through mid-1993 is well-known with Kurt roped into talking to the media to assure them all was well, issuing statements claiming the negative tales circulating were false, agreeing to let Michael Azerrad interview him extensively for the official biography. Both Kurt and Courtney owned up to past drug abuse while each assuring anyone who would listen that they had only dabbled and it was over and…Fairly demonstrably untrue in each case.

At this point Kurt claimed that the potential title for what became In Utero, I Hate Myself and I Want to Die, was just a joke that no one had caught — he dismissed it. The only difficulty being that he still thought enough of the line to keep it as one of his song titles. He was in a strong cycle of using titles as slurs upon his enemies; until the Journals emerged it wasn’t clear that Curmudgeon was another attack on the press; calling Nirvana’s Christmas release Incesticide was vicious; Oh the Guilt was an attack on the idea that he had to apologise for success; meanwhile In Utero switched Nine Month Media Blackout for the only slightly less overtly press-baiting Radio Friendly Unit Shifter and started the album with Serve the Servants, a statement on how he was expected to bow to the demands of the “self appointed judges” — a phrase that, in his Journals, is expressly used to refer to the press as part of his line about curmudgeons.

Very rapidly, in 1994, the entire set-up fell apart. Turning up to the band’s only studio session in a year proved too much for Cobain — he showed for one day. Touring proved too much — he cancelled most of the European tour. Nirvana had become an imposition, despite having forced a financial settlement on the band in 1992 that meant they were ever more dependent on live fees, he refused to do Lollapalooza therefore more or less signifying the end of Nirvana. Meanwhile the relationship with Courtney Love was…Tempestuous at the least, in a state of collapse at worst. Yet still Kurt Cobain was walking around saying things were good, he was fine, it was all great.

And then, right there in the middle of the last ‘great lost Nirvana song’, You Know You’re Right, he said it “things have never been so swell…” Just like those other throw-away titles and lines it was a one-off statement slotted into a track, repeated over, not particularly attached to an overall theme or idea but very explicit. ‘Things have never been better’, it’s said with a snarl, it’s patently a lie, there’s a sarcasm inherent in positioning it within the downbeat and defeated retreat expressed within that particular song.

What Kurt Cobain had been taught, in late 1992, was that he couldn’t hide or refuse media attention; he had to serve the public’s appetite for information and the commercial pressure for content from or, regardless, about him. He had also seen firsthand the danger of disregarding public image; he was willing to do anything to defend his privacy so was happy to engage the press and repeatedly lied to feed the media — it was the only thing that worked.

Within this last song he can’t help but parrot the PR line, scornfully, that he was having to reel out day-by-day to please whoever was asking him at that point. Looking at the song in that context, cohesion can be spotted in the fact that, like Blew or Come as You Are, it’s a subservient song, a bow to the needs of another individual. It’s a whole song agreeing to do whatever the unknown other wants and stuck within it, the lead in to the simple submissive chorus agreement “you know you’re right”, is the faked smile he was being asked to adopt against his will if he was to have a chance of evading punishment.

It’s beautifully ironic that the video constructed to accompany the release of You Know You’re Right was made so that it appears, at points, that Kurt is saying the words of the song. For a song about other people making him say things and having to serve the needs of image and of others, a video is made in which Kurt Cobain’s image is manipulated to pretend he’s saying words he really isn’t.

What’s Left? Wondering if…The 1993 Unknown Song

Shocking day, late post and sincere apologies, sorry peoples…

In total the October-December 1993 touring season contained only two completely unknown set-lists — November 26 and December 15 — plus seven partial incompletes; we dealt with October 19 and October 25, 1993 yesterday. The Fitchburg/San Diego unknown song’s appearances on November 12 and December 29 were separated by a full twenty shows, appearing to show that at least the kernel of an idea was persisting (thank you to the denizens of the LiveNirvana forum for the San Diego audio here):

I’ve tried to show, visually, what else we’re missing from late 1993; I know this is like a magic eye picture but take a glimpse at it:

Nov_Dec 1993

What we’re looking at are variations on a fairly rigid structure; as clear examples the Pennyroyal Tea line straight across the middle is beautiful, while the intro is firmly established and never flexes. By looking at the shows surrounding each of the gaps, accepting that once or twice the band swapped in/out songs or changed an occasional song position, it’s actually fairly easy to predict what was played. I feel that the gaps are all fairly obvious — this covers the missing shows on November 25 and December 15 too. I propose the set-lists we’re unable to see looked as follows — I’d put money on these bets happily:

Oct-Dec 1993_The Missing Shows

The only data we have to go on for these dates is the coincidences with shows preceding and succeeding them plus some shreds of information; for November 28 it’s reported that the band played 22 songs which fits perfectly. In relation to December 16, the report is 24 songs were played of which only 21 are known. As well as adding Breed, I’ve added Blew on the basis it was played in 6 of every 7 Oct-Dec complete set-lists; 29 in versus 4 out. That leaves one song I can’t bet on; my likely candidates are Territorial Pissings (it was a common feature preceding Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam), or Milk It which had been an on-off set-list fixture throughout.

So what of the ‘unknown’ jam witnessed on November 12 and December 29? Well, alas, once again, as the song was used as a closer, we’re still stuck though only December 15 and 16 seem likely given the known finales. Having projected last week that there’s potentially several thousand unknown Nirvana performances hidden in unseen set-lists it’s sad that there are few miracles likely. For completeness, let’s add on the October dates plus the 1994 dates and I think we’re looking at the following MAXIMUM renditions missing from the whole In Utero tour:

Numbers of Unknown Songs In Utero Tour

What’s Left? Wondering if…You Know You’re Right

During this re-examination of Nirvana’s set-lists one of my fondest desires was the hope that perhaps the band had left more hints in the later years regarding ongoing work. The stimulation behind that hope was that Nirvana did indeed test a couple of new pieces on the In Utero tour; firstly You Know You’re Right on October 23, 1993 followed by an unknown song on November 12, 1993 in Fitchburg that surfaced again on December 29, 1993 in San Diego. While the 1994 set-lists seem too well-known, and too rigid, to offer hope that either song appeared, I wondered whether the Oct-Dec U.S. tour offered potential.

That phase of touring consisted of a total of 42 shows commencing in Phoenix, Arizona. You Know You’re Right was whipped out just five songs into the tour and in solid enough form that it suggests the September-October practices at the Universal City Soundstage in Los Angeles had involved decent time dedicated to the track. Certainly the song had been sufficiently rehearsed that when Dave Grohl announced “this is our last song, it’s called All Apologies,” only to be faced with Kurt kicking in the You Know You’re Right riff, he (and Krist and Pat) are able to lock step seamlessly without any sign of misfire or confusion.

Alas, forecasting whether these two songs may have appeared again gets tricky. Firstly, we have to make the assumption that they were unveiled in the order they were thought of and choose whether we believe the first known appearances were indeed first. In the case of You Know You’re Right there is a partial set-list from four days previous. Comparing the October 19, 1993 set-list to those that come before and after, it’s identical to the previous day’s concert for sixteen songs in a row and to October 22 for fifteen. But it is visible that the set-lists are still flexing — the band skip or add in songs and are still unsure of the final order. If October 19 is indeed missing songs then it would make it as long as the Chicago show — how tantalising.

Most likely, however, the set-list is missing Endless Nameless and/or Territorial Pissings, maybe All Apologies, or there’s a chance of Something in the Way… And yes, there is a chance of You Know You’re Right but the set looks near complete to me; Scentless Apprentice, On a Plain and Blew were the regular finishers even if the order wasn’t settled.

What also dims my hope of seeing any further surprise appearances by You Know You’re Right is that there haven’t even been any rumours of the song making it on stage despite the second Chicago show missing a few songs; I can’t imagine the song’s arrival on record in 2002 wouldn’t have refreshed attendee memories from October 25 if it had been present. Again, it’s a show with multiple candidates to fill gaps (most likely Dumb, possibly Something in the Way):

Set_Oct 18-Oct 26 1993

The appearance of You Know You’re Right was so out of the ordinary, akin to the insertion of Love Buzz the next day, or Dive for one appearance on Halloween, or Sappy the next year, that there’s no way to use statistics to do anything other than show it was unlikely. The only nearby candidate where we’re missing a few songs is October 27 which is missing its conclusion, a supposedly “mostly acoustic encore”, which makes me think on that date we’re looking for Something in the Way, maybe Where did you Sleep Last Night plus some iteration of the Scentless Apprentice/Blew/On a Plain/Endless wrap up.

As an aside, looking at the rest of 1993, there’s an intriguing case on November 29, in a complete set-list, where the band derail a pretty solidly established set by not playing Smells Like Teen Spirit or Come as You Are; given Kurt stops the set just before they would normally be played, having already inserted About a Girl in a different location, it looks like punishing the audience for some of the behaviour that was seen that night.

Now then…How about the ‘unknown’ song…? Let’s see tomorrow.

Four Walls and What Was Made

Kurt Cobain's Homes_1967-1994

A pause to give credit where it’s due, featured an excellent range of photos of the houses and I have used a number of them for the collage above. Credit for the Pear Street photo must go to Diamond Brooke and her Flickr feed – again, worth a look for Nirvana fans.

Over the past two days we’ve been dividing Kurt Cobain’s life down into time spent in specific ‘homes’. Naturally I accept that a lot of what I do on this site is simply aggregate existing data but I’m often stunned by the picture that results simply by loading data into a single view.

My reasons for compiling the data, initially, was that I wanted to attempt (as best as possible) to correlate Kurt Cobain’s song-writing to where he was while writing. In the kind of coincidence to gladden the heart of any data chimp (a friend once bought me a t-shirt reading “I love data” repeated over and over — thanks Shane!) the picture that emerges is remarkably clear.

To the best of my ability, in the Over the Edge chapter of Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide, I’ve tried to pin down, to periods of six months, roughly when Kurt Cobain wrote various songs. The approximate result is as follows:

Songs by Half Year

I’ve not included the Fecal Matter songs (e.g., Spank Thru or Downer), nor have I included Kurt Cobain’s solo experiments (i.e., Montage of Heck) simply because it’s hard to pin down when they were made with any degree of guesswork. The only changes I’ve made since the book are to include Opinion in 1H 1990 and shift Tourette’s to 2H 1989. When compared to Kurt Cobain’s living arrangements, however the results are emphatic:

Songs by Home_Figure

While money may still have been hard to come by during the years Kurt Cobain spent in Olympia, it truly was his artistic home. Given how long he spent in that location it’s no surprise that he wrote more songs there but the sheer quantity is overwhelming:

Songs by Home_%

Dividing the figures by time spent in the location doesn’t alter that picture of dominance:

Songs by Home_Per Month

While making clear that Kurt Cobain’s peak occurred in Olympia, there is some fudging involved that I can only acknowledge but do not have sufficient information to fix. If I could untangle Kurt Cobain’s living arrangements from January 1992 until January 1994, it wouldn’t erase the overall picture but it would make clearer whether, for example, the Carnation house permitted a real focus on writing or whether most of the work was done while running around hotels and temporary accommodation with Courtney. Similarly, the two songs written in the second half of 1992, I’ve noted as Curmudgeon and Talk to Me (based on live data) but Curmudgeon at least might more properly belong earlier in 1991, I can’t prove it. The dominance of the Olympia spell may be even more pronounced given Kurt moved there in April 1987 so my estimates, based on six month periods, don’t correspond perfectly — 114 ½ Pear Street may filch a song or two from the previous eight months spent in the Melvins’ practice space and at 1000 ½ E. Second Street.

The first spell of relative stability Kurt Cobain had enjoyed since he was a child seemed to allow him the space and time to write and create. Tracy’s willingness to support him also meant he didn’t have to divide his time quite so much between work and music — though she, very reasonably, came to resent him sponging off her it did have a beneficial effect on his core pursuit. Similarly it can’t be underestimated that Krist Novoselic provided Kurt a steady and dependable musical collaborator reducing the impact of changing drummers so often and ensuring ideas could be turned into full work relatively swiftly. Kurt was surrounded by beneficial circumstances thanks in large part to the individuals he could now rely on.

My ultimate thought on the ‘meaning’ of all this information is that the place of greatest veneration for any Nirvana fan shouldn’t be the house at 171 Lake Washington Boulevard East. The place where the majority of Nirvana’s music was created, where Kurt Cobain truly lived as a creative soul, was at the unassuming and unglamorous property at 114 ½ Pear Street, Olympia between April 1987 and July 1991. To my mind, celebrating the place that gave the safe cocoon needed to build something is of far more importance and significance than the barely lived in site where he chose to tear everything down.