Verse Chourus Verse: The Recording History Of NIRVANA
Goldmine #432, February 14, 1997
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A few months after being given a copy of 'Dale Demo' by Endino, Poneman contacted Nirvana about recording for Sub Pop. The band had spent the early part of the year going through a series of drummers; Crover had moved with the Melvins to San Francisco, and was replaced by Dave Foster. It was this line-up that played Nirvana's first show in Seattle at the Vogue, on April 24, '88, as part of the "Sub Pop Sunday" series. Among those in the audience was photographer Charles Peterson, who was doing work for the fledgling record label. "Bruce [Pavitt, Sub Pop's other co-founder] and Jon said, 'There's this band, Nirvana, they're going to be playing tonight, from Aberdeen, we think they're going to be the next big thing.' And I . went and saw them and I thought they were atrocious! I had my camera there and I didn't bother to take pictures. I just thought, 'This is a joke. This is not going to go anywhere."' Despite Peterson's initial impression, his photos of the group would be used on nearly every Nirvana release.
Foster's tenure with Nirvana was shortlived when, following a fight, he lost his driver's license. The band then worked with Burckhard again until he was arrested for drunk driving. They also placed another ad in The Rocket, that ran in the magazine's March '88 issue: "DRUMMER WANTED. Play hard, sometimes light, underground, versatile, fast, medium slow, versatile, serious, heavy, versatile, dorky, nirvana, hungry. Kurdt 352-0992." Finally, Chad Channing, whom Cobain and Novoselic had first met when they played a show on the same bill with Channing's band, Tick-Dolly-Row joined the band. Channing would remain with the group for next two years.
Shortly after Channing joined, Nirvana returned to Reciprocal to record their first single, once again working with Endino. There were a total of four sessions; June 11 (five hours), June 30 (five hours), July 16 (three hours) and September 27 (two hours). Four complete songs were recorded: a cover of Shocking Blue's "Love Buzz," and the originals "Big Cheese," "Blandest," and a re-recording of "Spank Thru" (with Endino on backing vocals). Endino says the third and fourth sessions were probably used to re-record the vocal for "Love Buzz," and mixing.Cobain also brought along a 30-second sound collage he'd recorded on cassette at home that he wanted to use as the intro for "Love Buzz." It was shortened to around ten seconds for the single, and eliminated entirely on Bleach. The single is also a different mix, and another sound collage was dubbed into the instrumental break. "It's just barely audible underneath the guitar noise," :says Endino. "And we had to do it live when we mixed because we had used up all eight tracks. So when we were mixing we had to have this cassette going through the mixing board along with the eight tracks from the eight track machine. And when we got to the middle part of the song, he had to reach over and press play on the cassette deck right at the right time, every time I went through the mix. So we had a sort of virtual ninth track! And when we went to remix the song for the album version, he had forgotten the cassette. So no sound collage, no nothing in the middle."
"Blandest" is the first true Nirvana outtake-a complete song recorded at an "official" recording session, as opposed to a demo session. "Blandest" has never been officially unreleased, and survived only because it made its way to the bootleg circuit. "It's basically lost," says Endino. "The only versions that exist are on bootlegs. They recorded this song, we did a rough mix of it, and then they decided they hated it. And they told me to erase it. Because they had no money they were paying for the tapes. They said, 'Erase it and we'll do a better version of it later.' So we erased it and they never got around to recording it again.
"Chris asked me years later, 'You remember "Blandest"?"' Endino continues. "'Yeah, I remember "Blandest."''Do you have a tape of it anywhere?' 'No, I don't have a tape of it You guys told me to erase it!' And then later I'm talking to some collector who informed me that he had a bootleg with 'Blandest' on it. I said,'Oh my God, it can't be the one I'm thinking of, send me a copy' And he sent me a copy and it was the song. It was a terrible rough mix with the drums way too loud, and it's been widely bootlegged now, and it's obviously frm a cassette that went to the band. Because the only place where cassettes went was the band themselves and possibly Sub Pop. And whether anyone at Sub Pop - got a hold of this song I don't remember. I : don't think so though, because it was a rough mix and the band didn't like it, and . they were pretty particular about not giving .anything to Sub Pop unless they liked it. So all I can assume is that somebody stole some tapes from the band. I think that's where a lot of these bootlegs came from."
As the date for the single's release came closer, Sub Pop contacted photographer Alice Wheeler to take pictures for the cover sleeve. Wheeler had met Pavitt when she was living in Olympia, attending Evergreen State College, where Pavitt had also been a student. "He was always around talking about taking over the world and stuff," she says. "I'm always a person for that kind of thing!" Wheeler had also helped run the GESSCO hall in Olympia, where Cobain, and an early version of Nirvana had played; she was also friends with Tracy Marander, Cobain's girlfriend at the time.
The "Love Buzz" photo session, Wheeler's first session for Sub Pop, and was held in August or September. "We just went down to Tacoma," she says. "They wanted to go out to Never Never Land-a public park near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge-and so off we went. I was having technical difficulties; I didn't have a very good camera at the time.
The pictures are infra-red so they're kind of fuzzy. One of them's really under-exposed and the other one's really over-exposed!" Wheeler thinks she was paid $25 for the session, during which she used around eight rolls of film.
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