Verse Chourus Verse: The Recording History Of NIRVANA
Goldmine #432, February 14, 1997
PAGE: 5 | back
"But Tracy's picture ended up on the cover, and I thought that was really nice," she adds. Marander's picture was a live shot of the group performing at the Reko/Muse gallery in Olympia; the poster shot, taken by Charles Peterson, is from a show at the HUB Ballroom at the University of Washington, February 25, 1989.
The U.S. and U.K. albums differed in that the U.S. version featured "Love Buzz," while the U.K. version had "Big Cheese" instead. The U.S. CD issue featured both tracks, along with another cut from the "Dale Demo," "Downer." In the U.K., the Bleach CD initially mirrored its vinyl counterpart; a later issue contained both "Love Buzz" and Downer." Remixed versions of both the CD and cassette were issued in 1992. The CD used another of Peterson's shots from the February '89 show in the insert, in addition to a shot from a February 15, 1990 show at Raji's, Los Angeles on the back inner sleeve.
The "Dale Demo" versions of "Floyd" and "Paper Cuts" were used on the album "because they weren't happy with the way Chad was playing," Endino says. "Dale had pretty much written the drum part for those two songs; he played them the best. And Chad was good on the stuff that they had written with him. That's the way it is with drummers. So Chad did all the new stuff, and then those two songs they pretty much wanted to use the Dale version." Both songs were remixed for the album, with backing vocals added to "Paper Cuts"; Endino doesn't remember if "Downer" was remixed when it was added to the CD.
Endino also says the album's original sequence of the album was different. "The band phoned it to me; they said, 'Here's the list,"' he says. "And then Pavitt listened to it and he didn't like it. So he said,'Let's change the sequence, let's put "Blew" first, and put this second and put this third.' So then they called me up and said, 'Bruce wants us to resequence it, so here's the new order. So then I had to go back and resplice the whole thing again." All Endino can remember of the original line-up is that "Floyd The Barber" may have been the first track.
Back in Aberdeen, Cobain's family was keeping up with his band's progress. "When Bleach came out, I remember going down to visit Kurt's mom," says Mari Earl. "She was playing the album really loud on her stereo. Having it up that loud just about drove me crazy, so I don't remember much more about that particular visit!"
It was during this year that Nirvana also signed a contract with Sub Pop. At the time, most agreements with indie labels in the Northwest were sealed by verbal commitments or handshakes. Jesse Bernstein was the first Sub Pop artist who demanded a record contract, and Nirvana was soon to follow. The contract was for one year, January 1 to December 31, 1989, with two further one year options. The band was to turn in three album master tapes during this period, and would receive $600 from the label for the first year, $12,000 for the second, and $24,000 for the third. The contract was signed by all four members of the band.
As the band was on their first U.S. tour that summer, the first side-project involving a member of the group was released in July Cobain joined Olympia's Go Team on their one-sided single "Scratch It Out"/"Bikini Twilight" released on K Records (both songs on one side). The Go Team had a revolving membership, based around core member Calvin Johnson, K's founder, and Tobi Vail (spelled "Vale" on the sleeve), later Cobain's girlfriend, and also a founding member of Bikini Kill. Cobain (again spelled "Kurdt Kobain") is credited with guitar.
The Go Team had actually planned to release a single every month in 1989. "It was just a grand idea we had where we would release one every month," explains K's Candice Pederson. "But we fell behind. And then the core of the Go Team broke up while they were on tour, and so it went as far as August. We also had the grand plan that we were going to package them, in a bag, with a label on top, kind of like cheap candy But after the first month—I mean, my God, we were hand-stapling them, and stuffing them and pressing the bags and I was just like, 'This is really a nice concept but it's not going to work for 12 months!' It was just a very laborious project. But ideally we would have 12 of those singles and I think it would have made a nice package. But we had nine which is really good."
After the U.S. tour, Cobain planned another side-project with Mark Lanegan, lead singer of Screaming Trees. "Mark and Kurt got together," remembers Endino. "I think they got drunk together, or really stoned, and wrote a bunch of songs, and got all excited and told Jonathan, 'Hey we want to do an album together! And we've got a name for it-we're going to call it the Jury.' And so Jonathan said, 'Okay, okay, get in with Jack and record.' And then finally they show up at the studio, and they go 'Well, we forgot all the songs,'cause we didn't tape any of them! And I lost my Iyric book."'
As a result, all that came out of the the Jury sessions (August 2O, six hours; August 28, three and a half hours) were two Leadbelly songs; "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" and "Ain't It A Shame." Lanegan sang lead on "Where Did You Sleep...," with Cobain on guitar and Novoselic on bass; Cobain took over on lead on "Ain't It A Shame," and Mark Pickeral of the Screaming Trees played drums. "That was going to be the Jury single," says Endino. "But nothing ever came of it. And ultimately Lanegan came in and did his solo album [The Winding Sheet] and ended up putting 'where Did You Sleep Last Night' on his album. And 'Ain't It A Shame,' ended up in the vaults somewhere. That one, as far as I know, has never been bootlegged. Maybe Sub Pop will put it out someday"
In addition to "Where Did You Sleep..." (which was remixed for the album) Cobain contributed background vocals to another track on The Winding Sheet, "Down In The Dark." Though it's not known which day Cobain recorded his vocals, dates for the Lanegan sessions were: December 10-11 (nine hours both days), December 14, 16 (seven hours both days), December 18 (ten hours), December 20 (eight hours), and January 1,1990 (nine hours).
The U.S. tour resulted in Everman's departure from the group; Cobain and Novoselic said he was fired, Everman claimed he quit. So when the band next entered the studio, they were back to being a three piece, much to producer Steve Fisk's surprise. "I was excited about doing a four piece thing, but they explained Jason wasn't going to be part of the session," he says. "Jason was in the Sub Pop office telling people he was still in the band, but he was not."
The sessions, held at Seattle's Music Source studio, were for the purpose of recording material for an EP to promote the band's upcoming European tour, though as it turned out, the record wasn't released until after the tour was completed. Fisk remembers the sessions as lasting two evenings.
"The Music Source didn't do rock stuff in the daytime except on the weekends," he explains. "So the rock stuff started at 6 pm. I think it was booked for three evenings and we may have done it in two. We recorded all the basics, and then I think we got back the next week and did the vocals and the mixes and the guitar parts. The mixes may have gone on a third night, but it was a very cheap, quickie session."
Though the band had not yet toured extensively their habit of regularly trashing their instruments during shows meant their equipment was not in the best shape. "Their gear was falling about," Fisk remembers. "The fiberglass drums were cracked and held together with tape. The bass amp and the speakers were blown up and rumbling. It was a lot like recording some dodgy band with broken-up gear where you realize, 'Things would sound a lot better if we had this or this or this, but this is what we have.' And so you sort of equalize around that.
"Chris was really bummed out because he'd been in Olympia all day, running around trying to get his bass tweaked," Fisk continues. "And apparently got it better but not fixed! So the big amplifier sound was shit. And the drums were kind of classless in the first place; that's the point of fiberglass drums. They all sound the same. And Chris had been doing this trick where he'd been using the bass like a hatchet to split the kick drum, and there was tons and tons and tons of duct tape all around the drum holding it together."
The group worked on five songs; "Been A Son," "Stain," "Even In His Youth," "Polly," and "Token Eastern Song." "The songs were together," says Fisk. "They didn't record 'em quick; they did a lot of trying it again. There was a little sort of medium tension, talking to each other in between takes. I just tried to help; I didn't really have any great ideas. Though if I would've explained that not saying "fuck" so much in "Stain," that song could've been a hit! But I just didn't have the forethought then as a record producer to say, 'Kurt, you can't say "fuck" that many times. It just won't fly on the radio.' It was hard to really have the scope back then.
"'Been A Son,' I've been told by several people, is the most commonly bootlegged Nirvana track," Fisk continues. "In every bootleg you get, it's like the first thing people do, is they take this beautifully recorded CD and just make a copy of it! The signature with that one is the huge bass solo in the middle. Instead of a guitar solo, it's a bass solo that's like twice as loud as the song, so when it stops the band sounds kind of wimpy and stupid. That's actually where a lot of the work was. They were just trying to figure out how big they could make things, and how small they could make things. So I did a lot of following orders and changing shit around. And that was really fun."
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