Verse Chourus Verse: The Recording History Of NIRVANA
Goldmine #432, February 14, 1997
PAGE: 8 | back
It was at this time that Grohl met Barrett Jones, when Freak Baby recorded a cassette at Jones' Laundry Room Studios in Arlington, Virginia-so named because the studio was originally in the laundry room of Jones' parents house. The cassette was sold locally, and Grohl and Jones established a firm friendship. "I pretty much recorded every other band that he was in!" says Jones. "We were always doing music together, when he wasn't touring or something like that." At one point, Grohl even played drums in Jonest band Churn.
A line-up change in Freak Baby saw Grohl moving from guitar to drums, after which the band changed their name to Misslon Impossible. The band broke up in the summer of 1985, their sole recorded output a split single with Lunchmeat. Grohl then formed the band Dain Bramage, who recorded one album, I Scream Not Coming Down. "None of this stuff was ever really released in anything more than 500 or 1000 copies total, and it never really got distributed," says Jones.
By the spring of 1987, Grohl joined Washington D.C. hardcore band Scream. Grohl played on the band's fourth album, No More Censorship, released in 1988 on RAS. In 1989, the band released Live At Van Hall In Amsterdam on Konkurrel. The band also released a self-titled live album on the Your Choice Live Series label, and the single "Mardi Gras"/"Land Torn Down" before disbanding in 1990. Throughout this period, Grohl continued recording solo material at the Laundry Room, eventually building up a huge backlog of material; "There's an awful lot of that stuff!" says Jones.
Cobain and Novoselic had admired Grohl's drumming in Scream, and he was readily welcomed into Nirvana. After a short stay with Novoselic in Tacoma, Grohl moved in with Cobain, who was still livin'g in Olympia. During an appearance on KAOS a week after the Motorsports show, Cobain announced that Grohl was the band's new drummer, even though Peters had not yet been told he was out of the band. Cobain also performed a few acoustic songs on air, including "Lithium" and "Opinion," the latter a song never released by Nirvana.
"SIiver"/"Dive" was released in September, the first 3000 on blue vinyl. "Sliver" is the only Nirvana single on Sub Pop still in print, and it's been reissued in a number of colors; original copies are in fold-over sleeves, while reissues are in solid sleeves. In January'91, "Sliver" was released in the U.K. in a variety of formats. The rarest is the orignal 7-inch, packaged in a gatefold sleeve, the first 2000 on green vinyl. The 12-inch single added a live version of "About A Girl" (in a twist, it's the orignal, black vinyl version of the single that's more valuable; the blue vinyl is a reissue), and the CD had live versions of both "About A Girl" and "Spank Thru" (mispelled "Through"). The cover featured another of Charles Peterson's shots from the :Raji's gig in February '90. The A-side also features a telephone conversation between Jonathan Poneman and an inebriated Novoselic at the end of the song, recorded on Novoselic's answering machine.
Another Nirvana track appeared in October, when "Here She Comes Now" was officially released on the Velvet Underground tribute Heaven & Hell Vol. 1, released in the U.K. on Imaginary Records, on vinyl, cassette, and CD. The album was released in the U.S. the following year on Communion, and the Nirvana track was released by the same label as a split single with the Melvins, released in seven different colors of vinyl. Imaginary reissued the CD in the U.K. in 1994, retitled Fifteen Minutes: A Tribute To The Velvet Underground.
The fall, Nirvana went toured the U.K. for the second time, their first time with Grohl. They recorded another session for John Peel, particularly of interest as the entire set consisted of covers: the Wipers' "D-7," Devo's "Turnaround," and the Vaselines' "Molly's Lips," and "Son Of A Gun." The band was back at The Music Source on January 1, 1991, recording their first new material with Grohl, "Aneurysm" (which featured one of Cobain's most bloodcurdling screams) and a re-recording of "Even In His Youth."
In November '90, Nirvana had signed with the management company Gold Mountain, and was preparing to sign to DGC. But since their contract with DGC wouldn't be signed until April 30, '91, Nirvana was still technically signed to Sub Pop at the time of January'91 session. Even so, the Music Source session was a private endeavor. "This was not for Sub Pop or anything," Steve Fisk confirms. "This was something Nirvana was doing with Craig [Montgomery], their soundman, who was friends with this other guy, Brian, that worked at the Music Source. Remember how much money Sub Pop owed everybody then? So Nirvana figured their own way in."
In addition to the two completed tracks, Fisk thinks there may have been other material recorded. "There were a lot of things with scratch vocals that Kurt was just playing with," he says. "I was talking with Brian, and he said there was a lot of In Utero stuff. I was really surprised. But maybe I heard him wrong Sorry, dear readers! I think some of the Nirvana tapes got lost in the shuffle. I helped rescue the session I did for Sub Pop, but that was way before the studio was closed down. And I think there was one quarter inch that Brian found, and there was another one that I thought I saw that was untraceable. I think it was a really quick session; it might have been a weekend or one day on a weekend."
In addition to receiving a buyout fee of $75,000 from DGC, a percentage of Nirvana's first two albums (Incesticide was later added to the deal), and their logo on the DGC albums, Sub Pop was able to squeeze out one more Nirvana single, albeit a split single with the Fluid. Like their first single for the label, "Molly's Lips" (b/w the Fluid's "Candy") was another Singles Club release; it was issued in January '91. The first 4000 copies were on green vinyl, the rest of the run, 3500, on black, and the foldover sleeve folded horizontally, not vertically The sleeve featured another Charles Peterson shot, from his last formal session with Chad Channing-an an appropriate choice, given that "Molly's Lips" was a live version recorded in Portland in the spring of '90 when Channing was still in the band. The single also has the word "Later" etched in the run-out groove.
Waiting for formal details with DGC still had to be completed, Nirvana prepared to record their major label debut, which would be called Nevermind. Their first choice of producer was Butch Vig, then working with the Smashing Pumpkins on Gish. Though Vig was aware of their interest, he says "I wasn't really sure if I was going to do the record, 'cause I was so very unknown that I think the- label thought it would be smarter for them to work with a more experienced producer. It sounded like Don Dixon was going to produce, and I was just going to engineer it. But I think they felt comfortable working with me and they liked some of the sounds that I had got on the earlier recordings. And at the eleventh hour the band just decided that they wanted me to do it. Literally it was about a week before we started, I got a call that said, 'Can you leave next week?' And I had a couple things scheduled, but I just moved 'em around. I was excited about doing this. It was my first major label album."
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