Verse Chourus Verse: The Recording History Of NIRVANA
Goldmine #432, February 14, 1997
PAGE: 12 | back
During their stay in Seattle, Cobain and Love also dropped in on Seattle's Orpheum record store and confiscated what they claimed were unauthorized recordings being sold. Asked by the clerk to leave a note for the boss explaining the disappearance of the recordings, Love and Cobain duly complied writing the following explantion on the store's stationary: "i need for you not to make extra money off my husband so i can feed my children. Mrs. Cobain. Macaroni and cheese for all. Iove kurdt kobain."
In May '92, the first in a series of Westwood One In Concert releases featuring Nirvana was issued to radio stations; the double album also featured Led Zeppelin in concert. The following month, the first song from the April '92 sessions was released when "Return Of The Rat" was featured as part of the box set Eight Songs For Greg Sage And The Wipers, released on Portland indie label Tim/Kerr on June 20.
Thor Lindsay, one of T/K's founders, says the idea to do an album "paying tribute to the biggest alternative act to come out of Portland-until Everclear!" came from Sean Crogham (then in Crackerbash, now in Junior High) and Jim Talstra (then in the Dharma Bums, now in the Maroons), who suggested it backstage during a show in 1991. Lindsay knew Cobain, and knew that he was a Wipers fan, and approached him to see if Nirvana would be interested in contributing. Cobain initially suggested Lindsay use the version of "D-7" they'd recorded for John Peel. Lindsay readily agreed; "It's one of the most phenomenal tracks I think Kurt ever did," he says.
But when "D-7" appeared on Hormoaning, licensing the song through Geffen became complicated. "And Kurt got pissed off and said, 'Fuck it, I'll record another track,"' Lindsay explains. "And basically a DAT turned up with 'Return Of The Rat' on it. I was ecstatic. Kurt was into alternative labels and independent stuff."
The set, released in a limited edition of 10,000, contained four singles, and is now out of print. Colored vinyl was used on 4000 of the sets. "That turned out to be the biggest packaging nightmare of my life," says Lindsay, "because I didn't want it pirated or extra copies made of anything. So I actually had the 7-inches pressed at one plant, the picture sleeves at another plant, and the box sets made here in town. And we assembled them in my kitchen. It was literally out of control." Nor were the colored versions all the sarme. "Every 500 the color would change," Lindsay explains, "so there's a lot of eariety there! Especially since the pressing plant screwed up on some of them; for example, there's only 200 of Hole's orange disc. And the aqua Nirvana is rare." Lindsay used a total of four translucent colors and four opaque colors. On March 15, 1993, the set was issued on CD with six additional tracks, necessitating a title change to Fourteen Songs For Greg Sage And The Wipers.
On July 21, Nirvana's next single, "Lithium," was released, the cassette, 12inch, and CD b/w "Curmudgeon", and a live version of "Been A Son," also from the Halloween '91 show. The packaging was especially notable, featuring cover photography by Cobain, a sonogram of Cobain and Love's child, and all the Iyrics to Nevermind. In the U.K., the 7-inch and cassette were b/w "Curmudgeon," the 12-inch picture disc added the live "Been A Son," and the CD added "D-7" from the Peel session. A promo CD single was also released; some were packaged in a special box that also featured Nevermind, It's An Interview, issued in a limited run of 100.
Nirvana hit the road again in June, touring in Ireland and Europe. Then in August, a profile of Love in Vanity Fair's September issue (published in August) blew the lid off a subject that had been kept under wraps: the couple's drug use. Most damaging was the implication that Love had used heroin after she knew she was pregnant. When the story was published, Love maintained she'd stopped using drugs when she learned of her pregnancy Cobain, however, had been using heroin regularly. He'd tried detoxing a number of times and was in the hospital detoxing again when Love gave birth to Frances Bean Cobain on August 18.
By the end of the month, rumors were flying about how Cobain's drug use was going to split the band, and that their August 30 appearance at the Reading Festival in Reading, England, would be their last show. Instead, they rallied, turning in one of the best performances of their career. Mocking the rumors, Cobain, wearing a hospital gown, had himself pushed onstage in a wheelchair, staggered to the mic, warbled the opening line of "The Rose," and collapsed. He then leaped up, and the band went on to play for nearly 90 minutes.
Charles Peterson, in one of the few times he photographed the band outside of the Northwest, was also at the show. "I was the only photographer that got to sit on the stage the whole time," he says. "Just to sit there and have Nirvana playing in front of you on this mammoth mammoth stage, and to my left was 50,000 people all singing along...it was unbelievable. It sent shivers up my spine the whole time. Sometimes I just had to drop the camera and just sort of take it all in."
The band's set spanned their entire career, from songs on the "Dale Demo" ("Spank Thru") to three numbers soon to be recorded on In Utero, "Dumb," "tourette's" (introduced as "The Eagle Has Landed") and "All Apologies" (dedicated to Love and Frances Bean). The band also joked about their supposed "demise." "This isn't our last show!" Novoselic said. "Yes it is," countered Cobain. "I would like to officially and publically announce that this is our last show." "Today!" said Novoselic. "Until we play on our November tour," continued Cobain. "Or do you want to record a record in November?" Portions of the show were also aired on radio.
Nirvana returned to the U.S. in triumph, their next victory winning Best Alternative Music Video (for "Teen Spirit") and Best New Artist in the MTV Music Video Awards. Cobain was at his most charming when accepting the latter award, smiling directly into the camera and saying, "You know, it's really hard to believe everything you, read." The band had wanted to play "Rape Me," another song destined for In Utero, during their live spot, but caved in to pressure and played "Lithium"—but not before throwing in the opening measures of "Rape Me" as a tease.
Nirvana then performed in Portland, and, the following night, at the Coliseum in Seattle, their biggest show in the city to date. "It was really weird to see somebody that you know up on this huge stage,'; says Alice Wheeler. "I felt really bad for Kurt. It seemed like he looked really lost up there." But weeks later, the group was back in a smaller setting when they appeared as the unannounced opening act for Mudhoney in two secret shows, October 3 at Western Washington University in Bellingham, and October 4 at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle. At the latter show, the band was clearly relaxed, enjoying the chance to return to their roots, however fleetingly. For its part, the audience stood in awed appreciation, barely able to mosh.
Peterson attended both shows. "I was going to go up to Bellingham with Mudhoney anyway," he says. "And they were like, 'Oh, guess who else is playing?' 'Then I'm definitely coming up with you guys!' It -was really good. My memory of it is there were all these student photographers down in the pit, and there was this one guy, he's got his camera, and he's dancing around, but he's right in front of where Kurt is. I'm like, 'If you're not going to take pcitures, get out of the way.' And he was like, 'I've only got one shot left and I'm waiting for the destruction!'
"And the brilliant thing was, that night they didn't destroy their instruments!" Peter son continues. "These two seven year old kids came on stage. And Kurt draped his guitar around one of them, and Chris draped his guitar around the other kid's neck. And everyone was like 'Smash it! Smash it!' And somehow this kid hauled Chris' bass over his head and smashed it onto the stage. And Alex, their tour manager, is just back there with his head in his hands, 'cause Chris never really smashed his basses. It was great. It was the perfect ending to it." These shows were the last live shows Peterson shot. Nirvana's final show of the month was a concert in Buenos Aires.
October also saw the release of another Westwood One In Concert double album, also featuring Roxy Blue. On November 30, "In Bloom" was released released as a single in the U.K. only (though the U.S. did release the song as a CD promo). The 7-inch and cassette were b/w a live version of "Polly" from the band's December 28, '91 performance in Del Mar, California. The 12-inch picture disc and CD added a live version of "Sliver" from the same show. Portions of the show were also aired on radio. In November, Cobain also recorded a guitar track at the Laundry Room, for another side project, this one a single with William Burroughs that would be released on Tim/Kerr in 1993.
DGC had hoped to have new Nirvana album ready for the holiday season, but the band hadn't started recording demos until the fall. Instead, on December 15, they released Incesticide, a joint effort between the label and Sub Pop. Like their previous albums, Incesticide was released in CD, cassette, and vinyl fQrmats, the record on blue vinyl. A sticker on the outside read "Rare B-Sides, BBC Sessions, Original Demo Recordings, Outtakes, Stuff Never Before Available" (a total of six tracks were previously unreleased). The press release for the album contained Cobain's descriptions of the tracks (the same descriptions were also used in some ads), which included some errors ("Dive" was not recorded with Butch Vig in 1988, for example). Cobain also wrote the album's liner notes. The album didn't reach the Top 40, but did go platinum, selling a total of 3.2 copies worldwide. There is a German CD promo packaged in a cardboard box. A video of "Sliver," largely filmed in Cobain's home, was made to promote the album.
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