Nirvana Unplugged: suicide note or just a good gig?

Kurt Cobain : February 20, 1967 – c. April 5, 1994. photograph : Getty/Frank Micelotta opinion on Nirvana ‘s MTV Unplugged performance at Sony Music Studios in New York on November 18, 1993, is divided into two camps. Some people consider it to be Kurt Cobain, the torment genius, stripping both his songs, and himself, to the bone in a bright, painfully raw performance that amounts to a kind of suicide note.

Others reckon it to be an interest and eclectic exercise of the Unplugged format, but that any deeper mean is the merchandise of myth-making and hindsight. When it was released seven months after Cobain took his own life, Nirvana : Unplugged in New York sold over 5m copies in America alone, topped the album charts in seven countries, and went on to win a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album. But until nowadays it has never been available as a video or DVD ( bootlegs notwithstanding ). many people will be familiar with this performance from the album, but tied thus this 66-minute unedited footage ( including Something in the Way and Oh Me, which were cut from the original broadcast ) makes fascinating viewing. It besides supports both sides of the you-could-tell-something-was-wrong / it-was-just-a-good-gig argument.

The stage set surely seems pregnant with meaning : dressed with black candles and white lilies, it could n’t look more like a funeral. And when Cobain sighs before the opening sung, About a Girl, while staring in to the middle distance with something like terror in his eyes, it ‘s hard not to think of the words he by and by wrote in a far from metaphorical suicide notice : “ The fact is, I ca n’t fool you, any one of you ”. But there was a light side to Cobain, excessively. Before the highlight of the evening, a traverse of Where Did You Sleep last Night by Leadbelly, person shouts out a request for Rape Me. Cobain slowly swivels on his chair bringing a wry grin to bear and says, “ I do n’t think MTV will let us play that, ” a mention to the band ‘s appearance at 1992 MTV Awards, when they were banned from playing sung. ( And anyone prepared to appear onstage with Dave Grohl wearing a turtleneck jumper and a ponytail had to have a sense of temper. )

For once, the extras are worth a front – see the alternate versions of Come as You Are, Polly and Pennyroyal Tea, american samoa wells as covers of Plateau by the Meat Puppets and Bowie ‘s The Man Who Sold the World from rehearsals. possibly the last word should go to Alex Coletti, the manufacturer of MTV Unplugged at the time. Speaking in the Bare Witness making-of documentary, he says : “ Everyone knew this was extra. Everyone knew we barely saw another side of a very crucial band. But obviously [ everything ] gets magnified in the context of what happened by and by. ” In other words, this iconic performance means what you want it to mean .

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Category : music

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