For those that know me will know that my number one ultimate favourite band in the entire world is Nirvana. Don’t ask me why, or how…because I simply don’t know. Since I first listened to Nirvana when I was a young girl I have felt a connection to their music and the way Kurt Cobain sang their songs. I remember being in my room faced down on my bed listening to their Bleach album and the next thing I knew was waking up an hour later. Yes I can sleep while listening to Nirvana, I remember telling my friend about this and she replied with “You can sleep to Nirvana? Wow, that’s impressive!”. I had people always saying to me that Nirvana are not very good and they don’t like them at all, but I shrugged it all off as I have always believed that music is a personal thing. I’ve noticed that most people tend to follow a trend which makes me feel sorry for them as they probably haven’t discovered their true favourite music yet. I was a highly emotional young girl and I think that even now that part of me shines through in my personality. I take things very personally and I think that because the lyrics that Kurt wrote are so cryptic I can interpret them and relate them to my own life situation. What situation you ask? Well my situation right now is pretty good, I am studying Music at LCoM and I am really pleased with my life, but back in the day not so much.
Anyway, less of the emotional things, let’s get to business.
The 1st November 2014 marked 20 years since Nirvana released their Live Unplugged sessions with MTV as an album. I felt it important to write about this album as it is one of my favourites of theirs and I tend to listen to it when I need to chill out or reflect. I know that the songs are simply just acoustic versions of their originals but seriously, how haunting is Kurt’s vocal on the tracks? You can hear his emotion and pain through his vocals and it really feels like he is singing to the listener (me or you).
The best thing about this album is that all the noises from the crowd are present throughout which makes it feel like a real step back in time. I was only 10 days away from being three years old when the album was released so obviously I didn’t listen to it back then, so listening to it now is very surreal.
My favourite song from the album is obviously their cover of “The Man Who Sold The World” – I can listen to that song over and over again, on any of their albums. Also thanks to this song I know what a Mixolydian scale sounds like more than any other scale! The song has a very laid back and chilling feel, when I listen to it I can see Kurt Cobain singing with his eyes closed and playing his guitar with such great passion.
“Something In The Way” is one of the most haunting tracks that Nirvana ever released, and gives me the chills every time. You can hear in the live studio that even the audience are haunted as there is complete silence all the way through. You can tell that when Kurt sings this song that he feels some kind of pain and hurt, which is portrayed in the performance. A while ago I learned that when they recorded this track for “Never Mind” Kurt Cobain was laying on the sofa in the control room at Sound City Studios and recorded this track with the microphone up close to his mouth, with his untuned guitar and it was a very eery, chilling moment at Sound City. I also love that at the end of this track on the Unplugged album Kurt cracks up the audience with “I only had three cups of tea so far but thank you, what are they tuning…a harp?” followed by “I thought we were a big rich rock band, we should have a whole bunch of extra guitars”. This adds a nice personal touch to the album and I love that they have left these parts in – it makes it a real listening experience.
Here Butch Vig goes through how it was done in more detail.
If you have never listened to Nirvana then do it – and if you have and you don’t like them, well never mind. Or if you have listened to them and kind of like them but haven’t listened to the MTV Unplugged album then I recommend you do so, it’s such a great listen and portrays the band’s true passion for music.