Flashback: Nirvana Play a Bit of Boston’s ‘More Than a Feeling’

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit (Live at Reading 1992)



When Kurt Cobain first came up with the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” riff, he didn’t think he had anything that special. “It was such a cliched riff,” he said. “It was so close to a Boston riff or ‘Louie Louie.’ When I came up with the guitar part, Krist [Novoselic] looked at me and said, ‘That is so ridiculous.'”

After the song became an enormous hit, many others pointed out that the main riff did indeed sound like Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” even though they’re in different keys. They probably weren’t similar enough for Boston’s Tom Scholz to file any sort of legal action, but he said he didn’t mind at all.

“I take it as a major compliment,” he said in 1994, “even if it was completely accidental.”

The group made fun of the whole thing in the summer of 1992 when they played the Reading Festival in England. After the opening bars of the song, Kirst Novoselic and Dave Grohl sang the chorus of “More Than a Feeling” while Bivouac drummer Antony “Dancing Tony” Hodgkinson danced around wildly. After about 18 goofy seconds, Novoselic launches into the “I see Marianne walk away” part, but Kurt interrupts him by beginning the song for real. It’s a great moment, though completely absent from the official Live at Reading CD. You can watch it right here though.

A couple of years ago, Tom Scholz admitted that he’s extremely unfamiliar with Nirvana’s work since he has barely heard any new music since 1974. “The only times when I’ll hear other music will be at the ice skating rink or the gym,” he said. “It’s been debated whether [Nirvana playing a bit of “More Than a Feeling”] was homage or thumbing their nose. Regardless, Nirvana was, from what I’ve heard, a great band. I was really impressed by the couple of things I heard. Regardless of what the context was, it’s an honor to be heard in the same airspace as Nirvana.”

Nirvana played a surprise show in Tiny Brooklyn Club


Photo via @uniformrec / Instagram

he surviving members of Nirvana played together not once, but twice on Thursday night/Friday morning. Following their all-star performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear hightailed it to the 230-capacity Brooklyn club Saint Vitus for a surprise, invite-only show.

According to Noisey, the band took the stage around 2:30am and proceed to play a 16-song set comprised entirely of Nirvana material. Once again, they were accompanied by a cavalcade of guest singers, including St. Vincent’s Annie Clark, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Joan Jett, Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, and Deer Tick’s  John McCauley. Maybe it was past Lorde’s bedtime?

For her part, Clark sang lead on “Lithium”, “About A Girl”, and “Heart Shaped Box”, while J Mascis took the stage for “Drain You”, “Penny Royal Tea”, and “School”. Gordon helped closed out the performance, fronting the band for “Aneurysm”, “Negative Creep”, and “Moist Vagina”. You can see the full setlist, along with a few fan-shot video clips, below.

Smells Like Teen Spirit (with Joan Jett)
Breed (with Joan Jett)
In Bloom (with Joan Jett)
Territorial Pissings (with Joan Jett)
Drain You (with J. Mascis)
Penny Royal Tea (with J. Mascis)
School (with J. Mascis)
Lithium (with Annie Clark)
About A Girl (with Annie Clark)
Heart Shaped Box (with Annie Clark)
Serve the Servants (with John McCauley)
Scentless Apprentice (with John McCauley)
Tourette’s (with John McCauley)
Aneurysm (with Kim Gordon)
Negative Creep (with Kim Gordon)
Moist Vagina (with Kim Gordon)