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.”

Watch: Alice In Chains – Layne Staley’s Last Show (7-3-96) (Full Concert)

Layne Thomas Staley (August 22, 1967 – April 5, 2002)was an American musician who served as the lead singer and co-songwriter of the rock band Alice in Chains, which he co-founded along with guitarist Jerry Cantrell in Seattle, Washington in 1987. Alice in Chains rose to international fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s. The band became known for his distinct vocal style, as well as the harmonized vocals between him and Cantrell. Staley was also a member of the supergroups Mad Season and Class of ’99. By mid-1996, Staley would be out of the public spotlight, never to perform live again. Staley also struggled throughout his adult life with depression and a severe drug addiction, culminating with his death on April 5, 2002.

Layne Staley playing with Alice in Chains at The Channel in Boston, MA. 27 November 1992 - Photo: Rex Aran Emrick

Layne Staley playing with Alice in Chains at The Channel in Boston, MA.
27 November 1992 –
Photo: Rex Aran Emrick

 

Alice in Chains released their debut album Facelift on August 21, 1990, shaping the band’s signature style. The second single, “Man in the Box”, with lyrics written by Staley, became a huge hit. “Man in the Box” is widely recognized for its distinctive “wordless opening melody, where Layne Staley’s peculiar, tensed-throat vocals are matched in unison with an effects-laden guitar” followed by “portentous lines like: ‘Jesus Christ/Deny your maker’ and ‘He who tries/Will be wasted’ with Cantrell’s drier, and less-urgent voice.”

Facelift has since been certified double platinum by the RIAA for sales of two million copies in the United States. The band toured in support of the album for two years before releasing the acoustic EP Sap in early 1992. In September 1992, Alice in Chains released Dirt. The critically acclaimed album, also the band’s most successful, debuted at number six on the Billboard 200, and was certified quadruple platinum. During the Dirt tour (in 1992), Layne saved Mike’s life after he had overdosed. The band did not tour in support of Dirt for very long, because of Staley’s drug addiction. While touring, Starr left the band for personal reasons and was replaced by Mike Inez.

In his last interview, given on December 20, 2001 roughly four months before his death, Staley admitted, “I know I’m near death, I did crack and heroin for years. I never wanted to end my life this way.” Staley’s physical appearance had become even worse than before: he had lost several teeth, his skin was sickly pale, and he was severely emaciated. In the same interview Staley spoke of the damage caused by his heroin addiction:

“I’m not using drugs to get high like many people think. I know I made a big mistake when I started using this shit. It’s a very difficult thing to explain. My liver is not functioning, and I’m throwing up all the time and shitting my pants. The pain is more than you can handle. It’s the worst pain in the world. Dope sick hurts the entire body.”

As far as published reports are concerned, such as Blender’s “We Left Him Alone”, close friends such as Matt Fox have said, “If no one heard from him for weeks, it wasn’t unusual.” Further in the article, reporter Pat Kearney provides a glimpse into Staley’s daily life and public routine:

“It appears that Staley’s last few weeks were typically empty. According to an employee of the Rainbow, a neighborhood bar close to Staley’s condo, the singer was a frequent patron, stopping by at least once a week. ‘He minded his own business,’ said the employee, who wished to remain anonymous. Staley would never buy anything to drink, the employee said, but would simply sit at a small table in the back corner of the bar and ‘nod off. We just left him alone’.”

Staley’s close friend Mark Lanegan had much of the same to say with respect to Staley’s isolation: “He didn’t speak to anybody as of late… It’s been a few months since I talked to him. But for us to not talk for a few months is par for the course.”

Cold’s song “The Day Seattle Died” (from the 2003 album, Year of the Spider) was an ode to Staley, as well as Kurt Cobain, who were both figureheads of the grunge movement. In addition, Staind featured a song called “Layne” in memory to the singer on the 2003 album, 14 Shades of Grey. Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, also recorded a song eulogizing Staley, titled “4/20/02” (the day Vedder heard the news and subsequently wrote the song). The song featured only Vedder singing and playing the guitar in a ukulele-inspired tuning, and was released as a hidden track on Pearl Jam’s 2003 B-sides and rarities album, Lost Dogs, roughly four minutes and twenty seconds after the conclusion of the final listed song, “Bee Girl”. Eddie Vedder’s tone in the song “4/20/02” was very dark and heartbreaking considering that he was among one of Layne’s friends (as stated within the song for “lonesome friend”); One can hear how he truly felt about Layne Staley’s death in this song, not only aiming to other listeners to avoid ever “using” drugs, but he had also aimed this song to all of those “who sing just like [Layne]” (during the time when a lot of vocalists were aiming to imitate Layne Staley’s singing style) ending the song with the lines: “So sing just like him/f—ers/It won’t offend him/just me/Because he’s dead.”

Sources: Wikipedia

 

St. Vincent covers Nirvana’s “Lithium”

St. Vincent

Annie Clark of St. Vincent

 

Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. During her concert in Chicago last night, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark paid tribute to the Nirvana frontman with a scorching rendition of “Lithium”, another entry in her list of exceptional cover songs. Watch fan footage below.

Clark is currently finishing up the first leg of her North American tour in support of her new album (read our review here). Next, she’ll hit the summer festival circuit playing sets at Pitchfork, Ottawa Bluesfest, and Sled Island. You can also watch her semi-regularly on Portlandia.

 

Remembering Kurt Cobain: Why People Kill Themselves

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With the 21st anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s on April 5, we’d like to celebrate the musician’s vast contributions to music and popular culture.

Cobain was featured on the cover of Newsweek’s April 18, 1994, issue as part of a larger story about the root causes of suicide. From “The Mystery of Suicide,” by David Gelman:

The road to self-destruction starts with depression and ends in the grave. But who chooses to die and why? Is it stress? Brain chemistry? A despair rotting the soul? The answers are as varied as the weapons.

kurt-cobain-e1396621300826            The body of Kurt Cobain as found by police.

Gelman spoke to Seattle locals about Cobain’s too-early passing. College student Chris Dorr, 23, found it almost clichéd: “It makes you wonder if our icons are genetically programmed to self-destruct in their late 20s.”

Below is the 1994 eulogy, a feature that ran alongside Gelman’s story.

The Poet of Alienation: Cobain’s corrosive songs defined a generation

He’d come to install an alarm system. The irony is that long before electrician Gary Smith found Kurt Cobain’s body, it was clear that what Nirvana’s singer really needed protection from was himself. Cobain wasn’t identified for hours, but his mother, Wendy O’Connor, didn’t need anyone to tell her that it was her son who was found with a shotgun and a suicide note that reportedly ended, “I love you, I love you.” The singer had been missing, and his mother had feared that the most troubled and talented rock star of his generation would go the way of Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. “Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club,” she told The Associated Press. “I told him not to join that stupid club.”

Cobain didn’t overdose like Morrison and Hendrix, of course. But the singer’s self-destruction streak seems to have been bound up inextricably with drugs. In March, while in Rome, Cobain overdosed on painkillers and champagne. Nirvana’s spokespeople insisted that it was an accident, portraying Cobain and his wife, Courtney Love, as stable, happy parents whose drug days were behind them. But the truth about Cobain’s last months was far messier than we’d been led to believe.

On March 18, Cobain reportedly locked himself in a room of his spacious Seattle home and threatened to kill himself; Love is said to have called the police, who arrived on the scene and seized medication and firearms. On April 2, the police were summoned once more—this time by O’Connor, who told them her son was missing. The rumor mill has it that Cobain and Love’s marriage was on the rocks, that his friends performed an “intervention,” and that while Love was promoting a new album by her band, Hole, Cobain was fleeing a rehab clinic in Los Angeles.

According to the AP, O’Connor’s missing person’s report read, in part, “Cobain ran away from [a] California facility and flew back to Seattle. He also bought a shotgun and may be suicidal.” All these dark machinations will make for an uneasy legacy—precisely the sort of legacy he didn’t want. “I don’t want my daughter to grow up and someday be hassled by kids at school,” he once said of Frances Bean Cobain, then 19 months. “I don’t want people telling her that her parents were junkies.”

Which raises a question: What will they tell Frances Bean? Where her father’s career is concerned, at least, the answer is reassuring. They’ll tell her Cobain and his band hated the slick, MTV-driven rock establishment so much they took it over. They’ll tell her that with the album Nevermind, Nirvana replaced the prefab sentiments of pop with hard, unreconstituted emotions. That they got rich and went to No. 1. That they were responsible for other bands getting rich and going No. 1: Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains. That Cobain never took his band as seriously as everyone else did—that he once wrote, “I’m the first to admit that we’re the ’90s version of Cheap Trick. But that despite his corrosive guitar playing, he wrote gorgeous, airtight melodies. That he took the Sex Pistols’ battle cry “Never Mind the Bollocks,” mixed it with some twenty-something rage and disillusion, and came out with this lyric: “Oh, well, whatever, never mind.” And, finally, that he reminded his peers they were not alone, though all the evidence suggests that he was.

Cobain was born just outside the desultory logging town of Aberdeen, Wash., in February 1967. (Yes, he was 27, as were Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin.) The singer hated being the crown prince of Generation X, but the fury of Nirvana’s music spoke to his generation because they’d grown up more or less the same way. Which is to say, grunge is what happens when children of divorce get their hands on guitars. Cobain’s mother was a housewife; his father, Don Cobain, was a mechanic at the Chevron station in town. They divorced when the singer was 8.

Drugs and punk: Cobain always had a fragile constitution (he was subject to bronchitis, as well as the recurrent stomach pains he claimed drove him to a heroin addiction). The image one gets is that of a frail kid batted between warring parents. “[The divorce] just destroyed his life,” Wendy O’Connor tells Michael Azerrad in the Nirvana biography Come as You Are. “He changed completely. I think he was ashamed. And he became very inward—he just held everything [in]…. I think he’s still suffering.”

As a teen, Cobain dabbled in drugs and punk rock, and dropped out of school. His father persuaded him to pawn his guitar and take an entrance exam for the Navy. But Cobain soon returned for the guitar. “To them, I was wasting my life,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “To me, I was fighting for it.” Cobain didn’t speak to his father for eight years. When Nirvana went to the top of the charts, Don Cobain began keeping a scrapbook. “Everything I know about Kurt,” he told Azerrad,” I’ve read in newspapers and magazines.”

The more famous Nirvana became, the more Cobain wanted none of it. The group, whose first album, 1989’s Bleach, was recorded for $606.17 and released on independent label Sub Pop, was meant to be a latter-day punk band. It was supposed to be nasty and defiant and unpopular. But something went wrong: Nirvana’s major label debut, Nevermind, sold almost 10 million copies worldwide. On the stunning single “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Cobain howled over a sludgy guitar riff, “I feel stupid and contagious/Here we are now, entertain us.” This was the sound of psychic damage, and an entire generation recognized it.

Nirvana—with their stringy hair, plaid work shirts and torn jeans—appealed to a mass of young fans who were tired of false idols like Madonna and Michael Jackson, and who’d never had a dangerous rock ‘n’ roll hero to call their own.

Unfortunately, the band also appealed to the sort of people Cobain had always hated: poseurs and bandwagoneers, not to mention record company execs and fashion designers who fell over themselves cashing in on the new sights and sounds. Cobain, who’d grown up as an angry outsider, tried to shake his celebrity. “I have a request for our fans,” he fumed in the liner notes to the album Incesticide. “If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us—leave us the f—k alone!… Last year, a girl was raped by two wastes of sperm and eggs while singing…our song ‘Polly.’ I have had a hard time carrying on knowing there are plankton like that in our audience.”

By 1992, it became clear that Cobain’s personal life was as tangled and troubling as his music. The singer married Love in Waikiki—the bride wore a moth-eaten dress once owned by actress Frances Farmer—and the couple embarked on a self-destructive pas de deux widely referred to as the ’90s version of Sid and Nancy. As Cobain put it, “I was going off with Courtney and we were scoring drugs and we were f—king up against a wall outside and stuff…and causing scenes just to do it. It was fun to be with someone who would stand up all of a sudden and smash a glass on the table.”

In September ’92, Vanity Fair reported that Love had used heroin while she was pregnant with Frances Bean. She and Cobain denied the story (the baby is healthy). But authorities were reportedly concerned enough to force them to surrender custody of Frances to Love’s sister, Jamie, for a month, during which time the couple was, in Cobain’s words, “totally suicidal.”

Tormented rebel: By last week, the world knew Cobain has a self-destructive kurt-cobain-guitarstreak, that he’d flailed violently against his unwanted celebrity—but the world had been assured that those days were over. Nirvana recently postponed its European concert dates and opted out of this summer’s Lollapalooza tour. Still, spokesmen maintained that Cobain simply needed time to recuperate from the overdose in Rome. They offered a tempting picture: Cobain the tormented rebel reborn as a doting, drug-free father. Even Dr. Osvaldo Galletta, of Rome’s American Hospital, says he believed the overdose was an accident: “The last image I have of him, which in light of the tragedy now seems pathetic, is of a young man playing with the little girl. He did not seem like a young man who wanted to end it. I had hope for him. Some of the people that visited him were a little strange, but he seemed to be a mild sort, not at all violent. His wife also behaved quite normally. She left a thank-you note.”

It’d be nice if we, too, could come away with that image of Cobain and his Kurtand daughterdaughter. And in truth, those who knew the singer say there was a real fragility buried beneath the noise of his music and his life. Still, there are a lot of other images vying for our attention just once. Among them is the image of Courtney Love and Frances Bean Cobain, who are said to have arrived at their home in Seattle, via limo, late Friday. Again: What will people tell Francis? Ed Rosenblatt, Geffen Records president, says, “The world has lost a great artist, and we’ve lost a great friend. It leaves a huge void in our hearts.” That is certainly true. If only someone had heard the alarms ringing at that rambling, gray-shingled home near the lake. Long before there was a void in our hearts, there was a void in Kurt Cobain’s.

Police Release Previously Unseen Photos From Kurt Cobain’s Death Scene

Kurt Corbain

Kurt Cobain

The images include his suicide note and drug paraphernalia

 
Last week, Seattle police said they were reexamining the evidence surrounding Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Although they didn’t find anything that warranted reopening the case, they did unearth a series of bleak photos taken at the scene of the Nirvana frontman’s death that they had not previously released. A gallery of the images is located at CBS News, including shots of Cobain’s suicide note, his wallet with the ID pulled out so he could be identified and his various drug paraphernalia.

No Apologies: All 102 Nirvana Songs Ranked

The photos paint a sad picture of Cobain’s final days: They include the rock icon’s cigar box “heroin kit” and discarded cigarette butts littered across his home. The suicide note, left on top of a greenhouse planter, is punctured with a red pen.

Seattle Police Department/AP Photo

Seattle Police Department/AP Photo

With the 20th anniversary of Cobain’s death arriving next month, the Nirvana frontman has been in the news frequently in recent months: Earlier in the year, his hometown of Aberdeen, Washington declared February 20th “Kurt Cobain Day” (and unveiled an odd crying statue). Meanwhile, Dutch brewing company Bavaria debuted a face-palm-worthy commercial that depicts the late singer-guitarist and various music royalty (Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Tupac Shakur) tossing back fruit-flavored beer in a bizarre tropical paradise. Cobain will also soon be honored in comic-book form: Writer-illustrator Jayfri Hashim will chronicle the musician’s early career and rise to fame as part of his Blue Water Productions “Tribute” series (which has also included issues on Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jim Morrison and Keith Richards).

In more imminent news, Nirvana will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside Kiss, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, Cat Stevens and Linda Ronstadt at this year’s ceremony. It will take place on April 10th at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Watch: Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, and Tupac star in the greatest TV commercial ever

Hey Jude.
 
 
Maybe the Seattle Police Department shouldn’t have been so quick to finish their reexamination of the Kurt Cobain death case. Turns out, he along with John Lennon, Tupac, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Bruce Lee are just chilling on a remote desert island, kicking back with a few cold Bavaria Radlers. Elvis looks like shit, John looks like Jesus, Kurt still dresses like it’s 1991, and Marilyn is seriously crushing on Tupac, who hasn’t aged one bit.

In truth, this nutso alternate reality is the basis for Bavaria Radlers’ incredible new commercial. Something tells me, though, that the Dutch beer company didn’t secure the proper licensing to depict these iconic figures in their advertisement. So, watch it below before it inevitably gets pulled (via Dangerous Minds).

What is with European commercials being so god damn awesome?

Bavaria Radler Commercial