Today in 1993, a moment in music history was recorded after a tense few hours at MTV headquarters.
Yes, now you can find Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance on CD, DVD, and YouTube readily available – but in 1993…this little gem was an excuse to gather around your TV.
Krist Novoselic, a scrawny Dave Grohl, and Kurt Cobain (four months before his death) rehearsed for what MTV wanted to be a set of their familiar hits, but unplugged. Of course, they had something else in mind as they got ready to record with tension between band members and the MTV crew.
Rehearsals supposedly lasted three hours with Kurt getting more and more frustrated with a buzzing sound and tuning.
Kurt Cobain had requested that the MTV set be decorated to look like a funeral with flowers and candles. When fans in the crowd would yell out a request, he would bite back with sarcasm:
“You want me to play ‘In Bloom’ acoustically?!”
The first song was About a Girl – at the end of the song Kurt gazes right into the camera with an awkward forced smile, which he later asks producers to edit out so their manager doesn’t get mad.
Dave Grohl was NOT the Dave Grohl we’re used to today. He tried to remain unseen and quiet in the background looking to avoid angering Kurt.
At one point, Kurt requests that Grohl doesn’t touch his stripped-down drum kit for Penny Royal Tea because he wanted to play it alone. He got that message across by swinging around, looking at Dave and going,
“Am I going to play this, alone?”
As if they’d already discussed that and Dave wasn’t listening. Dave tries to stay cool and asks Pat Smear for a smoke.
For Where Did You Sleep Last Night, the last song – a Lead Belly cover, we really hear his struggle with anxiety and the drugs:
Listen to the final line:
“I would shiver the whole night through.” His sound is off, his voice cracks, the band notices and stops for a moment, wondering if he will even finish the song.