FMF Episode #9 – Nirvana

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DJ: Welcome to Feel Me Flow!  In today’s episode, we’re gonna jump into the world of Nirvana. We’ll start with a very happy birthday wish to Krist Novoselić; he turns 52 today!  Born in Compton on May 16th, 1965, the bass player for Nirvana migrated to Aberdeen with his family when he was 14.    It’s a good thing they moved, man, Compton would turn out to be a bit of a tumultuous place as the years went on.  To celebrate Krist’s birthday, we’re going to explore some of Nirvana’s influences, some covers of their tunes, some songs that inspired them, and some songs that may have been inspired by them.  

Nirvana formed in 1987 in Aberdeen, WA.  Kurt and Krist (then Kurdt and Chris) went to high school together and apparently became friends while frequenting the Melvins‘ practice space. After signing to Sub Pop in 1988, the band would eventually sign with David Geffen at DGC and release Nevermind in 1991 to an explosion of success.  The band was officially in existence for about 7 years, ending when Kurt Cobain took his life in 1994.  

Today’s episode gets loud and in your face; some songs are a bit gnarly.  I wouldn’t crank this one at work, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t play it.  Los Straitjackets are playing their cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” behind us.  The instrumental rockers rode the post-Pulp Fiction wave of surf revival in the 90’s.  

Alright, everybody, it’s time to tie your flannel around your waist, rip your jeans, and crank up the boom box; we’re gonna rock with the lights out. Here’s the band we’re all here for. Can’t have a Nirvana playlist without some Nirvana, right?  We’ll start off with  “About A Girl” from their debut 1989 LP Bleach.  Being their first LP, it’s the only one to not feature Dave Grohl on drums. Dave would join the band after Chad Channing quit in 1990.  Sounds very Pete Best-ish. Poor guy.  Oh well, whatever.  Nevermind.

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DJ: The Who finished up our set with their trippy track “Armenia City In The Sky” from The Who Sell Out.  Nirvana took a few cues from Keith Moon and Pete Townshend when it came to ending a show; these guys sure liked to smash their instruments.  Also, Nirvana would receive criticism for “selling out” their punk fan base when the band made it big.  Who cares though, right?  Imagine if we didn’t have the music of Nirvana in our lives.  We wouldn’t get awesome Nirvana covers.

Welsh band Manic Street Preachers suffered from a similar terrible fate to Nirvana by losing a founding member at the age of 27.  Lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richard Edwards disappeared in February 1995 at the age of 27 leading authorities to declare him legally dead in 2008.  The band trudged on, however, and in 2003 released a compilation of B-sides and unreleased tracks including the Nirvana cover “Been A Son”.

From 1994’s Wildflowers, we heard “Honey Bee” by Tom Petty.  When Tom was asked to play Saturday Night Live in 1994, he asked Dave Grohl to drum for the performance of “Honey Bee”. Dave obliged, bringing parts of Nirvana and Tom Petty together on one stage.

The first single that Nirvana ever put out was a cover of the 1969 Dutch band Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz”.  The Nirvana Love Buzz 7″ can be found for about $1,000 these days.  You could also just look for the Shocking Blue LP At Home, instead.

Now let’s hear from Charles Bradley backed by the Menahan Street Band doing a soul cover of Nirvana’s “Stay Away”.  Charles has some stellar covers of classic rock songs like “Changes” from Black Sabbath and “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young.  Look for the latter on our Gold episode…

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DJ: Nirvana bassist and future political activist Krist Novoselić would continue to play music  throughout his life, but maybe in not such high-profile acts like his first band.  He’d form Sweet 75 after Kurt died, and Eyes Adrift a few years after the dissolution of that band.  He dove into the folk world in the 21st century and released the self-titled album Giants In The Trees in 2017, one from which we’ll hear a song later.  Krist played bass on the Corin Tucker-led supergroup Filthy Friends’ song “Editions Of You”.

Krist also played bass on the 2009 Flipper album Love.  Flipper’s 1981 debut LP Album Generic Flipper would be listed in his “Top 50 By Nirvana” hand-written list (look out for more of those later on), influencing the band’s grungey and crunchy sound.  We played the lead-off cut from that 2009 LP, “Be Good, Child!”.

The Pixies were a huge influence on Kurt Cobain, and he’s even admitted to ripping them off.  In honor of that rip-off, we played “Gigantic” from their 1988 debut Surfer Rosa.  The song title apparently alludes to a certain man’s…endowment.  Kurt listed Surfer Rosa in the Top 50, too.

After Charles Bradley soul-ified Nirvana’s “Stay Away”, we jumped into more psych-soul with “Freddie’s Dead (Theme From Superfly)” from Curtis Mayfield’s enormously successful Superfly Soundtrack.  Coincidentally, in 1991, Wes Craven would release the 6th movie in the A Nightmare On Elm Street franchise; Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.  I think we all know by now that there is no “final” in horror movies.

Alright, let’s get into some power pop with a cut by The Knack from Kurt’s Top 50.  There’s definitely a common theme in his influences.  Distorted bass, noise, avant garde experimentation, heavy speed.  With the catchy bass hook, here’s “My Sharona”.

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DJ: Along with 5 other tracks (three by Meat Puppets, one by Lead Belly, and one by The Vaselines), Nirvana famously covered David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World” on their MTV Unplugged In New York LP in 1994.  The album would be the first to be released after the death of Kurt.  Here, we heard the original version from Bowie’s 1970 album The Man Who Sold The World.  

Before that, we heard a cover of “Lounge Act” by Bloomington, IN band Murder By Death.  The track was lifted off of Reimagine Music’s Nirvana tribute album Come As You Are: A 20th Anniversary Tribute to Nirvana’s Nevermind, which has a couple pretty great cover versions of Nirvana’s songs.  

Beat Happening’s “Indian Summer” was another “Top 50” cut from their sophomore 1988 release Jamboree.  The song is their most known and possibly most accessible, being covered by anyone from Ben Gibbard to R.E.M.

The remaining three Nirvana members teamed up with Paul McCartney to record a little jam session track during Dave Grohl’s Sound City movie.  The band also played the song at the Grammys that year.  They decided to call the track “Cut Me Some Slack”, which we heard before Beat Happening.

Our Set 4 Score this week goes to the Portland garage punk band Mean Jeans.  The band signed with Fat Wreck in 2016 after ten years together.  Back in 2014 the band contributed to the Robotic Empire Nirvana cover album series.  The label has put out tribute albums for Bleach, Nevermind, and In Utero. From the latter LP, but first to be released, here’s Mean Jeans with “Very Ape”.

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DJ: There ends another round of tunes from the influential “Top 50“. The Clash’s Combat Rock was featured on the list.  Launching the band to mega-stardom with “Rock The Casbah” and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”, the album would prove to be their most successful.  We played “Straight To Hell” from the LP, which most of the younger generation would recognize as the song sampled for M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes“.

The Vaselines were an indie duo from Scotland that put out two EPs and one short LP before disbanding in 1990.  They would reform later in the 2000s and continue to play.  We played “Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam” from their sophomore EP Dying For It, which was another “Top 50” listing.  

Nirvana covered The Velvet Underground’s “Here She Comes Now” for the 1990 Imaginary Records compilation Heaven And Hell Volume One: A Tribute To The Velvet UndergroundAgain, those avant garde, noisy sounds are present in the VU’s music, further inspiring our band of the hour.

Another track Nirvana covered in their early days was DEVO’s B-side to “Whip It”, “Turn Around”.  In 1990, the band recorded a few tracks (mostly covers) with John Peel.  The songs would make their way onto the 1992 compilation Incesticide just a couple of years later.

Fear front man Lee Ving wails on “I Love Livin’ In The City” from the debut 1982 LP The Fear Record.  Lee actually had a minor acting career in the 80’s too, and you might recognize him as Johnny C. from Flashdance, or Mr. Boddy from Clue.   That album was also a “Top 50” listing.  Let’s hear that wail now, with Fear’s ode to city living.

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DJ: As promised, that was Krist Novoselić’s newest musical outing Giants In The Trees.  The band consists of Jillian Raye, Erik Friend, Ray Prestegard and Krist.  They formed in the woods, play music about the woods, and absolutely love the woods.  The nature-based rock band released their self-titled debut last year, from which we plated the track “Paper Life”. 

Women-led rock groups started increasing in popularity again after the alternative wave of grunge and riot grrrl.  Courtney Love fronted one of the more famous groups in the genre, Hole.   We heard the first single that Hole put out, “Teenage Whore” off of their debut album Pretty On The Inside.   The LP came out exactly one week before Nevermind and was produced by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth.  

Before Hole, we heard Dave Grohl’s first band and recorded material Scream. The Washington DC hardcore act mixed elements of Iron Maiden with the Misfits and created a sound remeniscent of classic metal.  From that debut 1988 LP No More Censorship that’s now been remastered, that was Scream with “Something In My Head”.

Saccharine Trust’s debut EP Paganicons, where we got “I Am Right” from, was on the “Top 50” album list as well.  The EP was produced by Mike Watt of Minutemen and Spot, later from Black Flag.

Perhaps it’s fairly common knowledge these days that Dave Grohl spawned Foo Fighers after the death of Kurt Cobain.  He started recording what would become Foo Fighters songs as Late! and released the Pocketwatch cassette in 1992 featuring two future Foo Fighters’ songs; “Marigold” and “Friend Of A Friend”. We’re going to play a song from their 2017 EP, Saint Cecilia.  Here’s “Savior Breath”.

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DJ: Ahh we love a cover that totally twists the song into a new genre.  That was New York City’s Tribe Society doing “Heart-Shaped Box”.  The band released the EP 27 earlier this year and it features covers of 7 artists who died at 27.  Maybe we’ll play one of those tracks in another tribute episode.  

Before that, we played Sinead O’Connor’s version of “All Apologies”.  Coming from her 1994 album “Universal Mother”, one can’t help but wonder if she recorded it after hearing of Kurt’s suicide.  It sure is somber, yet quite a pretty version.  

Another “Top 50” track played before that; MDC’s “John Wayne Was A Nazi”.  MDC originally stood for Millions Of Dead Cops, but would eventually be changed many times to things like Multi-Death Corporations, Millions Of Dead Children, and more.   The band stood strong for anti-hate messages and human rights.  

Getting a namesake song in for the day, we heard Lagwagon doing “May 16”.  Taken from 1998’s Let’s Talk About Feelings, the track was featured on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 soundtrack along with other great pop-punk/hip-hop acts.  Lagwagon has been a Fat Wreck Chords staple since their debut in 1992, and singer Joey Cape and drummer Dave Raun are also members of Me First And The Gimme Gimmes.  

Well people, that’s gonna wrap up this week’s show.  Happy 52nd Birthday to Krist Novoselic; we hope it’s a great one!  Join us tomorrow on Feel Me Flow! It’s better to burn out than to fade away…

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