September 23, 2021
by Joey Spehar
Nirvana has been my favorite band since I was a little kid. I grew up in a family business so I always had a job and a little bit of spending money and in the summer, my brother and I would hop on the bus and head downtown to hit up stores like National Record Mart, Hari’s Krishna, and Eide’s Entertainment looking for cool stuff to blow our money on. I’ve lost a few good ones through the years, but here’s a look at some of my favorite, off-the-wall Nirvana things to listen to.
Nevermind: The Singles was released for Record Store Day in 2011. It features the four commercially released singles from Nevermind on 10″ black vinyl.
I loved tapes as a kid, but they were also super stressful. What if you looked at the insert too much and it fell apart? What if you folded it up the wrong way and it fell apart? What if you left it on the dash of your mom’s ’92 Buick and it melted into a soft, globby mess??
Pansy Division is a cool punk band out of San Francisco that recorded for Lookout! Records in the 80’s and 90’s. They’re known for being one of the first openly gay rock bands and wrote a lot about LGBT issues. Nirvana were outspoken in their support for the rights of women, LGBTQ people and other minorities. Pansy Division re-recorded Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with new lyrics and called it “Smells Like Queer Spirit.” If “Weird” Al’s parody is the only one you’ve heard, check this one out!
Seventh Heaven is a bootleg recording of a Nirvana concert from the Bristol Bierkeller in the UK a few months before Nevermind was released. It doesn’t sound the best, but it’s fun to imagine being in the room with the band that was about to take over the world.
I used to have a ton of weird, cool, unique Nirvana CDs, but over the years a few have gone missing. I wish I still had the Outcesticide series which was full of rare radio appearances and other studio outtakes. I kinda wish I still had the infamous K-Mart/Walmart edition of In Utero with the song “Rape Me” changed to “Waif Me.” But, alas, the ones I actually listen to the most are here. B-Sides Themselves is a great collection of b-sides and the Tour Over Europe 94 bootleg is a killer-sounding recording of a show that took place in Rome just over a week before Kurt Cobain ended up in an Italian hospital for an accidental overdose.
I picked up this vinyl copy of the live album From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah from National Record Mart in Ross Park Mall the day it came out. Years later, I picked up an interesting looking import of the album (notice the “100% unofficial product” marker) only to find that there wasn’t another record inside, but a CD.
Bootlegs are fun. They usually don’t sound that great, but they’re fun to look at. Your Opinion features Nirvana’s only Velvet Underground cover while A Tribute To The Vaselines gathers a few cover versions of Kurt’s favorite Scottish band which would become more well-known after they were performed on MTV Unplugged in New York.
The “Priest” They Called Him was a collaboration between Kurt Cobain and writer William S. Burroughs. Burroughs reads his short story “The Junky’s Christmas” – about an addict looking to score on Christmas Eve – while Kurt plays a noisy rendition of “Silent Night” underneath. I usually listen to it once a year, on Christmas Eve. The signatures carved into the back weren’t done by the artists, but it’s fun to imagine they are.
Nirvana’s followup to Nevermind – In Utero – was rereleased in 2013 with a new mix. It sounds incredible and I very often throw it on LOUD when I’m feeling a little mad. It always helps with blowing off steam. The next year, the single for “Pennyroyal Tea” and “I Hate Myself And Want To Die” (a tune that originally appeared on the soundtrack for Beavis and Butthead Do America). I got this from a couple listeners I met in line in front of a Pittsburgh record store.