Classic Albums: Unplugged In New York by Nirvana

Well, I’ll write another post about a Classic Album. A lot has been written and said about this band and even this album over the years and with the passing of 22 years since Kurt’s demise this month I might have go at it myself, throw in my two cents on my thingy here. So to start with if I was to have to pick only one album of the small back catalog of this band, it would this one Unplugged In New York and you ask why that one? I guess, that’s what this post will be all about.

I do remember seeing it on TV before it was an album, before his passing away so I’m showing my age now but yes I was a teenage in the 90’s and have to say now it was the best time to grow-up. I remember all this stuff, it’s my memory too which might not be as good as everyone else’s. At the time it was so very different to now, it’s unbelievable in some ways. Anyway the TV show because that’s what it was, just a show on television, Nirvana’s Unplugged was played around Christmas time in Australia which would be a month or so after it was record in November in the States. We did get a lot of them and I taped almost of them on VHS, remember them?

This Unplugged one, I do have to say now was head and shoulder or even hips and waist or maybe feet and toes above everyone else’s ones. Every single band just came out and hammered-out the hits and tracks on acoustic guitars and I mean a lot of bands/artists did this TV show at the time. Which is fine and dandy, sometimes that’s really cool. Maybe only Neil Young‘s and Bjork‘s are the only other ones that was a bit different or something else happened but still nothing like what this band did and want we now know, it was all down to Cobain. Christmas time 1993 was odd time in the music businesses, a year or two or so now on from the underground becoming the mainstream. You could buy a newspaper with Kurt and Kim Deal wrapped in tinsel.


 I loved The Breeders, still do but at the time I have to say now I wasn’t the biggest Nirvana fan. Kim always looked totally cool, I think I just totally love her, if I could I would married her. But Kurt just looks pissed off and a lot of what I remember when he was alive he was just pissed-off asshole, just look at his face on the cover of the paper above. I was always like why Nirvana? And this was at the time, you know early 90’s from when Nevermind cracked the the number one spot on the albums charts, that’s what my option was and I told anyone and everyone too. Musically you couldn’t go anyway without them. It was like another band should have been that big or something anyway it was only a couple of years for Nevermind until seeing Unplugged, it’s nothing really in the big picture of everything, only a few quick months. Seeing that on TV that night, I still remember it, sitting and looking at a small square grey box and it was like all the planets aligning too. Before this the two studio album plus the collection of old stuff and the reissue of the first album, I was digging maybe Incesticide the best but maybe just for the fact it was less popular as all the other stuff released in that short time, I even had that one on cassette tape, remember them? I just found it other day too!

So back to that night in front of the idiot-box, It was unbelievable seeing it for the first time. It wasn’t like the same crappy TV show. Here in Oz it was played non-stop without ad breaks which I’ve been told happen in the USA on MTV at the time. Anyway with all those flowers on the stage which somehow surrounding it too and even lighting seem to be changed, the tone seem to be all blues and purples on the screen. Starting with those two songs are I guess the big hits but once they are out of the way, they never return any other ones. One of the biggest things was it wasn’t like the same band, the loud guitars are gone and everyone sit down on this TV show but it seem like some kind off, what’s the right thing to say? Like you were traveling in space and time to some unknown place! People have say before it was a funnel march or something but I don’t see/hear that and it’s only after he die people said that too. It’s lost that impacted now after repeated watching/listening it over the years but I still like listening to it now and remember how I feel on that first night watching. The main reason is that it was so different to everything else but I guess you could that about Nevermind or even some say it about In Utero. Then what happened next after Xmas 93 was very strange really, after the new year, you heard all these bit and pieces, stories about him, rumors mainly, unlike now where if you can google everything and anything. Off course we all now know what happened to him but time it was a all very odd, I still remember where I was when I heard that very bad news. It was the day after my Birthday too, you know? It wasn’t just like he just kill himself, it was like he kill me and everyone else in the whole wide world too! Where were you when heard that very bad news?

“Everyone knows it now Kurt” is what you want to say to him after his intro to About A Girl, it’s the one everyone loved from Bleach too, then Come As You Are follows. Like said before those are closest thing to the big hits and now are gone at the start of the album. They’re the perfect two hits to start it with too, you know what I mean? Any other ones would have been totally out of place on this record really. Then the two covers was the greatest tracks to play next. It was like the curve ball to throw but it never straight out after these, you just knew watching/hearing something totally special. It was like Kurt was directing traffic and he was saying park all your cars and get out and walk or he could be just sending them all off a cliff face too. “That was a David Bowie song” he intros the song to a new generation after finishing playing it. Same with The Vaselines, these were not popular tracks and even at time, questions like: Why did he played all those songs? What are these covers? Why is he not playing Smells Like or even Heart-Shaped? This was not really the done thing at the time, other reason why this album is so great album, it really did changed what bands could do live or even should be at the time.

The special guests of The Meat Puppets is not what MTV wanted or even the fans too but now think about what other guests appears on Unplugged or 90’s albums or even any live album is more well known? Can you name another one so great? I don’t think so! Finally that epic Leadbelly track to finish off the album was just so amazing and I couldn’t even say anything for hours afterwards. Watching the DVD years later, yes I have the album and the DVD which is the only double like this I own. Anyway in extras MTV director was running asking for an encore with maybe a hit song or something, Kurt was like No, no, no and I don’t think I can top that last song? or something like that. MTV freaking out because he had just rewrote the rule book right in-front of them and they just know what the hell just happen so they just freak out off course. The unedited version is really cool too, if I put the DVD on seems I always watch that one now. Huge gaps of nothing happening, waiting for that guitar which does take forever to be tuned.

That run of Cobain’s songs in the middle of the setlist/tracklistiing couldn’t be more prefect, he must a have been so careful in the selection of what to or maybe what not play would a better way of putting it. Two from In Utero then three from Nevermind, third track from Utero is played after The Meat Puppets bit and just before the very last track. With only Come As You Are, played earlier was a single from Nevermind, these you could even say were the less poplar from that record. It just highlights what a great songwriter he was take those less known tracks from that big record and give them new life here. The In Utero‘s songs two was singles but you do forget now how new that album was at the time. These days it seems bands can take forever and then some more to make a new album but the life span of Nirvana is like a blink of an eye and it’s over, it’s only five years, three studio albums, the first two or three years give or take is before the big break. Those are some of my fave tracks from those albums anyway so I might be a little biased, to me you couldn’t get a more perfect Nirvana setlist really, that’s what was so mind blowing back in around Christmastime 1993. Where were you Christmas 93?

I still remember buying it at a shop called 78’s in Perth the day it was released on CD about around almost a year later. Off course alot happen in that year, reviews of the albums some seem to be saying it’s only since his suicide that made Unplugged have more important but I was thinking it lost something since then, still I wanted too listen it again so that’s why I was buying it. It’s become one of the greatest live album of all-time since then and even just one of the greatest albums of all-time too. For me it just streamline Nirvana but then he was gone, as quick as those few months after crashing the mainstream, it was all over just as quick really. Rumors was around about this and that but some people was pretending it wasn’t happening which wouldn’t have help at the time. Then he was just missing and no one knew where he was even if he did just turned up at his own house and was there all by himself for days or could have been very easily. Anyway I’m talking about the album but I guess all that does get talked about when Nirvana’s Unplugged In New York is talked about.

He does seem to be less pissed-off on this album too, I wrote earlier above he always was an asshole in his lifetime or how I remember it the time, it was all filleted thought media like the newspapers etc. Media can get some blame sometime but here on MTV even if it was one of the biggest media outlets at the time, he seem to have put it to one side or a least for that night just so they could put on one of the greatest show ever filmed/recorded. No one could have save him I think he was always going to kill himself sooner or later. Some people also say about the drugs and blame them too. I even remember TV shows talking only days after it but I say it would have only made it a little easier to do it but people who taken that much heroin are self destructive anyway and don’t care if they die as long as it is a great fix or hit. You can disagree with me off course like I was saying at the very start of the post, it’s just my two cents and that’s all. Anyway after he was gone I did put up a poster on my teenage bedroom wall of him, it was this image:


  I haven’t talked about the rest of band so far, Dave Grohl‘s drumming is perfect here but all his Nirvana recordings are, Krist Novoselic bass playing too and that accordion is amazing. Pat Smear as the extra guitar player was fine extra too and the beautiful cello playing by Lori Goldston. All those players make it a great album too. I fine it really interesting that Nirvana did only played one set. Almost all unplugged the bands/artists would do two sets of the same songs and MTV would pick out the best performs of each track. They did a rehearsed before but wasn’t the most successful one because it had alot of mistakes and sometimes they didn’t even make it all the way though some songs but once they all sat down and the cameras started to roll, you get want you see and/or you can see all of it on that unedited DVD version. Then when the last song was played it was all over and they never when back for take two. I guess in the end even with doing something different, all the covers and lesser known songs it’s still Nirvana, one of the biggest bands in world and the biggest from the 90’s but the point was he was still pushing that envelope again here.

Unplugged In New York track listing and times:

1. About a Girl – 3:37
2. Come As You Are – 4:13
3. Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam – 4:37
4. The Man Who Sold The World – 4:20
5. Pennyroyal Tea – 3:40
6. Dumb – 2:52
7. Polly – 3:16
8. On A Plain – 3:44
9. Something In The Way – 4:01
10. Plateau – 3:37
11. Oh, Me – 3:26
12. Lake Of Fire – 2:56
13. All Apologies – 4:23
14. Where Did You Sleep Last Night – 5:08


What do you think about this album? Do you wanna say something about this album too? Why not leave a reply now?


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