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10 things we learned from 20th anniversary reissue of Nirvana's Nevermind

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Nirvana‘s classic Nevermind, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is re-released on 26 September in a variety of versions, from a simple digital remaster to a 4CD/1DVD box set. Being adventurous types, we tore straight in to the Super-Deluxe Edition to search for ten hidden gems.

1. Album track Breed was originally titled Immodium, as in the diarrhea medication. It sounds suitably sludgy too.

2. One of a number of tracks demoed with Butch Vig at Smart Studios in April 1990, Lithium was originally laid to tape on an acoustic guitar – you can even hear the sound of Cobain‘s fingers squeaking on the strings during the extended intro. Dave Grohl is absent – the incoming drummer joined the band later that year.

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3. The rage-fuelled Stay Away was originally titled Pay To Play, a protest against the prevailing trend for bands being asked to stump up cash for good performance slots. “Monkey ass motherfuck/I don’t know why I/I don’t know why I pay/Pay to play,” it says.

4. Apparently, Mark Goodier was once cool – the set includes a blistering live session version of Drain You taken from his Radio 1 show.

5. Evidence of Kurt Cobain‘s sardonic humour can be found in the his working titles – a track named Sappy was originally recorded as Verse Chorus Verse.

6. “The Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath.” That’s Cobain‘s description of Nirvana‘s sound on the album’s original press release, one of many artefacts reproduced in the extensive liner notes.

7. Home recording technology has come on a long way. The Boombox Rehearsals – eight tracks recorded to cassette on a ghetto blaster as a way of bringing producer Vig up to speed with their latest material – are fascinating historical documents but horrible to listen to as they hiss, pop and stutter in and out of stereo. They are, however, the first place you’ll hear incoming Dave Grohl in situ and embryonic versions of On A Plain, Smells Like Teen Spirit and Come As You Are.

8.Nirvana weren’t for wasting quality material on B-sides. Those included here – Even In His Youth, Aneurysm and Curmudgeon – aren’t worthy of space on the album proper, and the rest are live tracks.

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9. “If anyone has a problem with his dick we can remove it.” These words are pencilled above an early print of the photo that became the album’s iconic cover, at this point missing the dollar bill hanging from a fishing line which is contained in the deluxe edition’s sleeve notes. The penis in question, belonging to three month-old Spencer Elden (his parents were friends of the photographer), remained, much to the outrage of US supermarkets Wal-Mart and K-Mart, who initially refused to carry it in stock. Elden has apparently started a nice side-line since, charging for interviews about said nudity.

10. Too much choice can be difficult. Will you listen to the crispy original version of the album, produced by Butch Vig and mixed by Andy Wallace, or the crunchy Devonshire Mix, produced and mixed by Vig? We suggest you try both – and play spot the difference.

Dan Stubbs

See Nevermind20.com for more details on the reissue.


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