The Rock’s Backpages Flashback: Early Glimpses of Nirvana
Edwin Pouncey was one of the first UK journalists to tip Nirvana for the top. In these two 1989 pieces for NME — an interview published on September 2, a live review published on December 16 — Pouncey talks to and witnesses "Kurdt Cobain" and cohorts——Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock's Backpages
Nirvana: Kills All Known Germs
To reach Nirvana I first have to plug into the band's main man Kurdt Kobain.
He's hanging onto the end of a long distance phone line just itching to tell me his story.
"I started Nirvana because there was nothing else left to do," he explains. "I didn't like sports so a band seemed to be the last resort for something to do socially."
Kurdt's answer is casual enough, but hard to swallow when you hear the wonderful grungy pop that make Nirvana the next in line to the wildly popular Mudhoney. By the time they tour Europe with Tad this coming October, Nirvana's future as the next BIG thing will be in the bag.
If that sounds like this particular power trio are nothing more than a rockin' fashion accessory, then listen to Bleach, the first Nirvana LP. While Kurdt sings tenderly of girls and lost innocence, of youth corrupted and defiled, the other members of Nirvana plough a furrow of straight ahead rock groove.
My first encounter with Nirvana was through their astonishing 'Love Buzz' 45, a limited edition release that Sub Pop pushed out through their Singles Club operation. 'Love Buzz' and its B-side 'Big Cheese' (the latter appearing on the UK release of Bleach) had all the sounds of 'Pop Monster' ringing through it. Kurdt looks back on 'Love Buzz' differently, however.
"I wish we could have recorded it a lot heavier, it was one of our very first recordings. We weren't sure just what we wanted to do so it turned out kind of wimpy compared to our most recent recordings."
One of the things that was left off 'Love Buzz' in its transferral to LP was a couple of seconds of cartoon show soundtrack recorded straight from the TV. This gave it a surreal and crazy quality that fitted perfectly with the opening bass guitar blows. Why did you decide to ditch it?
"Just to make it sound a little different I guess. Originally it was planned to have twice as much cartoon stuff included at the beginning of 'Love Buzz' but Bruce [Pavitt: Sub Pop head man] didn't like that idea, he said it went on too long. I'm into children's records... I collect children's records and obscure things like that. I have a very small rock record collection."
Nirvana were a four-piece for the recording of Bleach, but with the exit of their last guitarist, John Everman, they are back to being a trio.
"We've always been a three-piece," explains Kurdt. "It's definitely not personal difficulties involved here... it's musical differences." Currently joining Kurdt in Nirvana are Chris Novoselic on bass guitar and Chad Channing on drums, a position that is also somewhat subject to change... "So far, we've had four drummers within two years!"
Hottest item this summer has to be the official Nirvana T-shirt with the band's logo emblazoned over what looks like a set of tree rings or perhaps a detailed cross section of a piece of bone. Neither of my guesses is right, however.