Nirvana’s set on MTV’s ‘Unplugged’ is arguably one of the most iconic live performances of all time, but right up until it began, the band members and MTV staff did not think it would work out.
The band was nervous, they hated playing acoustic, their rehearsals were trash, and, despite MTV’s pleas, they refused to play most of their biggest hits.
Despite all this, the performance turned into an incredible piece of music history.
Kurt Cobain hated how Dave Grohl was drumming during rehearsals, to the point that he almost banned Grohl from playing.
‘Unplugged’ producer Alex Coletti said in a behind-the-scenes documentary that the riff between the frontman and drummer happened because Cobain thought Grohl was drumming too hard.
“What I didn’t know up until the day was there was talk of Dave not playing at all in the show,” he said.
"Kurt wasn't happy with the way rehearsals were going; he didn't like the way Dave sounded playing drums with sticks."
“He's a heavy hitter, and the thing about 'Unplugged,' especially with rock bands, is if the drummer doesn't really, really get it under control and tries to play a rock show on a smaller kit, then it brings the show to a bad-sounding electric show instead of a good-sounding acoustic show."
Coletti fixed this by gifting Grohl some brushes and sizzle sticks, which Grohl utilised perfectly during the show.
Grohl himself admitted that he thought the rehearsals were a shit show.
“That show was supposed to be a disaster. We hadn’t rehearsed. We weren’t used to playing acoustic. We did a few rehearsals and they were terrible,” he told American Way magazine.
"Everyone thought it was horrible. Even the people from MTV thought it was horrible. Then we sat down and the cameras started rolling and something clicked. It became one of the band’s most memorable performances.”
Cobain and the rest of the band, normally known for being a pretty chill bunch, were reportedly extremely anxious in the lead-up to the show.
Nirvana’s tour manager, Alex Macleod, told Guitar World: “It was the first time I’d seen them all so nervous about doing something.”
"They were really nervous about doing ‘Unplugged’, because they were really leaving themselves wide open."
To squash his anxieties, Cobain asked people close to him to fill up the front of the crowd so he could just focus on them.
As we all know, the show turned into an absolute classic. After Cobain’s death, the band released the performance as an album, which reached number one in the USA, here in New Zealand, Australia, and many other countries.
Nirvana has had 24 of their songs appear on The Rock 1000/1500/2000 Countdown over the years, including nine appearances in the top ten, peaking at number four with ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
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