I can’t believe Kurt Cobain has been dead for 14 years. Both he specifically and Nirvana in general were big influences on me growing up, and that influence clearly bled into the narrator and the book. And how about this for an illustration of time travel cause and effect in action: One could make an argument that if Jon Mack hadn’t left me with extra tickets when he decided to skip out on a Nirvana concert one fateful night in 1993 so he could go to a high school dance (“I’ll see them next time around” was his reasoning), there might not even be a Timely Persuasion at all. Talk about a butterfly effect…
I’ve not so coincidentally timed the commentaries so we’d reach the Kurt Cobain chapters this week. But before we get to those, here’s something else. For a fleeting moment early on I flirted with having the Local Boy songs only be Nirvana covers, but it never got past the idea phase. To be honest I can’t decide if it would have been better or worse. Figured today would be an appropriate day to explore what might have been with a rundown of essential Nirvana filtered through the folky acoustical lens of Local Boy. Selections and liner notes below.
LBDN: Local Boy Does Nirvana
On A Plain
I distinctly recall my excitement when this was played on Unplugged, as it was both unexpected and perfect at the same time. This was originally the Nirvana track chosen for Local Boy back when the songs skewed towards “famously covered,” but I felt it was too obvious and changed it to “Lounge Act” for the final draft.
This has gone back and forth for me over the years, but I think I can finally cement in writing that it’s my favorite song on Nevermind. Thus why it ended up being the Local Boy choice in the book. I can vividly hear the Nevermind/Rubber Soul hybrid version described in my head, but I’d be doing it a disservice by attempting to articulate it further.
An underrated B-side that I was this close to using for Local Boy, but I was worried that people either wouldn’t know the song or if they did they wouldn’t believe it could be done acoustically. Almost makes me want to learn guitar to prove my vision. This is another that I can clearly hear in my head as a beauty all stripped down, though I think Kurt would be disgusted if he knew that.
Oh, The Guilt
Probably my favorite rarity and another that was under consideration for Local Boy initially, but abandoned for the same reasons described in “Curmudgeon” above.
About A Girl
A no brainer to be played in a folk rock style, but impossible to omit. The Beatlesque comparisons are spot on, and something that has always made me appreciate music criticism.
The trippiest song in the Nirvana catalog and one that every musical loving instinct I have tells me I should hate, but I’ve dug it since the first time I played Incesticide. Has to be included in an all-Nirvana Local Boy set, detractors be damned.
An overlooked Bleach song I’ve always been partial to. I hear this toned down in a bit of a Lou Reed Velvet Underground style, doing the chorus like the verses of “Temptation Inside Your Heart.”
There’s a part on the uncut Unplugged In New York DVD where Kurt sarcastically says “How are we supposed to play ‘In Bloom’ acoustic?” in response to a request. (Odd since he once did an acoustic “Negative Creep” at an in-store.) When I first heard that I took it as a dare and was up for the challenge. Here’s how: Play “Be Here Now” by Mason Jennings but use the lyrics to “In Bloom.” Spooky how perfectly they fit…
When I first started collecting B-Sides and rarities this was my holy grail. Never understood why it wasn’t the first B-Side, or even A-Side for that matter.
An odd choice, but I think I can articulate this one. Imagine the main riff finger-picked in a Nick Drake style, with the lyrics not much more than a slow and grainy whisper ala M. Ward. Can you hear it?
Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle
In Utero being a more aggressive screamer of an album makes acoustic translations tough without going for obvious choices like “All Apologies” or “Dumb,” so I’ll take this as my surprise token eastern song.
This one could totally be pulled off almost as is in a very straightforward acoustic number. A bit of a shame to downplay Kurt’s best recorded scream, though maybe Local Boy could get away with it if it was the encore.