Twenty years ago Nirvana released their second full length album Nevermind. Prior to the album being recorded the band nor their record label (then Sub Pop, before signing to Geffen) had no idea of the impact that the album would have. While initially it was pressed in smaller quantities, the album quickly climbed the Billboard top 200 charts eventually knocking Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album off the top spot. But would the album have had the same impact if it had been not re-mixed by Andy Wallace? The super deluxe edition of Nevermind that was released on September 27th of 2011 provides an inside look and insight into the events leading up to Nevermind’s success and also provides the listener with a plethora of material to wrap their heads around as Nirvana’s Nevermind hits the 20 year mark. It should also be noted that currently, Nevermind has re-entered the UK top ten album charts.
The set comes in a large vinyl sized book featuring glossy colour photos cataloguing Nirvana’s adventures mostly in picture form. Inside there are budget breakdowns, press releases, previously unseen photos, screenshots from Nevermind-era music videos, and the album cover shoot, and a reprint of a Melody Maker magazine feature on Nirvana and the Seattle scene at the time. If that isn’t enough there is the music which is provided in a variety of formats – one in CD form. There are four CD’s in the set and one DVD featuring a previously unreleased Nirvana Concert from the Paramount Theatre in 1991. The first CD features a remaster of the actual Nevermind album, and a collection of B-sides, that if you have been a die-hard Nirvana fan have most likely heard before.
The second CD is where the super deluxe set gets interesting. First it starts off with the eight song Smart Studios Sessions that Nirvana Did with Butch Vig (who would also produce Nevermind) in April of 1990. Through these eight songs we hear Nirvana with Chad Channing on drums, and in an early primalistic form, the songs sound like they come from Bleach-era Nirvana, which they do in a sense, but this form of Nirvana is one that is in transition. The listener is taken through early versions of songs such as “Lithium”, “Breed” (then titled “Immodium”), “In Bloom”, “Pay To Play” (which would become the song “Breed”), and a cover of the Velvet Underground song “Here She Comes Now”, “Dive”, and “Sappy”. From these demos the band decided to shop around in hopes of moving to a major label, but following the demos the listener is thrown right into yet another, early version of the Nevermind album. There are eight boom box demos, which were recorded by Nirvana in their rehearsal space in Tacoma, Washington in March 1991. Here we have yet more early versions of songs that would find their way onto Nevermind, with different lyrics and two tracks which never made the final cut of the album “Old Age” and “Verse Chorus Verse”. Ever since a snippet of the boombox demo of “Old Age” was leaked onto the internet many years ago, these demos have been greatly in demand by Nirvana fans. It should also be noted that on the 2004 Nirvana With The Lights Out box set, there are the studio outtake versions from the Nevermind album sessions of “Old Age” and “Verse Chorus Verse”, they do not appear on this set. Additionally, there was a version the band did of “Sappy”, which would be re-recorded and released at a later date, but the Nevermind recorded version remains unreleased. After listening to Nirvana playing some of the same songs back to back with different drummers (Channing on the Smart Demos and Grohl on the boombox) there is an immediate change in chemistry to the bands energy. Through this CD we hear Nirvana’s evolution. At the end of this CD, two songs from a BBC session are tacked on “Something In The Way” and “Drain You”.
The third CD provides the listener with what is called The Devonshire Mixes. These are the infamous mixes that Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain had referenced in the past, saying that they were rawer and less polished than the final released Andy Wallace mixed version. The songs found on this CD are a more stripped down version of the Nevermind we have all come to recognize. While some of the tracks appear to not have much changes, several of the songs have noticeable differences, such as “Lounge Act”, Territorial Pissings”, and “On A Plain”. “Come As You Are” is noticeably less produced that the album version, while “Drain You” is different, yet doesn't have the same impact of the Wallace mixed version. The songs seem to have clearer vocals, a more raw/live feel to them, which when compared to the Wallace version is less produced, but at times lacks the impact that the final officially released version has. These were rough mixes that were put together by Producer for Butch Vig for the band to hear, which in this set provides us with yet another fascinating evolutionary stage of the album. Finally we are provided with a CD version of a live concert that is also provided in DVD form, which can be argued for its significance. But after delving through many demos, alternate/early versions of songs and alternate mixes, the 20th anniversary super deluxe edition of Nevermind ends with the band in its rawest aural form, live. Finally there is the Live At The Paramount DVD, which is a previously unreleased live concert of the band from October 31st, 1991.
This limited edition release is pricey but if you are a big Nirvana fan it is something that you will enjoy. Hearing the evolution of a band coming from the Seattle underground into the mainstream, we are provided with a lot of material to listen to and watch. There are also different versions of the release, such as the two CD deluxe edition of the album, a four LP vinyl box set, and a Blu Ray version of the Live At The Paramount concert. So what if the album was never re-mixed by Andy Wallace would it have had the same impact? The songs are there, they were being crafted by Cobain and the band in preparation. This is a question that at this point is irrelevant, it could be argued for on either side, but regardless of which you prefer the songs are there and the music is there. Good music is good music, oh well whatever Nevermind.
For more info on the band you can visit http://www.nirvana.com/ or Kerrang! Radio's 20 Facts about Nevermind.
The Play List:
1. The Libertines - The Boy Looked At Johnny
2. Dream Dates - Heartattack Rhythm
3. Psychotic Pineapples - Stranded
4. The Polymorphines - Bring Your Love Back Home
5. Wild Flag - Short Version
6. The Strokes - Two Kinds of Happiness
7. Nick Lowe - 36 Inches High
8. Brian James - Ain't That A Shame
9. Result - Suburban Addicts
10. Wayouts - Wild At The Beach
11. B-Girls - Angel Doesn't Shoot A Gun
12. The Dishrags - Can't Wait
13. Brazilian Money - Slowly Soaking Up Some Rays On A Sofa
14. Wilco - I Might
15. The Saints - Memories Are Made of This
16. The Velvet Underground - Beginning To See The Light
17. Nirvana - Sappy (Smart Studios Demo Version)
18. Nirvana - Territorial Pissings (Devonshire Mix)
19. Nirvana - Drain You (Live At The Paramount)
20. The Teardrops - Seeing Double
21. The King Khan & BBQ Show - Hold Me Tight
22. The Lyrics - So What!!
23. The Hentchmen - Ham & Oil
23. The Black Lips - Not A Problem
To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for October 4. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.