Nevermind at 30

1991 the year that punk broke

I feel stupid and contagious, here we are now entertain us, a mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido, vay, vay, a denial, I’m worst at what I do best and for this gift I feel blessed. I found it hard, it was hard to find, oh well, whatever, Nevermind.

From inlay of 20th anniversary deluxe edition of Nevermind.

On 24 September 1991, Nirvana released their second album, Nevermind on Geffen Records and turned the rock world on its head.

Produced by Butch Vig and the first to feature new drummer Dave Grohl who had replaced Chad Channing, this album was a more polished, radio-friendly sound to their debut album, Bleach.

Prior to the album coming out I had never heard of Nirvana, in fact I was totally unaware of the US underground scene as towards the late 1980s and early 1990s I was listening to a variety of heavy metal like Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Guns N’Roses, Queensryche and even the funk metal crossover appeal with the likes of Living Colour and Faith No More.

By the summer of 1991, the biggest albums I was listening were the Black album by Metallica and Use Your Illusion 1 and 2 by Guns N’ Roses.  Incredible to think that nearly a week later Nevermind was soon to be released.

At the end of September the album shot straight into the UK chart at no.36 but would probably have sold more at the time if Geffen had pressed enough copies in the UK, only 6,000 at the time of release. Priority seemed to have been more towards Guns N’Roses double album by them.

I came across Nevermind reading about it in the metal press.  I was a bit sceptical at the time but somehow, I was intrigued by this band Nirvana.  I hadn’t even heard Smells Like Teen Spirit.  I really was in a bubble but on sheer impulse alone, I bought the album, and I was blown away with it.

The impact the album had on me was incredible from the start when it begins with the Pixies inspired Smells Like Teen Spirit to the end with the spin chilling Something In the Way, suddenly when you leave the CD running on a bit longer than normal that you get the fright of your life when from out of nowhere the chaotic feedback of Endless, Nameless starts howling through the speakers.

In a short space of time the overblown hype of the Guns N’Roses double album would soon gather dust in my collection while I embraced the new sound that was coming from the alternative rock world.

When Kurt Cobain talked about the influences of the record from the likes of Pixies, REM and The Melvins I started to take notice.  When I told one of my colleagues in work that I was getting into Nirvana he recommended two Pixies albums to me, Doolittle and Bossanova.

Both albums I took to straight away and I could see where Cobain was coming from when he cited the band as an influence especially with the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic.

The album really does celebrate everything about music – mainstream pop, punk inspired hard rock and even acoustic numbers like Polly and Something in the Way.

In the winter of 1991, the band were due to play Belfast for the first time at Conor Hall which is part of the Art College. Ticket was on £6.50. But promotional duties got in the way of that gig and they were scheduled to perform on the Jonathan Ross show instead which meant the Belfast show got cancelled.

The final European dates of 1991 were cancelled in December as the band were exhausted with touring and promotion of Nevermind. Thankfully, they did come to Belfast and it was worth the wait when they came in the summer of 1992 playing at the much larger King’s Hall.

One only wonders if the gig at Conor Hall had never been cancelled it would have been some gig.

By 1992 the album had become an unexpected critical and commercial success reaching number one in the Billboard charts and knocking off Michael Jackson from the top spot.

Legacy of the album

The full effect of the album began to change my taste in music.  While still liking metal I didn’t quite abandon it overnight and go the other direction.  I was suddenly finding new bands to get into – Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, Jane’s Addiction, Sonic Youth, Belly, Pavement, Helmet to name but a few.

Pearl Jam were often accused of jumping on the grunge bandwagon.  In fact, Ten was released a month before Nevermind.  You could say I got into Nirvana first and then Pearl Jam followed.  For me this wasn’t a Rolling Stones vs Beatles moment.  I could appreciate both bands for what they were.

The shift in music also changed how I viewed music at home.  For so long, U2 were my favourite Irish band but after Nevermind came out I would discover bands like Therapy? whose influence owed more to the US underground scene and also Ash who were at the same concert I was at when Nirvana came to Belfast in the summer of 1992.

The cultural impact

Nirvana’s breakthrough sparked a media frenzy eager to bring the band to the masses.

Their infamous world live debut on Channel 4’s The Word performing Smells Like Teen Spirit on 11 August a few weeks prior to the debut at the Reading Festival, had Kurt Cobain opening declaring to everyone “I want everyone in this room to know that Courtney Love, the lead singer of the sensational pop group Hole, is the best f**k in the world”.

By the autumn of 1991 the band were invited to perform on BBC’s Top of the Pops. I was never a fan of the format because you knew that the acts on it were lip syncing and not performing live.

When Nirvana were asking to lip sync to Smells Like Teen Spirit they refused but what we got instead was the band barely pretend to play their instruments while Kurt changed the opening lines of the song to: “Load up on drugs, kill your friends” while singing in a very deep Morrissey-like voice.

It was very funny and not something the Top of the Pops audience would be used to.

On the Tonight With Jonathan Ross they were supposed to play Lithium but instead broke out into a very loud and raucous version of Territorial Pissings, finishing by thrashing the stage and leaving only the sound of feedback in their wake. Ross was probably stunned at what he had just witnessed and probably wouldn’t have known the difference that they played a totally different song to what was expected!

In 1992 Dave Markey directed 1991: The Year Punk Broke featuring Nirvana’s label mates Sonic Youth on their European tour of that year.  The film also features Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Babes in Toyland, Gumball and The Ramones.   In many ways it kind of gives credit that Nirvana were the trailblazers for the new alternative scene coming from the States.

Also released in 1992 was the romantic comedy Singles written and directed by Cameron Crowe.  While the film focuses on a group of young Gen X’ers in Seattle at the height of the grunge phenomenon it is very noticeable that Nirvana are not even name checked nor appear in the movie.  Instead, it focuses on the likes of Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.  For me this wasn’t a bad thing.  I didn’t think much of the movie but the soundtrack was excellent.

By 1993, grunge and alterative rock had really taken a foothold.  Even the BBC documentary No Nirvana which showcased the best of the US alternative scene was maybe a bit late catching on as by the time I had seen the programme most of the bands on it I was already listening to.

The pun in the title No Nirvana was very telling but you could tell by watching that that were more fantastic bands out that that deserved some success and recognition.

Thirty years later and this album still is my favourite of all time. It was a case of right time and place when it was released. It changed how I listened to music and introduced me to other bands that I would probably never have dreamed of listening to.

You can watch the really excellent documentary, When Nirvana Came to Britain, which aired on BBC recently. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000zx9h

Speakeasy is 1

Happy birthday to Speakeasy fanzine who have turned one this month.

Yes, 12 months ago this fan driven platform on Twitter has produced a really great fanzine for music fans of a certain era, normally the 90s.

I got involved, bought some issues and then subscribed to it. Last year I I asked them if they would like me to write an article for a future issue. The response from Cris and Faye was very positive and they said yes for me to submit an article. Instead of taking any of the articles from the blog, I decided to write a new article from scratch and keeping in theme with the 1990s I wrote about the Irish scene here, entitled More to Life Than U2.

Thanks to the editing and proof reading and a few queries from Jeremy, I can now share below the printed article.

This was published in the April 2021 issue earlier this year. I am really pleased with this and I hope you like reading it too.

It was a great feeling to see something you have wrote being printed. I enjoyed the experience and am currently submitting a new article so watch this space.

You can follow Speakeasy on following social media platforms:

Twitter at @Speakeasy_Zine.

Facebook – Speakeasy Fanzine

Instrgram – Speakeasy_Zine.

If you would like to buy a copy or even subscribe at speakeasyfanzine.bigcartel.com you will get a great wee read for £1.

Again, I would like to acknowledge the support of all involved with the fanzine – Cris, Faye and Jeremy for the encouragement to write this and to so help shape it in the way that it came out. Thank you!

Ash #FaveArtistTop15

My third attempt to do a top 15 for the month of July organised by @yesokwaitmaybe and @jasonsammis on Twitter was to feature Ash.

Ash have been one of my favourite local bands for the last twenty five years. I first took interest in them around 1994 and by 1995, they were supporting Therapy? at the Ulster Hall. This was months before their debut album 1977 was released and also prior to that they had released a clutch of great singles leading up to the album.

Before 1977 came out, Trailer was released as a mini album in October 1994. Two songs from my top 15 come from the album. Petrol (11) and Jack Names The Planets (9) are two great songs and regularly feature as part of the live setlist. Both songs were recorded while the band were still in school.

Ash were due to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary as a band with a tour last year. Unfortunately the pandemic put those plans on hold and I will have to wait until next year to see them.

As part of celebrating 25 years, both Petrol and Jack Names The Planets got the remaster treatment for the new promo videos below.

Debut album proper 1977 was released in May 1996. Drawing comparisons with The Buzzcocks, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., the album features six songs that make my top 15. Oh Yeah (2), Girl From Mars (3), Goldfinger (5), Kung Fu (6) and Angel Interceptor (8) are all great songs.

The album took it’s name from the year that punk rock broke into the mainstream and also when Star Wars came out. You can tell they are big Star Wars fans. You can hear the sound of a tie-fighter in the background at the start.

The difficult second album, Nu-Clear Sounds came out in 1998 and the band became four as Charlotte Hatherely joined as second guitarist. Considered a commercial and critical failure, the album for me is an underrated gem. A more harder approach than their debut which is not bad thing, it includes my favourite track from the album, Wildsurf (10) which has a Beach Boys vibe to it.

This live version from Later with Jools Holland on BBC is one of my favourites.

At this stage the band are on the brink and almost bankrupt but they regrouped and put together what was definitely the finest comeback album, Free All Angels (2001). Lead singles Shining Light (4) and Burn Baby Burn (7) are great singles. This is a good sign of a band that have a great knack for producing great singles.

Shining Light won an Ivor Novello Award for songwriting and Burn Baby Burn was named as NME single of the Year.

Meltdown released in June 2004 would see the last of Charlotte Hatherley’s involvement with the band and they would go back to being a three piece again. Choice cut from this album was Orpheus (12). A live favourite since it’s debut and it definitely has the road trip feel to it.

With only fifteen songs to choose from, two albums get a miss through no fault of their own. Twilight of the Innocents (2007) and Kablammo! (2015) have no entries to the top 15. Also missing the top 15 are the A-Z Singles series where they put out a single over a fortnightly basis, 26 in total.

The most recent studio album, Islands (2018) showed comparisons with The Beach Boys, The Ramones and even Derry legends The Undertones. Both Damian O’Neill and Michael Bradley from The Undertones provide background vocals for Buzzkill (14) which is a pure pop song which was the lead single.

As the countdown is slowly heading towards no.1, the next two songs are choice b-sides. Cantina Band (15) was the b-side to Girl From Mars. Being true Star Wars fans, the John Williams composed song gets the reworking by the band and it is fun song to do live.

Ash have been compared with loads of bands and they have often been compared to Weezer which is quiet a compliment. Only in Dreams (13) is a very faithful cover of the Weezer classic from their Blue Album (1994). The song was the b-side to Burn Baby Burn.

And in at no.1 is the non-album track A Life Less Ordinary which was Charlotte Hatherley’s debut with the band. The song was the title track of the Ewan McGregor/Cameron Diaz movie of the same name which came out in 1997 and my favourite track. Can’t say much about the film though!

Very much a fan favourite and it features heavily in their live sets, It is not too often you find yourself in the crowd when the band are playing live and it goes on on TV. Footage below is from Glastonbury 1999 which I had attended. I remember going down to the front with no care in the world going absolutely mad when this song came on. The video footage goes quite fast between stage and crowd so it was near impossible to spot myself!

The top 15 in order:

  1. A Life Less Ordinary
  2. Oh Yeah
  3. Girl From Mars
  4. Shining Light
  5. Goldfinger
  6. Kung Fu
  7. Burn Baby Burn
  8. Angel Interceptor
  9. Jack Names The Planets
  10. Wildsurf
  11. Petrol
  12. Orpheus
  13. Only in Dreams
  14. Buzzkill
  15. Cantina Band

Check out my Spotify playlist for the above. Sadly, the Ash cover of Only In Dreams is not available on Spotify.

Teenage Fanclub #FaveArtistTop15

My second attempt to do a top 15 for the month of June organised by @yesokwaitmaybe and @jasonsammis on Twitter was to do Teenage Fanclub.

One of the mistakes I kept making was the hashtag on Twitter. Going forward I have amended it to the correct one so that everyone can read it.

So Teenage Fanclub was my choice for this month and for a band who formed in 1989 with twelve albums released, their most recent one being Endless Arcade which I purchased recently. The tough task was to pick fifteen songs which I think do the band justice.

In the end my selections were dominated by Bandwagonesque (4 songs), Grand Prix (2 songs) and Songs from Northern Britain (3 songs). Probably my three favourite albums but there a few other gems in here.

My introduction to the band was when I saw them support Nirvana at the King’s Hall in Belfast on 22 June 1992. Up to that point I hadn’t heard of them but after seeing them live they became a new band to start following.

Kurt Cobain held the band in very high esteem citing Bandswagonesque as his favourite album. It topped Spin magazine’s 1991 end-of-year poll for best album, beating Nirvana’s Nevermind, their Creation stablemates My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, and R.E.M.’s Out of Time

It is very hard to describe what the band sound like. Their early sound embraces a type of proto-grunge on the first two albums – A Catholic Education and Bandwagonesque but they also owe a huge debt to the likes of Big Star and The Byrds which you can hear more in their sound in later albums.

Before Grand Prix came out, they were pretty much tagged into the alternative scene that was big on both sides of the Atlantic. Fallin (just missed out on my top 15) was a collaboration with American alternative hip hop trio De La Soul for the Judgment Night soundtrack featuring collaborations between well-known rock, metal and hip hop groups. The chorus was sampled from the song Free Fallin’ from Tom Petty’s 1989 solo album Full Moon Fever.

However hard people tried to pigeon hole the band, they were neither in the grunge scene nor did their fit into the Britpop scene by the time Grand Prix.

Around that time Liam Gallagher of labelmates Oasis called the band “the second best band in the world” — second only to Oasis. Songs from Northern Britain built on that success but they were far from a Britpop band.

The album title was a joking reference to Britpop, and everybody who thought we were part of that scene”. Norman Blake expanded on the title in 2016, commenting, “We just thought it sounded funny. No one calls Scotland “Northern Britain,” although technically it is.”

This is my top 15 Teenage Fanclub songs via Spotify. You can scroll down and enjoy all 15 tracks.

Bob Mould – #FaveArtistTop15

For the month of May and with lockdown easing for a lot of people @yesokwaitmaybe and @jasonsammis have brought the #FavArtist series down from 25 to 15.

This would be quite a challenge as I have gone for Bob Mould. Which an massive discography of this works from Hüsker Dü to Sugar and his solo material, 15 songs really isn’t going to cut it. So I have broke it down to five each which will give a fair balance of Bob’s output.

There isn’t much videos out there so I will do the top 15 below and at the end there will be a link to Spotify for you to check out the selections I picked.

I was pleased with the response on Twitter from fellow music fans and feel that the choices I have made were good ones. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did putting this together.

15. I Don’t Know You Anymore – Beauty & Ruin (2014)

I loved the video for this . Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists) swoops in and gives Mould some funny advice on how to reach the modern day masses. The sketch in the beginning is full of comic send-ups of modern culture, with Meloy giving Mould advice on how to properly announce a record on social media, utilizing everything the internet has to offer, from Facebook to Blorph. Mould portrays the straight man willingly, takes all the advice in stride, and begins work on making I Don’t Know You Anymore the hottest single out there.

The music video segment features Mould and his bandmates dressing up in genius bar style outfits, making deals with record store owners, and going out on the street with fliers, all in order to draw hype for their “one of a kind, limited edition single.” It’s a silly jab at tech fascination as he doesn’t actually offer anything digital, just the single packaged in an Apple Store box, but the crowd’s reaction to them at the end is priceless.

14. See a Little Light – Workbook (1989)

Following the demise of Hüsker Dü , Mould’s Workbook was a surprising U-turn, showcasing his ability to craft the same passionate pleas through the medium of twelve-string salutes. The uplifting, life-affirming See a Little Light may be a little too positive for Mould purists, but it’s an anthem in itself and still resonates today.

13. Could You Be The One? – Hüsker Dü Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987)

Hüsker Dü at their melodic best . The last real gasp from a band that was about to hit the wall on their final album.

The video that was filmed for the song was the band’s only video that had them performing on a sound stage as opposed to featuring live clips of them playing. The song was also performed on The Late Show With Joan Rivers

12. The Descent – Silver Age (2012)

This was the real return everyone wanted – Mould at his punk-infused, bile-spitting best. The Descent was that first glimpse of the rekindled flame, a Sugar-esque six-string blast that’s perfectly anchored by Mould’s unbeatable rhythm section of Jon Wurster and Jason Narducy.

11. Makes No Sense at All – Hüsker Dü Flip Your Wig (1985)

Flip Your Wig is Mould’s favorite record from Hüsker Dü. The album was named after a Beatles board game! By this stage the band had signed to Warner Brothers but out of respect for their previous label, SST they released it with them.

Makes No Sense at All is a super simple song. One of those handful of songs in Mould’s catalogue that has so far stood the test of time and he never gets tired of paying it.

10. Sweet Serene – The Last Dog and Pony Show (1998)

Mould was tired of his imposed identity as the angry young man of rock. The Last Dog and Pony Show was a consolidation of his strengths – heart-heavy lyrics, pounding melodies and a load of guitars. Sweet Serene is the pick of the bunch, a ramshackle ride that’s aided by Mould’s twisting, turbo-charged fretwork.

9. Tilted – Sugar Beaster (1993)

At first listen you think Beaster is going to be an acoustic album but Come Around lures the listener into a false sense of security until Tilted starts. A headlong plunge with Mould’s vocals tripping over themselves in a futile attempt to keep pace as the guitars take the listener further down into the abyss at break-neck speed.

8. I Hate Alternative Rock Hubcap (1996)

In the wake of Smells Like Teen Spirit all you have to do is take a look at modern rock in 1995 and you can guess what Mould is rallying about. One band got it so right that the whole world changed, and in four years, everyone flogged it to death. In 1995 Mould wrote this song, there were a lot of bands where he thought, “I f**king hate this band and wish they would go away.” The original title was, I Hate F**king Alternative Rock and Wish It Would Go Away. It was a little long, so he shortened it.

7. JC Auto – Sugar Beaster (1993)

Despite Copper Blue’s success, its immediate aftermath left Mould burned out by overwork and watching his relationship with his manager/boyfriend slowly crumble. He channelled this angst into Beaster, a six-track mini-album that arrived seven months after Copper Blue, and served as that album’s dark afterbirth, its lyric sheet using religious symbolism and Catholic angst as a route to wider catharsis.

Every bit Copper Blue’s equal – but an undeniably tougher listen – Beaster peaked on JC Auto, in particular its chorus, “I look like Jesus Christ/ I act like Jesus Christ/ I know I know I know I know”, barked over a breeze block-wielding riff and repeated again and again, until it feels like punishment or penance.

Beaster reached No 3 in the UK albums chart.

6. Hardly Getting Over It – Hüsker Dü Candy Apple Grey (1986)

The lyrics are very literal. It’s a very clear picture of a family and mortality in its different forms — family who pass away and how one handles it when it happens. A song I can relate to following the death of my parents six months between each other.

5. Changes – Sugar Copper Blue (1992)

Copper Blue was NME’s album of the year. Cathal Coughlan formely of Microdisney and The Fatima Mansions reviewed it on the 25 July 1992 edition of the weekly music magazine, “Sort of restores your faith in human beings, really. I’d be surprised if that wasn’t Single Of The Week.”

He wasn’t far wrong. NME included it in their end of year compilation album of the same year.

4. New Day Rising – Hüsker Dü New Day Rising (1985)

New Day Rising is the best pop record a hardcore band has ever made. This feels like a very odd statement considering the almost vitriolic power behind hardcore, but that’s what makes New Day Rising, and Hüsker Dü exciting—that a band could be have this almost punishing power, yet still have a strong melodic backbone to their songs, even if said melodic backbone is draped in fuzz and pushed by an intangible force.

3. The Act We Act – Sugar Copper Blue (1992)

Mould’s second power trio saw him return to electric guitar, and the opening track to Sugar’s 1992 debut LP Copper Blue was overloaded with enough hooks, riffs and flourishes to fill a lesser artist’s entire album. The Act We Act suggested My Bloody Valentine applying their ear-melting assault to the 12-string jangle and chime of the Byrds. Its perfect balance of might and melody set the tone for the album’s embarrassment of riches.

2. Celebrated Summer – Hüsker Dü New Day Rising (1985)

Released five months after Zen ArcadeNew Day Rising built upon its predecessor’s melodic flowering. The album’s standout found Grant Hart’s knitting-machine drums powering a whirlwind of fuzz-toned major chords, as Mould waxed nostalgic about summers past: “Getting drunk out on the beach, or playing in a band/ And getting out of school meant getting out of hand.”

  1. If I Can’t Change Your Mind – SugarCopper Blue (1992)

The stand out track from the album. Bob Mould knows how to write great rock songs but he also creates some well crafted pop songs.

The perfect end to my top 15. This track got to no.30 in UK charts.

Pearl Jam – #FaveArtistTop25

During the course of the month I have been following @yesokwaitmaybe and @jasonsammis on Twitter. Music fans would submit which band they were covering and the idea would be to upload a favourite song each day.

I liked the idea of this challenge so put forward Pearl Jam for my contribution. Going to be quite a task as Pearl Jam have so many songs. To help me put together my selection I took inspiration from Pearl Jam’s one and only visit to Belfast in 2010 which would be the first time I got to see them in my home city. After so many false starts, 2009 being my first Pearl Jam gig in London, this was a band I was determined to see more than once.

Pearl Jam gigs are epic in nature, some clocking nearly 3 hours on stage. So the Belfast set list is the inspiration but there will be some changes along the way.

Starting at no.25 we will work our way down the list until we get to no.1 I hope you enjoy my selections. I had fun putting this together.

25. Sometimes (No Code 1996)

24. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In a Small Town (Vs. 1993)

Took me two songs to get the grip on how to post. The first two I posted I didn’t upload any videos. Looking back, I couldn’t find any but I have just come across this clip of Eddie Vedder being interviewed by Howard Stern back in November 2020 where he goes both songs at his home

23. Better Man (Vitalogy 1993)

Originally written by Vedder prior to joining Pearl Jam. A story about a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. A personal song for Eddie. It was nearly given to Chrissie Hynde from Pretenders. Imagine this one getting away. It wouldn’t appear until third album Vitalogy was released in 1993.

I love this clip of Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder performing it live.

22. Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog 1992)

Temple of the Dog was a side project by members of both Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. It was a tribute to their friend Andrew Wood who died of a heroin overdose in 1990. Eddie Vedder had just arrived in Seattle and contributed the vocals on Hunger Strike with Chris Cornell. A powerful duet from two of the best vocalists in Seattle scene. I would love to have seen them both do this live.

21. Given to Fly (Yield 1997)

The first single from their fifth album which was another favourite of mine. The original clip I posted on Twitter is no longer available. Below is the audio of the single.

20. Sonic Reducer (Dead Boys cover)

Many Pearl Jam set lists include covers for their favourite artists. I picked this one by the Dead Boys which is a blistering track live. Gets even better when you have other Seattle legends Mudhoney (Mark Arm and Steve Turner) along with Kim Thayli from Soundgarden on stage belting this out.

19. Long Road (Merkin Ball EP 1995)

Not on any particular studio album, Long Road being a B-side on the EP. It features Neil Young and Merkin Ball is a companion to Young’s 1995 Mirror Ball album. Pearl Jam played with Neil Young at Slane Castle in 1996 which is one of the biggest regrets I have of got going to as I was out of the country at the time. Somebody get me a time machine!

18. Present Tense (No Code 1998)

This song penned by Mike McCready ranges from a somber introduction to a soaring jam towards the end. A fantastic track from the album.

“Have you ideas on how this life ends? / Checked your hands and studied the lines?” “Makes much more sense,” “to live in the present tense.”

17. Low Light (Yield 1998)

Written by bassist Jeff Ament and showed the collaborative nature of the band. This being one the stand out tracks from the album. It was Jeff’s idea of when the album got it’s title, Yield. I love this version of the song from the Let’s Play Two soundtrack.

16. Nothing Man (Vitalogy 1994)

We had Better Man earlier, this time Nothing Man also from the same album written by Ament as well. Jeff wrote the music which Eddie wrote the words to it. The songs all form a trilogy of sorts, the other song being Leather Man.

15. Release (Ten 1991)

This is a great set opening for any Pearl Jam gig. The slow build up just draws you in when you are probably expecting a more heavier or rockier number to start the gig. It really doesn’t get much better than this. Found this clip on YouTube from the first Pearl Jam show I was at. What an opener for your first gig.

14. Yellow Ledbetter (b-side to Jeremy 1992)

This song didn’t make the cut for Ten and would feature more prominently in their career later. A live favourite usually at the end of the gig when the lights come on and you can see everybody singing along.

13. Wishlist (Yield 1998)

The second most popular Pearl Jam song from Yield. Matt Cameron from Soundgarden made his debut with the band when they performed this song on the Late Show with David Letterman. Matt has been regular drummer since then.

12. Alive (Ten 1991)

Following their appearance on The Late Show for BBC, Pearl Jam were no longer unknown quantity. Their debut album Ten still hadn’t been released in the UK.

With no audience in the studio for Vedder to play up to, Pearl Jam took their opportunity to perform in front of potentially millions of people at home. This had a big impact on me with it being the first Pearl Jam single I went on to buy that I still have and also the album too.

11. Jeremy (Ten 1991)

Another solid cut from Ten. Vedder was reading a newspaper article and wrote the entire lyrics about a Texas teenager who’d committed suicide in his high school classroom on 8 January 1991. This version below from MTV Unplugged is brilliant.

10. Even Flow (Ten 1991)

By this stage Ten is starting to dominate the list and it is easy to see why. It is such a quality debut. Always a live favourite, you are going to be guaranteed a Mike McCready solo. He is in such great form here.

This clip from Reading 2006 makes me wish I had the strength of my convictions to have my stag weekend be at music festival. Instead I spent the weekend in Barcelona organised by my friends. Prior to going to Barcelona, I finally got my first ticket to see Pearl Jam in Dublin. Sadly it was the day before my departure to Barcelona and there was no way I was going to make it time from Dublin for my flight.

I had to sell my ticket on and managed to get a recording of Reading 2006. Barcelona was a great stag weekend but I think this would have been my major highlight!

9. Once (Ten 1991)

Watching the live footage of Pearl Jam during the European tour of 1992 is amazing and the TV highlights of Pinkpop festival in Holland are one of my favourites to watch.

This just looks class. The crowd is up for it, there are no mobiles (imagine!) and it just makes you want to have been in that moshpit.

8. Animal (Vs. 1993)

Another great track from Vs. The first line of the song “five against one” was almost the title of the second album but they decided on Vs. instead.

7. Go (Vs. 1993)

Vs. is now taking over the selections. If Ten is a great album, Vs. is a masterpiece. As soon as you put it on, the opening track Go just it just blasts out the speakers and grabs you by the throat.

6. Daughter (Vs. 1993)

Written by Stone Gossard, it was played for the first time with rough lyrics on Pearl Jam’s first appearance at Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit.

5. Indifference (Vs. 1993)

A great song that closes the album. “I’ll swallow poison, until I grow immune/I will scream my lungs out til it fills this room.”

Clip below is a duet of the song between Ben Harper and Eddie Vedder.

4. Black (Ten 1991)

When I originally posted this I was torn over which version to go for. For your visual pleasure, I have included the MTV unplugged version as this is as good acoustic. Such a great song that Vedder refused to allow it to be released as a single. Imagine the overplay of it on the radio.

3. Corduroy (Vitalogy 1994)

One of the band most beloved songs. The song was inspired by the artist seeing a replica of his favourite thrift store jacket selling for hundreds of dollars by a store eager to cash in on the grunge zeitgest. “They can buy but they can’t put on my clothes”.

2. Rearviewmirror (Vs. 1993)

This song is the first time that Eddie plays guitar on. A live favourite it really gets the crowd going.

“Saw things so much clearer/Once you were in my rearviewmirror”.

  1. State of Love and Trust (Singles OST 1992)

Of all the songs that made my list, this one stands out the most and is my all time favourite Pearl Jam song. Possibly left over from the Ten sessions, the song appeared on Cameron Crowe’s Seattle influenced movie, Singles. The band contributed two songs for the film, the other one being Breath.

The movie may not have been my favourite but the soundtrack album changed my direction music wise as it opened it up a bit more than just Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

You can also check out the originals in my Spotify playlist.

Foo Fighters at 25

Today 4 July, 25 years ago Foo Fighters self-titled album was released.

I still remember going to get it in HMV like it was yesterday.  I was really excited to hear what Dave Grohl was planning to unleash nearly 16 months since the death of Kurt Cobain and the end of Nirvana.  I knew they were not going to continue so it was a naturally progression for me to go from Nirvana to Foo Fighters.Foo Fighters

I was fortunate enough to have seen Dave play drums when he was in Nirvana and it was going to be interesting to see how he would do playing guitar.  In fact he had been writing music during the tours.  The debut album was played by Dave Grohl on all vocals and instruments apart from X-Static which featured Greg Dulli from Afghan Whigs on guitar.

The demo tape was circulated and hoping to keep some anonymity he choose the title “Foo Fighters” for the band name.  It created a lot of interest from record labels.  He then decided to form a band to support the album.  Naturally he would have looked at former Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic but both of them would decide against it. Krist would eventually turn up on a Foo Fighters record later, Wasting Light.

So the band initially featured Dave Grohl on guitar/vocals, Nate Mandel (Sunny Day Real Estate) on bass, drummer William Goldsmith with Pat Smear as second guitarist.

They made their first appearance at Reading Festival that summer playing in the smaller Radio 1 tent and it created a huge buzz as everybody there wanted to cram into a tiny tent to see the band make their UK debut.

The album produced four singles, This Is A Call, I’ll Stick Around, For All The Cows and Big Me, which I also bought.

With the success of the album and the European tour that autumn/winter I finally got a chance to see Foo Fighters making their Irish debut at the SFX Centre in Dublin that November which was also the closing night of the European tour.  It was a brilliant experience and I loved every minutes of it.  So good that at the end I bought a t-shirt from the show and 25 years later I still fits and I wear it at every Foo Fighters gig I go to.

In celebration of the release of this album and I am going to do my own Foo Fighters Gigography as well as my favourite albums below:

I have seen the band in total 11 times.  Below are some of my ticket stubs.

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November 1995 SFX Centre, Dublin

August 2000 Reading Festival

December 2000 Olympia Theatre, Dublin

July 2002 Witnness Festival, Co. Kildare

August 2002 Reading Festival

December 2002 Point Theatre, Dublin

July 2005 Oxegen Festival, Co. Kildare

December 2005 Point Theatre, Dublin

August 2012 Vital Festival, Boucher Road Playing Fields, Belfast

May 2015 Slane Castle, Co. Meath

August 2019 Vital Festival, Boucher Road Playing Fields, Belfast

The gigs I missed:

Trip to Tip, Thurles, Co. Tipperary August 1997

Ambassador Theatre, Dublin July 2002 (Witnness warm up show)

Slane May 2003

Marlay Park, Dublin August 2007

Foo Fighters Discography in order of favourite albums (not by release year)

The Colour and the Shape (1997)

Foo Fighters (1995)

There Is Nothing Left to Lose (1999)

Wasting Light (2011)

One by One (2002)

Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007)

In Your Honor (2005)

Sonic Highways (2014)

Concrete and Gold (2017)

The band were due to do a van tour this year to celebrated 25 years on the road.  Sadly with the pandemic all gigs have been cancelled so here’s hoping it won’t be too long before they are back on the road again.

 

 

 

 

Nirvana

Twenty-eight years ago today, Nirvana came to Belfast for the first time playing the King’s Hall.  They were due to play Belfast the year before but with the success of Nevermind it didn’t look like they were going to be playing small venues again.IMG_E4315

I was at the gig with my friend Paul.  I think he was just finished this GCSE exams at the time so what a gig to attend.

We were really excited for this gig.  Nevermind had changed everything for me and it was bringing other bands to my attention, like The Breeders (I would later discover Pixies after this) and Teenage Fanclub.

My recollection of the gig was that it was loud, mad and sweaty.  I was dripping from head to toe afterwards.  Possibly one of the best gigs I have been too.  I know a lot of people will go the sound in the King’s Hall was rubbish etc but when you are caught up in the moment you just go for it.

Only regrets after the gig?  Not going backstage.  Didn’t think we would have had a chance but some people did and I’ve seen signed tickets!  How I kick myself for that one.

Nirvana were due to come to Ireland again in 1994.  This time they would have been playing at the RDS which would have been a big outdoor gig.  At the time nobody wanted to go down and I didn’t want to go on my own.  Another regret.  Should have bought a ticket but would I have asked for refund following his death?  Maybe not.  That would be a good ticket to hold on too.

So where did it all start?

Nevermind was released on 24 September 1991.  It was a commercial success and knocked Michael Jackson off the top spot in America.

Nevermind deluxe

I had heard about the band but hadn’t actually listened to any of the songs prior to buying the album.  The album was bought on sheer impulse and what a great decision it was.  I was blown away by it and it opened the floodgates for the alternative rock revolution.  This was just about being at the right place and at the right time.

Nevermind produced four singles, two of them reaching the top 10 in UK – Smells Like Teen Spirit and Come as You AreLithium and In Bloom both reached the top 20.

At this point I was starting to collect singles so those four would be the first Nirvana singles I owned.  Got them mainly for the B-sides.

Track listing for the singles were:

Smells Like Teen Spirt – b sides Drain You, Even in His Youth, Aneurysm

Come as You Are  – b sides Drain You (live), Endless, Nameless (extra track at end of Nevermind)

Lithium – b sides Been  a Son (live), Curmudgeon, D-7 (The  Wipers)

In Bloom – b sides Sliver (live) Polly (live)

The success of Nevermind also produced other releases to cash in on the new found popularity of the band.

Hormoaning was an Australian only EP which was released in Australia and Japan during the bands tour there.  I remember seeing this in Makin’ Tracks and it was £30 for the CD which was an import at the time.  There was only 6 tracks on it and back then I couldn’t justify paying that much money for six songs.

I managed to get a copy of it on CD so it’s not a first pressing.  It got re-released in 2011 as part of Record Store Day on 12″ vinyl.  Only 6,000 numbered copies were released.  I was third in the queue at Head Records and they only had two copies of it and I got one!  Hormoaning

Four of the songs on Hormoaning are covers which had not been released previously. The remaining two songs are Nirvana originals which previously appeared as b-sides to singles for Nevermind.

Aneurysm and Even in His Youth,  two Nirvana original, also appear as b-sides on the Smells Like Teen Spirit single.

The other four songs are from a Peel Session, recorded for BBC Radio on October 21, 1990. Turnaround (originally by Devo), Son of a Gun and Molly’s Lips (originally by The Vaselines) appear on the Incesticide album. D-7 is a cover of the Wipers song.

Incesticide was released before Christmas in 1992.  It contained non-album single Sliver, demos, outtakes, covers and radio broadcast recordings.

incesticide

Songs such as Hairspray Queen, Aero Zeppelin and Big Long Now were unreleased at the tim are included here.

The rest of the album contained tracks from early single Sliver and Dive from The Grunge Years.

It is a really great album and it was one of my favourites after Nevermind.   I have it on both CD and vinyl.  The CD is pictured.

Now that I am getting into the band I can’t get enough of them at this stage so I have to go back to the beginning for the first album, Bleach.Bleach

Bleach was released by Sub Pop in June 1989.  This is a much rawer Nirvana compared to the Butch Vig production on Nevermind

My copy is a second hand oneIt would get re-released by Geffen in 1992 with two extra tracks.  My second copy is the 20th anniversary edition which includes a live performance from Pine Street Theatre in Oregon 9/2/90.

 

The third and final studio album, In Utero was released on September 21, 1993.  The band intended to diverge a bit from the polished production of Nevermind by bringing in Steve Albini to produce the record.  Word got out to Geffen who were not happy with it and felt it was not going to commercially viable.  Albini declined to alter the album which then lead REM producer Scott Litt to make minor changes to the albums song and remix the singles Heart Shaped Box and All Apologies.In Utero

The album was originally going to be called  I Hate Myself and I Want to Die before settling for In Utero.

The album got mixed views on it’s release.  I even remember my friends wondering what the hell was I listening to.  But their opinion on the band would soon change after this.

I have multiple copies of this. The original CD (pictured) which includes track 13 which doesn’t begin until 20 minutes, Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip as well as the 20th anniversary deluxe edition and the 2013 remix of the album.

Two singles were released from the album, Heart Shaped Box  which featured the B-sides Marigold, Milk It and of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip.

I never bought the second single which was a double A side of All Apologies and Rape Me.

Pennyroyal Tea was due to be the third single released from the album but the single was recalled following Kurt Cobain’s death.  It got re-released as a limited edition 7″ single for Record Store Day in 2014.

The Record Store Day release included the b-side I Hate Myself and Want to Die.

Live albums

MTV Unplugged in New York Unpluggedwas released on 1 November 1994.  The band would play many of their lesser known songs plus covers by the Vaselines, David Bowie, Lead Belly and Meat Puppets who joined them on stage.

The original release (pictured) featured 14 songs from the MTV broadcast).  I also have a copy of it on vinyl as well.

Another post-humous release is From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, Muddyreleased on 1 October 1996.  This album avoids all the songs previously used on the MTV Unplugged release so we get live versions of songs which have not been released before.

The 17 track album covers live cuts from all three albums.  There are some really great live tracks here.

The 1992 Reading festival was Nirvana’s final UK festival appearance.  After seeing the band live in Belfast, listening to the Radio 1 broadcast was the next best thing to experiencing them live again.Reading

My tape copy from 1992 is still intact and it was the most listened tape prior to the commercial release of Live at Reading on 2 November 2009.  My copy is the CD/DVD box set of the entire concert.

Reading tape

Other live albums

 Live at the Parmount which was released on vinyl on 5 April 2019.  I have the DVD edition of this.

The other one, Live and Loud was released on vinyl on 30 August 2019.  Again my copy is the DVD edition of this.

I also have one bootleg CD of the bands final gig in Rome from 1994.  I feel a bit bad actually owning this as you can actually hear Kurt Cobain yelling at somebody recording the gig!  This was way before everybody uses their smartphones at gigs these days.

Finally the last two items of my Nirvana collection are the best of album just called Nirvana with a black sleeve. Nirvana This compilation features the previously-unreleased You Know You’re Right.  It includes a chronological section from the three studio albums and the live MTV Unplugged album including a rare version of Been a Son and the Scott Litt remix of Pennyroyal Tea.  Definitely one for completists.

With the Lights Out Lights outwas released in November 2004 and contains three CDS and one DVD of previously rare or unreleased material including B-sides, demo, rehearsals and live recordings.

This is a very nice collection includes a 60-page booklet which contains liner notes by Thurston Moore of the American rock band Sonic Youth and journalist Neil Strauss, as well as photographs and a chronological catalogue of the band’s recording history, including studio sessions, television and radio appearances, live performances and home demo recordings sessions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pearl Jam – Atlanta, Georgia 3/4/94

Everyday I have been going through my CD collection whilst working from home for the lockdown and have been reconnecting with a lot of music I haven’t listened to in a while.

Today Pearl Jam were the soundtrack.  Going through my collection I pulled out Vitalogy, No Code, Yield, Binaural and Avacado to listen to but I came across a real gem in my collection in the form of a tape.

This tape is a recording of Pearl Jam’s legendary show at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia on the 3/4/94.  I have incorrectly put it down as 4/4/94 on my tape copy.

Front cover tape

I was a big Pearl Jam fan at the time and during the 90s I never got a chance to see them as it was just impossible to get tickets.  I managed to miss quite a few shows until I got a ticket for Dublin in the summer of 2006.  Sadly the gig clashed with my impending stag weekend in Barcelona so I had to give it up.  It wouldn’t be until 2009 that I finally tick the band of the bucket list.

Anyway, back to 1994.  Pearl Jam were on the road and were currently touring their second album, Vs. New songs from the next album, Vitalogy were premiered including Last Exit, Spin the Black Circle, Not For You, Tremor Christ, Nothingman, Whipping, Corduroy, Satan’s Bed, Better Man and Immortality on this tour.

This was a close as I was going to get experiencing Pearl Jam live but in my own house!  Radio 1 done the live broadcast in the UK and because of time difference the gig would be in the middle of the night GMT.  If memory serves me correctly, I think I was still up at 3am taping this.  The gig was also broadcast on radio in America and several other countries.

In order to get the whole gig on  tape, I used a couple of tapes to record the show and when I had them all the gig would split over three sides of cassette tape.  I filled the blank side of the tape of their MTV Unplugged performance.  I cannot remember how I got that recording.

The excitement to the gig was building and I was looking forward to sitting up, listening to the gig and taping it.  I really wanted to be there!  I literally had goosebumps listening to this.

The band opened up with Release from their debut album, Ten.  This tour was promoting the second album, VS and with the third album, Vitalogy was in the works, we got new songs like Whipping, Better Man and Satan’s Bed aired that evening.

The band were in fine form that evening and each song was played with fury and passion.  Pearl Jam at the time were involved with bitter dispute with Ticketmaster and you could definitely tell this was a band that had a point to make.

Mixing songs from Ten and Vs throughout the set, when we came to Daughter, Eddie Vedder added some lines from Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall Part 2.  The tag at end of song would be a staple of all Pearl Jam live shows.

Side two of my tape continues the concert with Daughter from Vs.  We get two more tracks from Vs and come back to a section from Ten – Garden, Black and Alive.  Inbetween those songs, State of Love and Trust from the Singles movie was played.  That is my favourite Pearl Jam song.

Leading up to the encore the band unleash a frenzied Blood that included snippets of Not For You from the forthcoming Vitalogy album.

At the first encore you can hear the crowd baying for more and the band come back on stage with W.M.A. from Vs played alongside with King’s X members Doug Pinnick and Jerry Gaskill.  New song Better Man which is a live favourite was next.

The band closed with a blistering version of Once and it is at this point the Radio 1 broadcast ends when that song finished.  There was another two encores that sadly we didn’t get in the UK.  I have included the set list at the end.

As well as being broadcast on the radio,it was released as single, Dissident which featured six songs from the gig.Dissident CD single

Four days after the gig, Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain was found dead at his home on 8/4/94.

From the joy of hearing Pearl Jam live for the first time on the radio to the sadness of Kurt Cobain’s passing.  The music lives on.

 

 

Pearl Jam set list Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA, USA April 3, 1994

Release, Rearviewmirror, Whipping, Even Flow, Dissent, Why Go, Deep, Jeremy, Glorified G, Daughter/Another Brick in the Wall part 2 tag, Go, Animal, Garden, State of Love and Trust, Black, Alive, Blood/Not For You tag.

Encore: W.M.A. with Doug Pinnick and Jerry Gaskill, Better Man, Elderly Woman Behind The Counter in a Small Town, Rats, Satan’s Bed, Once.

Encore 2 and 3 not broadcast on Radio 1. Sonic Reducer (Dead Boys cover), Porch/Androgynous Mind tag, Indifference.

 

 

 

REM – Monster at 25

I was late to the REM party.  Seemed to have skipped pass their big releases in the early 90s – both Out of Time and Automatic For The People fell below the radar as I was pretty much getting into the grunge scene at the time.  Nirvana may have opened new doors for me to find really great American bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, Screaming Trees, etc but not REM.

REM did actually come up even a bit earlier than that.  I remember speaking to some of the guys in my training course after I left school in 1987.  I was on two year course and it may have been in 1989 that I first heard of REM.  We were discussing music and I said I was a big U2 fan but the other guys were like REM are better.  I had never heard of them.  They had just released Green but I never made an effort to check it out.

Some of my friends however were into them.  I remember hearing Shiny Happy People for the first time and it annoyed the hell out of me.  Radio and indeed MTV played the song to death.  Good way to put you off listening to a band.

But it was a trip to America in October 1994 that I finally got into them.  I was travelling via Dublin airport and there was a delay in my flight which meant an overnight stay in a hotel.  I was flicking channels for something to watch and think it was MTV I picked up on.  They played What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? and immediately I really liked the song.

It sounded so different to previous REM songs that I heard but there was something about this song that I liked that I wanted to try the album.  The album in question turned out to be Monster which had just been released in September.  Monster

Monster turned out to be the first CD I actually bought whilst in America.  Bought a load of other CDs while I was out there too.  Could have easily filled the suitcase!

When I got back home I played the album to death.  Easily my favourite REM album although I have to say one of their most underrated albums. I can see why people don’t like it after listening to Out of Time and Automatic For The People.  It feels more like a rock album.  Not quite grunge, not quite metal, just a band rocking out.

Where do you start with the songs?  There are some great songs on this album, the lead single What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?, Strange Currencies, Crush With Eyeliner, Let Me In, Star 69, Band and Blame, I Don’t Sleep are all great tracks.  Those songs were my favourites but the whole album is great from start to finish.

In 1995, REM came to Slane Castle, County Meath as the Monster tour rolled into Europe.  This was my first live experience of seeing the band.  I don’t think they toured Out of Time and Automatic For The People so was their first tour since 1989.  But not without its problems as some band members suffered ill health on the tour.  A few dates were cancelled but Slane went ahead.

Not only were they touring Monster but whilst on the road had recorded New Adventures in Hi-Fi, which after Monster is my second favourite album.REM 95

They brought with them such a diverse bill for support – Oasis, Belly, Spearhead, Luka Bloom and Sharon Shannon all provided the music.  Only Oasis had the potential to upstage them but thankfully they didn’t!  The crowd kind of took to Oasis if they were the actual headliners.  Somebody threw a plastic bottle at Liam Gallagher and he nearly walked off stage.

Thankfully it all calmed down by the time REM came onstage.  Opening up with What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? the tone of the gig was firmly set in playing the new material from Monster, we got two tracks from New Adventures in Hi-Fi – Undertow and Departure as all as the big hits from Automatic For The People and Out Of Time.

One good thing about this gig was that it finally gave me an appreciation for those two albums now after hearing the songs live.  Country Feedback being my favourite from Out Of Time.

Of course they played some of their older songs as well Finest Worksong, Pop Song 89, So. Central Rain and closing with It’s The End of The World As We Know It.  This was just the perfect gig and of all the gigs I have been too nothing has quite topped this show!

Now 25 years on, the most underrated REM album is getting the 25th anniversary reissue.  The six-disc reissue will be released on 1st of November and includes a new mix of the album by its original producer Scott Litt. The new mix showcases Michael Stipe’s vocals more prominently.Monster 25

A statement from the band read, “The original 1994 version was dense in guitars and feedback with the vocals mixed within the sonic wall but on this alternative version the guitars are pulled back and the vocals pushed forward to create a more open sound and showcase often-revealing lyrics.”

Also included in the massive reissue are 15 previously unreleased demos, a 25-song concert recording from the 1995 Monster tour, a Blu-Ray consisting of the mid-90s concert film Road Movie, Monster’s music videos, liner notes with new band interviews, and more. A two-LP vinyl edition will also be available featuring the original mix and Litt’s 2019 remix.

The reissue can be pre-ordered here.  This is one reissue that I am definitely looking forward to!