Number One With a Bullet

You know you're right, you can't lose with rare Nirvana

"Dolly": This song, an ode to Cobain's obsession with Dolly Parton, would remain virtually the same, though Nirvana changed the title to "Polly" after Parton threatened legal action when their mutual publisher ran the first line by her: "Dolly wants a cracker/Think I should get off her first."

"Rape Me"/"Too Shy": Recorded at the Palaghiaccio in Rome on February 2, 1994--the night Cobain tried to kill himself with pills and champagne--this odd coupling featuring the Kajagoogoo hit likely stemmed from Cobain's feelings that "in 10 years when NIRVANA becomes as memorable as Kajagoogoo that same very small percent will come to see us at reunion gigs sponsored by Depends diapers," as he wrote in his diaries in 1992.

Aberdeen!: Little is known about Cobain's planned musical tribute to his hometown, which was scheduled to be the debut release on his self-distributed label, Dental Records. It was, according to excerpts from Journals, to be a collaboration with Jad Fair, which would allow Cobain to extricate himself from his DGC contract--in other words, "his Metal Machine Music," Fair once told Punk Planet, during a rare interview about what Fair called Cobain's "career suicide move." A handful of demos from Aberdeen! survive, among them "Surrey With Syringe on Top," "Pore Kurt is Daid," "People Will Say We're in Rehab," "The Dealer and the Cowman Ballet" and, oddly, "If I Were a Rich Man." All are of sketchy quality--indeed, "Pore Kurt is Daid" consists solely of Cobain repeating the title for 34 minutes--but "Surrey" hints at astonishing maturity for Cobain, with its 125-piece string orchestra, the use of tablas and theremin, and a guest vocal appearance by Anne Sofie Von Otter.

Nirvana onstage in Rome on February 2, 1994, where the band performed, among other songs, Kajagoogoo's "Too Shy." No, really.
Nirvana onstage in Rome on February 2, 1994, where the band performed, among other songs, Kajagoogoo's "Too Shy." No, really.

"Pine Tree Janitorial Service": This is a fake ad jingle, recorded on a home-studio four-track, for a company Cobain wanted to start with Novoselic. "We purposely limit our number of commercial offices in order to personally clean while taking our time," he sings, to which Novoselic responds, "We will suck up all manner of filth, muck, grease and grime." It would later resurface during the Nevermind sessions as "Shoot Up While You Work," with drastically reworked lyrics--"suck up," for instance, becomes "shoot up."

"Losing Nirvana": Originally intended for inclusion on Nirvana's first single for Sub Pop in 1988, this song was Cobain's passive-aggressive attempt to inform drummer Dave Foster that he had been replaced by Chad Channing. Cobain and Novoselic decided to write Foster a letter instead--which appears in Journals, the forthcoming collection of Cobain's diary entries, drawings and grocery lists--though Cobain ended up using many of the lyrics to "Losing Nirvana" in his kiss-off to Foster: "We feel really shitty that we don't have the guts to tell you in person/But we didn't know how mad you would get."

"Get Free": Think this Vines song sounds like something Kurt Cobain might have written? Well, there's a good reason: He did, in 1991. But at the end of this recording, made by a fan during an in-store appearance in October of that year, Cobain can be heard apologizing for the tune, which he judged "an abomination" and vowed never to play again. "I'm too young for self-parody," he told the crowd, before launching into yet another unreleased gem, "Highly Evolved," which he said "wasn't."

"This Bullet Tastes Like Lead" (alt. title: "Now I Can See the Back of My Head"): Recorded at the RAI Italian TV studios in February 1994, this prophetic number is a rare Cobain acoustic performance, much like 1990's "Opinion" from a Seattle radio broadcast. Like such well-known tracks as "I Hate Myself and Want to Die" and "Bleed," its title would come to bear special significance among the Cobain faithful, though its lyrics, a mishmash of nursery rhymes and Vaselines song titles, hardly hint at the torment the singer-songwriter must have been suffering in the months shortly before he chewed on the wrong end of a shotgun.

"My Stomach Hurts": This song, from the planned double album Cobain's Disease, is a 15-minute symphonic experiment in Neu!-like prog, and its lyrics, like so many other Nirvana songs, hint at the agony Kurt was constantly enduring--the "burning, nauseaus [sic] pain in my upper abdominal cavity," as he wrote in his soon-to-be-published Journals. Among the lyrics: "My stomach hurts/My head hurts/My arm hurts/My leg hurts/My back hurts/My front hurts/My hurt hurts."

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