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Almost 30 Years Ago, Kurt Cobain Gave a Tape of Demos to a Friend. They’ve Turned Up Online.

In what’s turning out to be a major musical archaeological find, some ancient Nirvana demos have surfaced online. Some of this stuff is exceedingly rare.

Back in the late 80s, Kurt was buddies with John Purkey. When the band that would become Nirvana was just getting going, Kurt gave John several cassettes filled with demo recordings. For decades, that tape stayed safe in a metal box. Now, though, John has posted four separate videos of material from that tape on his YouTube channel.

Much of what was on the tape turned into tracks that ended up on Bleach in 1989. At the time, Nirvana consisted of Kurt, Krist Novoselic and (mostly) Mudhoney drummer Dave Crover. Listen while you can. (Tracklisting and comments via Consequence of Sound.)

Tape 1

“This is the first tape Kurt gave to me. Sound quality is not perfect but it’s not too bad. It is listenable. Paper cuts sounds a little warbaly at first and that is exactly how it was when Kurt gave it to me. I got used to it. It slowly becomes clear sounding.”

0:38 – “Paper Cuts”
05:03 – “Downer”
06:53 – “Beeswax”
09:52 – “Aero Zeppelin”
14:36 – “Floyd the Barber”
17:03 – “If You Must”
21:12 – Spank Thru
24:57 – “Mexican Seafood”
27:06 – “Pen Cap Chew”
30:06 – “Montage of Heck”


Tape 2

“This is the second of four demos that Kurt game me back between 1988 and 1990.”

00:47 – “Blandest”
04:37 – “Mr. Moustache”
08:23 – “Sifting Instrumental”
13:51 – “Blew”
16:52 – “Spank Thru”
20:08 – “Love Buzz” (Early Single Version?)
23:55 – “Big Cheese”


Tape 3

00:00 – Intro
01:39 – “Scoff”
06:02 – “Swap Meet”
09:17 – “Blew”
12:23 – “Love Buzz”
16:11 – “About a Girl”
19:27 – “Negative Creep”
22:02 – “School”
24:50 – “Big Long Now”


Tape 4

“Recorded with Chad produced by Butch Vig. I think it is known as the smart studio demo. Kurt started high speed dubbing at the beginning of pay to play. [You] can hear a slight glitch when he pressed the high speed button.”

00:00 – Intro
00:44 – “Immodium”
04:04 – “Pay to Play”
07:39 – “Sappy”
11:17 – “Polly”
14:19 – “In Bloom”
19:00 – “Lithium” (Mix 6)
23:31 – “Dive”


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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