LIVE NIRVANA SESSIONS HISTORY March, 1991 - Converted barn, Tacoma, WA, US View in Google Maps

    • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
    • Krist Novoselic (bass)
    • Dave Grohl (drums)
  • [O] Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • [O] Verse Chorus Verse
  • [O] Territorial Pissings
  • [O] Lounge Act
  • [O] Come As You Are
  • [O] Old Age
  • [O] Something In The Way
  • [O] On A Plain
Source ID Quality Complete Runtime Lowest Gen Tracks Featured Notes
AUD #1a 7.5 0:09:50 Official CD (Sliver: Best Of The Box)
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • Come As You Are
  • This source is less complete than AUD #1b, but is considered to be of superior sound quality.
AUD #1b 7.5 0:31:00 Official CD (Nevermind, Deluxe Edition, catalog#: 2777903)
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • Verse Chorus Verse
  • Territorial Pissings
  • Lounge Act
  • Come As You Are
  • Old Age
  • Something In The Way
  • On A Plain
AUD #1c 7.5 0:05:47 CD(X)>FLAC
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • This source is also known as "WTLO Reference Disc 17, track 10." While it is lossy, Smells Like Teen Spirit is more complete here than on the other two sources, plus there's no brickwalling.

Rehearsals for Nevermind began in earnest in early 1991. The band rented a converted barn with an over-sized PA, located in the backyard of a friends house in Tacoma. (1) After writing and forgetting many new songs, a cheap boombox recorder was brought in to capture their working demos. We came up with so much stuff where we'd go, God, this is the best thing we've ever done! Grohl told Circus in '92. Then we'd forget how to play it. So many songs got thrown away, until we finally said, Maybe we should start recording them on a cassette. (2)

One such boombox recording was sent to Butch Vig in the weeks before the Sound City sessions were due to commence. Vig described the tape thus, [It was] a really raw boombox cassette recording. It distorted so badly that you could barely make out what they're playing. (3)

Having worked with the band at Smart Studios, April 1990, Vig was already familiar with several songs on the tape, but it was the strength of the new material that really drew his attention, The new songs were much better crafted and hook-y. (4)

Vig admitted that it was hard to hear Cobain's vocal over the distortion, [I] could kinda hear a little bit of the hooks and things and I could hear the hello, hello, how low, you know, I could hear a little bit of that and hear the riff in Come As You Are and between the songs they were goofing around and going, How's that sound Butch? and This is Dave and Dave would play like a really sloppy drum solo… (5)

Further details of the tape's contents were divulged in an article published by The Stranger in 1998. The article, titled Whose Song Is It, Anyway?, contested the origins of Old Age (a song which had, until then, been accredited to Courtney Love and Hole—appearing first as a B-side to their Beautiful Son single in 1993, and again on the My Body, The Hand Grenade retrospective compilation in 1997). The article revealed Old Age to be a NIRVANA original, providing a 1:10 minute clip sourced from the March 1991 boombox tape as evidence. (6)

  1. Azerrad, Michael, 1993. Come As You Are: The Story Of Nirvana. Doubleday.
  2. Hedges, Dan, 1992. Nirvana: Smells Life At The Top, Circus, [online] Available at: /interviews/9203dh/index.php.
  3. Gaar, Gillian G., 1997. Verse Chorus Verse: The Recording History Of Nirvana, Goldmine, [online] Available at:
  4. Berkenstadt, Jim & Cross, Charles R., 1998. Classic Rock Albums: Nevermind. Schirmer Books.
  5. Vig, Butch, 1999. Entertain Us: The Nirvana Story, [radio] BBC Radio One, April 5, 1999.
  6. Wilson, Kathleen, 1998. Whose Song Is it, Anyway?, The Stranger, [online] Available at:

© Alex Roberts. Last modified: February 23 2024