LIVE NIRVANA SESSIONS HISTORY September 3, 1991 - Studios 4 & 5, BBC Maida Vale Studios, London, UK View in Google Maps

    • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
    • Krist Novoselic (bass)
    • Dave Grohl (drums)
  • Dale Griffin (producer)
  • Mike Engles (engineer)
  • Fred Kay (assistant)
  • [O] Dumb
  • [O] Drain You
  • [O] Endless, Nameless incl. “Turning Japanese” lyrical interpolation in the coda
  • 1991-11-03, BBC Radio 1, The John Peel Show
Source ID Quality Complete Runtime Lowest Gen Tracks Featured Notes
SBD #1 10.0 0:15:30 Official CD (Nirvana BBC Sessions, Promo CD)
  • Dumb
  • Drain You
  • Endless, Nameless
  • Drain You appears under the title “Drain.”
  • While Dumb and Drain You both fade-in on this promo CD, copies with the fade-ins reversed are widely available in trading circles.

NIRVANA's third and final Peel session was recorded using MV5 as the control room and MV4 as the studio. The band had arrived from the continent and were very tired. (1)

Dave and Krist were in another world," recalls session producer Dale Griffin. "They looked drained, zombified, tired beyond all help. But Kurt looked far, far worse. I made a bee-line for him. I had worried after session two about how would cope with ‘The Big Time’ and he looked to me like something about ‘The Big Time’ wasn't agreeing with him. (2)

I stood two inches from his face and spoke to him, but his eyes didn't see me, nor did his ears hear me. He hadn't a clue who the hell I was, remembers Griffin. We decided to let the guys rest, whilst their crew assembled their equipment and Fred (who is a woman) and Mike set up mics and inserted cables and plugged-up compressors, limiters, effects units, reverb, delays, repeats… ‘fairy dust’ as it's called in the trade. Kurt fell asleep on the big couch at the back of the recording console. (2)

We were well off schedule, but I was prepared to let that go. Better we get something on tape in due course, than stick to the strict rules and risk getting nothing, says Griffin. We'd had two trouble-free sessions—so the guys were ‘in credit’! Meanwhile, Dave and Krist got themselves up and running and ‘Fred’ showed them up to the BBC canteen for food and the inevitable cup of tea which solves all things. Kurt slept on. (2)

Having given the band some time to sleep off some of their weariness and collect their senses again, decisions had to be made as whether or not to go ahead with the session, or abort on the grounds that they were too wrecked to perform to their, or the BBC's, requirements. I'd been pondering that problem for some while, when I noticed that, at the back of the control room, Kurt was beginning to stir and blink and groan… showing decided signs of movement and consciousness. So I decided that an avuncular chat with him was in order. Dave and Krist had returned, looking rather the better for food and drink and were getting their drum and bass set-ups working—loudly. (2)

But talking with Cobain proved difficult, For a start, he obviously had no idea who the old fart talking to him could possibly be—so I brought up our previous sessions/meetings—but to no avail, says Griffin. The look of him—his eyes, his pallor, his lack of focus worried me greatly, since it reminded me so keenly and, in retrospect, so poignantly, of the later days of Paul Kossoff's life [lead-guitarist with '60s British rock band, Free]; It was a hateful thing to see a young man like Koss wishing his life away on the dross of drugs. I hated to think that the same thing was happening to this likeable and highly talented young American, who was standing so unsteadily just inches from my gaze. I started to ask him whether he felt able to attempt the session today. ‘Sure, why not!’ was his swift reply, though his words were not backed-up by his body's language, like his legs uncertain ability to hold him up for any great period of time. The more we spoke, the more concerned I became that it wasn't fatigue alone that had rendered Kurt almost helpless. (2)

However, the band got together and decided they would go ahead with the recording and leave both Mike Engles and Dale Griffin to complete (mix) it later that evening. Some songs had not been given a title before the band left, but the Peel office were given these details prior to the date of the broadcast of the session. (2)

Unlike the earlier sessions, this one was not well rehearsed and wasn't as easy-going or pleasurable a session as the others had been; With the best will in the world, the set they played was not their finest hour, but I admired the way they did what they had come to MV5 to do, and they didn't complain about their lot the whole of the time they were in the studio. (2)

The band played just three songs, pleading extreme fatigue. (1) The session was recorded on a 48 channel SSL G series and a Studer A800 24-track recorder. It was mastered to analog tape at 15 IPS and DAT. (1)

When we had got the songs onto tape via the highly talented Mike Engles, I took Kurt aside one more time, to try to find out from him just what the problem was—were he, Krist and Dave being overworked to this point by their management, their record company, some other influence? By now, Kurt seemed to have worked-out who-the-hell I was and he nodded and smiled and acknowledged the advice, but there was still that not-quite-there thing in his eyes that made me feel uneasy for him. I'd seen it in others before—and they'd ended-up dead. (2)

  1. Engles, Mike, 2003. Personal communication with Alex Roberts.
  2. Griffin, Dale, 2003. Personal communication with Alex Roberts.

© Alex Roberts. Last modified: August 28 2022