- [O] If You Must
- [O] Downer Crover on backing vocals
- [O] Floyd The Barber
- [O] Paper Cuts
- [U] Spank Thru Crover on backing vocals
- [O] Hairspray Queen
- [O] Aero Zeppelin
- [O] Beeswax
- [O] Mexican Seafood
- [O] Pen Cap Chew
- Audio: ½-inch 8-track analog magnetic tape (session tape)
With the departure of drummer, Aaron Burckhard, Skid Row had dissolved by the summer of '87. When Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic began playing together again a few months later, they drafted in Melvins stixman, Dale Crover, to help cut a demo at Seattle's Reciprocal Recording. Producer, Jack Endino, refers to the session as the
Dale Demo. (1)
While Cobain claimed to have found Endino and Reciprocal Recording through price comparison shopping in The Rocket, friends contend that he chose Reciprocal because it was where his new favorite record, Soundgarden's Screaming Life EP, had been recorded:
Kurt really wanted to record there because he really liked the sound of the Soundgarden record, Crover told NIRVANA biographer, Michael Azerrad.
He was really into it that summer, I remember. (2)
They were excited to work with Jack because he'd done stuff for Soundgarden and Green River, echoed Slim Moon.
It was cheap and he agreed to do it for lower than his usual fee. (3)
I received a call from a guy, who said his name was Kurt, and that he was a friend of the Melvins, Endino recalled.
He wanted to come up and record some songs. And I said (4) Understanding that the band hadn't settled on a name and mishearing Cobain's own name over the telephone, Endino booked them in under
Sure, a friend of the Melvins is a friend of mine.
Kurt Kovain. (5) Endino was happy to take the booking on account of Crover's involvement,
He was one of the best drummers in the area, and I thought, (6)
If Dale is playing with these guys, they must be alright. They can't be total amateurs. It must be something reasonably decent, or Dale wouldn't be involved.
The band and their equipment were driven up to Seattle by Novoselic's neighbors, Dwight Covey and son, Guy. (2) Endino remembers their equipment wasn't that great, apart from Crover's drums. (7)
They showed up right after noon, recalled the producer.
We ran through the songs instrumentally, then Kurt said, (5)
OK, I'm going to do the vocals now, and just went through them, in one take.
All tracks were recorded on an Otari MX-5050 Mk III ½" 8-track at 15 IPS, with no noise reduction. (1) The ten songs were, in order: If You Must, Downer, Floyd the Barber, Paper Cuts, Spank Thru, Hairspray Queen, Aero Zeppelin, Beeswax, Mexican Seafood, and Pen Cap Chew (the latter song having a fade ending, as the tape was running out and the band didn't want to buy another reel). (5)
Once Novoselic had finished tracking his parts, he decided to go celebrate with Covey.
He had this two-paper bomber with all bud and we smoked it in the bathroom, Novoselic told Azerrad.
I got so stoned that I had to go outside. He and Covey sat out in the camper van and lit a fire while Cobain completed his vocals. (2)
I was particularly taken with Kurt's voice, remembered Endino.
I thought he had (6)
a good scream, which is something, you know? A lot of people have very bad rock screams. Kurt had potentially a very interesting voice. There was a convincing growl to it; it just struck me.
Dale was fundamentally a heavy metal drummer and Kurt wrote songs around interesting guitar riffs, Endino observed.
The thing that separated it from anything else was the singing. His voice had a lot of character and he had a weird ear for melody, he wouldn't be following the guitar riffs like typical idiot riff rock. (3)
The band clocked up roughly six hours of studio time,
They were probably done recording by 3:30, 4 o'clock, the mixes done by 5:30, and they were out the door by six, (5) but Endino was generous enough to charge for just five, at a cost of $152.44. Cobain paid for the session with money he had earned working as a janitor. (2)
[It] went by so fast that I barely remember even talking with them, Endino recalled.
It was one of the fastest sessions I had ever done. They had to go to Tacoma and didn't have much money to spend, so they were in a hurry. I obliged. (8)
Gathering up Endino's rough
one-hour mixes, the band loaded out and headed south to Tacoma, where they were scheduled to play at the Community World Theater. Their 12-song live set comprised of ten songs from the
Dale Demo, in the same order they had been recorded that afternoon, ending with Annorexorcist and what is presumably Erectum. (9) According to Endino, the two additional songs performed in Tacoma that evening were not recorded or attempted in the studio, owing to lack of time. (5) Endino laments,
What a bummer to hear 'em now, this way [as a B-quality bootleg audio]. (1)
Endino spent that evening making his own mix of the session,
I convinced them to leave the 8-track master, so I could make a mix of it for myself. (10) He then proceeded to pass copies of this
after-hours mix onto friends, including Dawn Anderson of Backlash, Shirley Carlson of KCMU Radio, and Jonathan Poneman of Sub Pop; earning NIRVANA their first press, radio play and recording contract, respectively! (5)
I would talk to Jack every now and then because there were a lot of bands going into Reciprocal and I'd just ask him, Poneman recalled.
Hey, did you hear anything that blew you away?
He told me, (8)
There's this kid who came in who looks like a car mechanic. He came up with Dale Crover. He lives in Olympia and his name is Kurt. And he says,
To be honest, I don't even really know what to make of this tape. It's awesome, but they just bashed it out and it's unlike anything I've really heard. The guy's got an amazing voice.
Cobain also sent copies of the demo to numerous indie labels, including Touch & Go, SST and Alternative Tentacles, but failed to elicit a response. (2)
Five songs from this session were officially released on Incesticide in their original rough mix form. (1)
That's griped me for a while because I wish I'd had a chance to remix them, Endino told Seattle rock critic, Gillian Gaar.
Literally what they did is they took the tape from the first day I ever recorded with them and mixed ten songs in one hour. And that's the tape that got put on Incesticide. It's always bummed me out. In any given afternoon I could've made a better mix of all those songs. But that's just the way it went. (5)
Yet, when If You Must and Pen Cap Chew received posthumous official release on 2004's With The Lights Out box-set, Endino opted not to remix the tracks
because they actually sounded better than I remembered, especially compared with some of the other rough demos and rehearsal tapes that are on the box. (1) Spank Thru is the only song from this session not to have seen official release.
Cobain, himself, spoke fondly of this session:
After the demo tape was recorded, we realized that it was actually good music and there was something special about it so we took it a lot more seriously. (2)
- Endino, Jack, 1998. Jack Endino's Nirvana FAQ, [online] Available at: http://www.endino.com/nirvfaq.html. ↑
- Azerrad, Michael, 1993. Come As You Are: The Story Of Nirvana. Doubleday. ↑
- True, Everett, 2006. Nirvana: The True Story. Omnibus Press. ↑
- Endino, Jack, 1996. Hype!, [film] Directed by Doug Pray. USA: Lions Gate Entertainment. ↑
- Gaar, Gillian G., 1997. Verse Chorus Verse: The Recording History Of Nirvana, Goldmine, [online] Available at: http://www.nirvanaclub.com/articles/02.14.97.html. ↑
- Nash, Rob, 2004. No Less Dangerous, The Independent, [online] Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/no-less-dangerous-533711.html. ↑
- Entertain Us: The Nirvana Story, 1999. [Radio] BBC Radio One, April 5, 1999. ↑
- Borzillo, Carrie, 2000. Eyewitness Nirvana: The Day-By-Day Chronicle. Carlton Books. ↑
- Sproul, Kris, 1999. Nirvana Live Guide, [online] Available at: http://www.nirvanaguide.com. ↑
- Gaar, Gillian G., 2004. Mondo Nirvana, Tablet Siffblog, [online] Available at: http://siff.tabletmag.com/other/mondo_nirvana_002003.html. ↑