LIVE NIRVANA SESSIONS HISTORY June–September, 1988 - Reciprocal Recording, Seattle, WA, US View in Google Maps

    • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
    • Krist Novoselic (bass)
    • Chad Channing (drums)
  • Jack Endino (backing vocals)
  • Jack Endino (producer, engineer)
  • [O] Blandest
  • [X] Love Buzz
  • [U] Big Cheese
  • [U] Mr. Moustache
  • [U] Sifting
  • [U] Blew
  • [X] Floyd The Barber
  • [O] Love Buzz
  • [O] Spank Thru Endino on backing vocals
  • [O] Big Cheese
  • [X] Love Buzz instrumental
  • Audio: ½-inch 8-track analog magnetic tape (session tape)
Source ID Quality Complete Runtime Lowest Gen Tracks Featured Notes
SBD #1a 9.5 0:04:14 ANA(2)>FLAC
  • Love Buzz (take 2)
  • Mixed by Jack Endino, June 1988. Features a 30-second sound collage intro and Cobain's first formal vocal pass.
SBD #1b 10.0 0:03:41 Official CD (Bleach, SP34b first pressing)
  • Big Cheese (take 2)
  • Mixed by Jack Endino, June 1988.
SBD #1c 9.0 0:03:45 ANA(2)>CDR(1)>FLAC
  • Big Cheese (take 2)
  • Mixed by Jack Endino, June 1988. This source is sometimes referred to as the Touch & Go demo or Kurdt's Kassette. It features some post-song banter not found on other sources.
SBD #2 10.0 0:03:19 Official CD (Various Artists - Sub Pop 200)
  • Spank Thru
  • Mixed by Jack Endino, September 1988.
  • Blandest
  • Big Cheese (take 1)
  • Mr. Moustache
  • Sifting (instrumental)
  • Blew
  • Rough mix by Jack Endino, June 1988. This source is sometimes referred to as Nirvana Anthology Volume 1. Features some pre and post-song ambient noises not found on other sources.
SBD #4 10.0 0:03:35 Official CD (Bleach, SP34b first pressing)
  • Love Buzz (take 2)
  • Remix by Jack Endino, January 1989.
SBD #5 9.5 0:09:33 ANA(2)>CDR(1)>FLAC
  • Mr. Moustache
  • Sifting (instrumental)
  • Alternative mixes by Jack Endino, 1988. This source is sometimes referred to as Kurdt's Tape Side A.
SBD #6 10.0 0:03:43 Official 7" (Love Buzz)
  • Love Buzz (take 2)
  • Mixed by Jack Endino, July 1988. Love Buzz features a 10-second sound collage intro and another sound collage dubbed into the instrumental break.

Impressed by the Dale demo, Jonathan Poneman offered the band a chance to record a single for Sub Pop. Poneman liked their cover of Love Buzz by Shocking Blue and felt that it would make a strong single. While Kurt Cobain would have preferred an original song as the band's first offering, he eventually came around to the idea. So the band returned to Reciprocal Recording that summer, complete with a new drummer, Chad Channing, and a new name, NIRVANA. (1)

The sessions were done in four days, spaced out over as many months: June 11 (five hours), June 30 (five hours), July 16 (three hours), and September 27 (two hours). (2)

All songs were recorded on an Otari MX-5050 Mk III ½" 8-track at 15 IPS, with no noise reduction. Tracks 1–4 were devoted to drums (tracks 1 and 2 to the stereo overheads with toms blended in and panned, track 3 to the kick, track 4 to the snare), track 5 to bass, track 6 to guitar, and track 8 to vocals, with track 7 reserved for an extra vocal or guitar overdub. (3)

The first session began with Blandest, (4) then considered as a B-side. (1) The recording didn't turn out too well, however. (5) It wasn't very tight, says producer, Jack Endino. It was kind of sloppy. It was the first song of the day. Nobody was warmed up, and it just didn't sound that good. (6) Blandest was followed by the first takes of Love Buzz and Big Cheese, plus early versions of Mr Moustache, Sifting, and Blew. (4)

The band kicked off the second session by attempting to re-record Floyd The Barber from the Dale demo, but found that they couldn't improve upon the original. They immediately hated it, says Endino. (6) Next came the second take of Love Buzz, which everyone agreed they liked better than the first. (6) With that, the reel of tape ran out. So, rather than shell out on a second reel, the band opted to record over previously recorded takes that they didn't like. The band didn't want to spend another $50 on a reel of tape, Endino explains. They were like These takes suck, let's record over them! We did that routinely. I fitted new tracks over unwanted old takes right in the middle of the reels if necessary. (4) Consequently, some of the songs only survive as rough mixes on cassette, having been erased from the master reel. (4)

Endino favored Big Cheese over Blandest and urged the band to consider it for the B-side. (1) It is a much stronger song and they readily agreed, he says. It wasn't called Blandest for nothing! It was also not a very good take of Blandest. So we went over it later by mutual agreement, expecting to do a much better take, which somehow they never got around to doing. (7) [Blandest] was very flat and very dry with no added ideas to it, explains Channing. We all agreed that the song obviously wasn't ready yet. (6) A new version of Spank Thru was subsequently recorded over Blandest, and a second take of Big Cheese recorded over the first version of Love Buzz. A third take of Love Buzz was also recorded over the early version of Blew and part of the just-recorded Floyd The Barber, but it was determined that take two of Love Buzz had been the best, so no vocal was laid down (6) (1:26 minutes of Floyd The Barber still remain on the master reel). (4)

The second takes of Love Buzz and Big Cheese were then mixed for the proposed single. (6) But, upon hearing the mixes, Poneman decided that the vocals on Love Buzz needed to be re-recorded. (1) Jonathan didn't like the first vocal take for some reason and asked me to ask Kurt to re-sing it, says Endino. (7) Cobain duly returned to the studio on July 16 to cut a new vocal, (6) which Endino then mixed, though he admits to being hard-pressed to tell the difference! (1) Take two of Love Buzz, with Cobain's re-recorded vocal, is what eventually made the record. (4)

The single mix of Love Buzz features a 10-second sound collage intro (originally 30-seconds long, but cut to 10 at Sub Pop's behest) and another sound collage dubbed into the instrumental break. It's just barely audible underneath the guitar noise, says Endino. We had to do it live when we mixed because we had used up all eight tracks. So when we were mixing we had to have this cassette going through the mixing board along with the eight tracks from the eight-track machine. And when we got to the middle part of the song, he had to reach over and press 'play' on the cassette deck right at the right time, every time I went through the mix. So we had a sort of virtual ninth track! (2)

Later, when the time came to remix Love Buzz for the album (Endino: the single mix ain't that great), Cobain forgot to bring the cassette, so the sound collages are absent on that release. (5)

Cobain would later criticize Love Buzz as sounding too lightweight: We just couldn't get a good sound out of it, he told NIRVANA biographer, Michael Azerrad. It sounded really clean and just didn't have any low end. I think it's the wimpiest recording we've ever done. (1)

Aside from Love Buzz and Big Cheese, the re-recording of Spank Thru would also see release in 1988 on the Sub Pop 200 compilation. They were going to use the one from the Dale demo, says Endino, then they decided that they liked the one with Chad better. Spank Thru was mixed on September 27, with Endino adding a backing vocal at Cobain's request. (6)

  1. Azerrad, Michael, 1993. Come As You Are: The Story Of Nirvana. Doubleday.
  2. Gaar, Gillian G., 1997. Verse Chorus Verse: The Recording History Of Nirvana, Goldmine, [online] Available at:
  3. Endino, Jack, 2001 & 2004. Personal communication with Alex Roberts.
  4. Gaar, Gillian G., 2004. Mondo Nirvana, Tablet Siffblog, [online] Available at:
  5. Endino, Jack, 1998. Jack Endino's Nirvana FAQ, [online] Available at:
  6. Gaar, Gillian G., 2012. Entertain Us: The Rise Of Nirvana. Jawbone.
  7. Borzillo, Carrie, 2000. Eyewitness Nirvana: The Day-By-Day Chronicle. Carlton Books.

© Alex Roberts. Last modified: April 18 2024