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Think about all that’s changed in the past 14 years: Music is very much just a few ones and zeroes on a hard drive. Bands give away albums for free. Most artists only get in the business so they can try to sell you their clothing line. In 1993, Miley Cyrus was just a screaming, toothless infant being held by her doting, mulleted father. Man, chicks were even wearing those unflattering high-waisted “mom” jeans back then too. It’s hard to imagine a world where vaginas were sheltered so well.
On November 18, 1993, Nirvana recorded their installment of MTV’s Unplugged series. It became an unintentional memorial as the band imploded that next April in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Cobain took a long look ahead at a life filled with screaming kids on TRL and his tracks being used in car commercials, and then took a gander at the business end of a shotgun. Music fans lost out on years, possibly decades, of artistry. His lovely widow won untold years of Botox, breast implants and the best oxycodone anywhere.
Today that Unplugged episode is finally out on DVD, a monument to the musical gifts the trio (plus guitarist Pat Smear and special guests the Meat Puppets) shared. Viewing the show again after so long, it’s not hard to imagine that Cobain would have fit in well with guys like Iron & Wine. Sitting stolid, solo at a guitar and mic, bleeding lyrics. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” closed out the set. A producer asked the guys to come back out for an encore, but Cobain remarked that it was impossible to follow a Leadbelly song as dark that one. It’s fitting that even at the end, the band instinctively knew when to quit. It’s a shame, then, that Cobain’s real demise was so cruel and pointless. – Craig Hlavaty