Nirvana always loved to break a rule or two but sabotaging an entire performance wasn’t what the BBC officials expected. Kris Novoselic recently recalled an iconic yet quite problematic performance while speaking to Matt Pinfield’s New & Approved podcast, and disclosed that Kurt Cobain didn’t want to sing at all.
The performance in question was for BBC’s ‘Top of the Pops,’ a TV show that routinely had musical guests, but the channel had decided to use backing tracks for all the bands since they feared that artists would curse on live TV or mess up the show. Similarly, they wanted Cobain to sing live, but Novoselic and Grohl would have to mime throughout the song. Kurt was pissed as he didn’t want to sing live, and the performance got out of control when he sang in a weird, low-baritone voice.
“That was the burned-out band,” said Novoselic when the interviewer asked him about Nirvana’s infamous BBC performance. “That was the band that was just tired. And then we show up backstage, and for some reason, there is a mountain of these English beers, like these tall boy beers that are just like big cans of beer, right?”
He continued, “And I was just exhausted, so I just started hammering these beers, and Kurt didn’t want to lip sync. You’re supposed to lip sync, the singer could sing, and the rest of the band just mimes, right? So, then Kurt didn’t want to sing, he just wanted to mime. So, he could ham it up.”
Since he didn’t want to perform live, he started to sing in a baritone. Kris recalled, “But that’s why he sang like Morrissey, so he was all like being stubborn, ‘I don’t want to do a live mic. I don’t want to do a live mic.’ So, then we finally go up there, and he does this Morrissey schtick.”
“Then the kids run, jump on, they rush to the stage, it got so crazy,” Kris Novoselic remarked. “And if you watch that video, you can hear a pop, and one of the kids unplugs the microphone and runs out of the studio, like Kurt’s microphone [was] gone forever.”
The officials were pissed, and Nirvana was banned from the channel. He finally said, “So, the stage manager guys got their headphones on, and they’re just, [imitates yelling], you know, they were pissed off, I think, we were banned from that BBC ever after.”
Kurt wanted to get drunk and not sing, and things got complicated when the network asked him to perform live. So, when they took the stage, the Nirvana frontman and his drunk bandmates decided it would be a good idea to sabotage the show and enjoy it on their own terms.