Kurt Cobain was always a bit of a joker, with a penchant for practical jokes. When Nirvana played at Reading festival in 1992, he was pushed out in a wheelchair following rumours that he had recently been hospitalised. A year earlier, Nirvana butchered a mimed version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on Top of the Pops in 1991, when Cobain stuck the microphone in his mouth rather than pretending to sing.
Nirvana’s popularity drew acclaim from the press and their musical contemporaries. While many alternative rock bands had taken off in the late 1980s and early 1990s, none had taken the storm as much as Nirvana, though perhaps their success led the way for bands such as Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.
Sonic Youth, led by Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, had already been making waves in the New York scene for around ten years or so, prior to Nirvana releasing their final highly-lauded album In Utero. Although Thurston Moore once revealed that when he would go and watch Nirvana play, he was astounded each time.
Moore said, “We did this show with Nirvana at the Warfield, in San Francisco. They plugged in, and from the first chord, Kurt flew into the audience. He was surfing over the crowd while playing the song. The crowd threw him back onto the stage, and [clicks his fingers] he hit the first line of the vocal. I was like, ‘Fuck it; there is no way we can beat that.’”
Moore also revealed a funny incident concerning Nirvana’s last tour, by which point the band were truly on top of the world. Their popularity had extended from members of the public audience to include several high-profile celebrities and musicians, many of whom had come to see Nirvana play and hang out backstage, including Eddie Van Halen.
“The last time I saw Kurt, it was in Los Angeles and San Diego; I went to both shows there on Nirvana’s last tour,” Moore said. “He seemed very content. He was having fun playing the gig, especially in L.A., because Eddie Van Halen was there.”
Moore added, “It was funny. Kurt was walking down the hall, and I said, ‘Dude, Eddie Van Halen’s in your dressing room holding court.’ And Kurt goes, ‘No way!’ He was real excited. Kurt went into the dressing room, walked right up to Eddie and kissed him on the mouth. He had to do that. 1994.”