** WARNING **
For those of you turned off or intimidated by lots of words turn back now. This is a blog about one of the greatest musicians from my lifetime and he won't be done dirty with a shit blog consisting of a copy and pasted news article and other people's tweets talking about it.
Rolling Stone - The guitar Kurt Cobain played during Nirvana’s famed MTV Unplugged in New York concert is headed to auction with a starting estimate of $1 million.
The guitar will be part of the “Music Icons” sale at Julien’s Auctions, taking place June 19th and 20th in Beverly Hills and on the Julien’s Auctions website.
The guitar is a 1959 Martin D-18E, and the auction lot also comes with the original hard-shell case that Cobain had adorned with a flyer for the band Poison Idea’s 1990 album, Feel the Darkness. (The case is also stamped with three baggage-claim ticket stubs and an Alaska Airlines sticker.) Inside the case is a half-used pack of Martin guitar strings, three picks, and a “suede ‘stash’ bag” that’s decorated with a small silver spoon, fork, and knife.
“This important guitar has earned its rightful place in rock & roll history as the instrument played by one of rock’s most influential musicians and icons in one of the greatest and most memorable live performances of all time,” Darren Julien, president and CEO of the auction house, said in a statement.
Last October, the cardigan Cobain wore during Unplugged sold at Julien’s Auctions for a record $334,000.
We're in the midst of an auction bonanza. Almost as great as the time Dave won Curt Schilling's bathrobe, he recently stepped up for charity to win the chance to interact with Goodell without authorities being called. We've had Robert Kraft put his 28-3 Super Bowl ring up for the All-In auction and it's currently at $1.25 million. And we've seen Michael Jordan's game-worn Air Jordan 1's going for $560,000 this week.
Auctions are hot in the streets. Especially if they're for a good cause. But the auction that's the focus of this blog is far from a good cause.
Here's the backstory.
The year is 1993, Kurt Cobain is on top of the world. He's the frontman of the hottest band at the forefront of the hottest genre in music at the time- alternative rock. Hailing from Seattle, the hotbed of grunge, he and his Nirvana bandmates have taken their sound worldwide. It has culminated in one of the greatest televised musical performances of all time; Nirvana: Unplugged on MTV.
A little background on Unplugged. MTV today is a shell of its former 90's self. There's a direct correlation between 1990's MTV vs. today and 1990's Tara Reid
MTV in the 90s
and today -
The point is MTV was the creme de la creme. You watched it in the morning while Sportscenter went to commercials, you watched it first thing when you got home from school, and you watched it at night.
Just look at this daily lineup from 1994
6AM- MTV's Rude Awakening
7AM - The Grind
7:30 - MTV's Rude Awakening
9AM - MTV Blocks
12N - Music Videos
4PM - The Grind
4:30 - Lip Service
5PM - The Real World
5:30 - MTV's Most Wanted Jams
6PM - Music Videos
7PM - Alternative Nation
7:30 - Yo!
8PM - MTV Unplugged: Bob Dylan (N)
9PM - Dumb & Dumber Movie Special (N)
9:30 - House Of Style: Best Of '94 (N)
10PM -MTV's Xmas With Mariah Carey (N)
11PM- Beavis and Butthead
1:30 - MTV Dreamtime
3AM - Beavis & Butthead
3:30 - MTV Dreamtime
Not one hole in the entire thing. Maybe House of Style but when you factor in that a young, fresh out of Dekalb, Illinois Cindy Crawford was hosting it, it wasn't too bad.
Today it’s rare to find music videos on MTV. It’s stockpiled full of Teen Mom type trash tv shows running in between pregnancy test commercials and quit-smoking PSAs. They're an afterthought now which is such a shame. The people responsible for programming should be ashamed of themselves.
Arguably the greatest program to ever be born from MTV was the “Unplugged” series.
Its premise was simple.
Get an artist or band in front of a small studio audience of die-hards and lucky SOBs, give them acoustic instruments with no amplifiers (hence unplugged) and let them go to town.
The result was magic.
Over and over again.
I’ll rank the best of the best below, but when Nirvana did their set in 1993 it was a game-changer.
Up until that show, the band had been seen as a group that had caught lightning in a bottle during the grunge explosion. The quintessential band your parents didn’t want you to listen to. Everything from their song titles, lyrics, cd covers, and press they received. Nirvana were fuckin badasses. Plus you have to take into account this was the 90s. There wasn’t porn at the flick of a button on your phone, there weren’t even cell phones, or internet, and music still came primarily from FM radio, cds, cassettes, and vinyl, and MTV. That was it.
So late summer of 1993 it's announced Nirvana will be doing Unplugged in November. Up until then, the series had seen Elton John, Joe Walsh, Paul McCartney (whose album release of the show caused it to explode), LL Cool J, Tribe Called Quest, Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, and Pearl Jam to name a few. Monster names. Nirvana was known for their antics for breaking shit on stage and their crowds breaking noses in mosh pits. Nirvana shows were battles up by front of stage. The only time they really died down was when Cobain would crowd surf-
So the idea of them doing a calm acoustical set was intriguing.
What took place was nothing short of epic.
For starters, the performance would be one of the last televised performances by Cobain, recorded on November 18, 1993, about five months before Cobain's death on April 5, 1994. Nirvana's setlist consisted of some of their b-sides, and covers of songs by David Bowie, Meat Puppets, Lead Belly, and The Vaselines. The only real commercial "hits" played during their performance were "Come as You Are", "Polly" and "All Apologies". This stood out from with other Unplugged performances, where artists mainly performed their hits and other originals. The performance was released on CD a year later as MTV Unplugged in New York, and ended up selling over 5 million copies and won Best Alternative Music Performance at the 38th Grammy Awards in 96.
Aside from the commercial success and critical accolades, the performance demonstrated Nirvana's, and Cobain's, genuine talent. They weren't some flavor of the month gimmick. These guys were musical geniuses. Sure, maybe their sound was a bit abrasive to some and wasn't everybody's cup of tea, but when you stripped down the moshing, guitar breaking, and electric guitars, you were left with 5 insanely talented men. And holy shit, Cobain had an incredible (and unique) voice, and could play guitar pretty fuckin well.
This was THE cd to own in the mid-90s.
The tragic fact that Cobain took his own life (allegedly) a few months later, at the age of 27, only added to the allure of the performance. All of a sudden this incredible set had become this transcendent moment in musical history. This band that had just arrived 3 years prior and burned white-hot was no more because it's frontman was gone too soon.
Cobain's items from his estate were entrusted to his estranged wife/widow Courtney Love, who eventually passed them on to their daughter Frances Bean. (This is where things get really sad).
TMZ - Kurt Cobain’s iconic guitar is reportedly now in the hands of his daughter’s ex-husband.
After a bitter two-year battle over the famed instrument, Frances Bean Cobain has agreed to let ex Isaiah Silva have the famed 1959 Martin D-18E guitar, according to TMZ. Silva has claimed that Frances gave the instrument to him as a wedding gift, something she has denied in the past.
The couple’s divorce has been finalized, but they were unable to come to an agreement over their assets, including the instrument.
Last January, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love’s 25-year-old daughter asked the court to force Silva to give up the guitar seen on “MTV Unplugged,” with a source telling us at the time: “Of course, her priority would be to have it returned, but as we [wait for] the court to make a ruling, she would like a third party to have it.”
Now, it looks like she lost the guitar — but also got off the hook for spousal support — in their settlement.
So Cobain and Courtney Love's daughter married some low-life who took her divorce court for SPOUSAL SUPPORT and her dad's iconic acoustic guitar. And won the guitar.
Now this scumbag is auctioning that guitar off and is expected to net close to a million dollars from it.
This is the guitar.
It's a 1959 Martin D18E in natural finish. Ultra rare and all original. Very limited 1 to 2 year total production run of only 302 total produced, dreadnought body, solid spruce top, mahogany sides and back, Kluson tuners, and was customized by Cobain, who added a Bartolini pickup to the soundhole.
It's a work of art.
And somehow his daughter lost it to some loser she was married to for two years who told the court she gave it to him as a wedding present and they believed him. And now he's turning around and auctioning it off for bukoo bucks.
Poor Cobain man. Guy lived a pretty tortured life filled with lots of demons, died under some VERY shady circumstances, and continues to be tortured in his afterlife. Including Frances Bean going the record as not even being a fan of her dad's!
WM - Back in 2015, Cobain opened up about her father's musical legacy, revealing that, actually, she's not really a fan of Nirvana. "I don't really like Nirvana that much. Sorry, promotional people, Universal," she told Rolling Stone. "I'm more into Mercury Rev, Oasis, Brian Jonestown Massacre [laughs]. The grunge scene is not what I'm interested in. But 'Territorial Pissings' [on Nevermind] is a fucking great song. And 'Dumb' [on In Utero]—I cry every time I hear that song. It's a stripped-down version of Kurt's perception of himself—of himself on drugs, off drugs, feeling inadequate to be titled the voice of a generation. I was around 15 when I realized he was inescapable," she said. "Even if I was in a car and had the radio on, there's my dad. He's larger than life and our culture is obsessed with dead musicians. We love to put them on a pedestal. If Kurt had just been another guy who abandoned his family in the most awful way possible .. . . But he wasn't. He inspired people to put him on a pedestal, to become St. Kurt. He became even bigger after he died than he was when he was alive. You don't think it could have gotten any bigger. But it did."
Fingers crossed that karma somehow intervenes in all of this. But the way 2020's going so far, don't be surprised if The Westboro Baptist Church wins this auction and immediately sets fire to the guitar outside Frances Bean's condo.
* BONUS BLOG *
Top 10 MTV UNPLUGGED Performances Ever
Spoiler alert. As described above, Nirvana is #1.
Honorable Mention -
Lauryn Hill, Jimmy Paige & Robert Plante, Florence + The Machine, Neil Young, KISS, LL Cool J, Bob Dylan.
#10- Stone Temple Pilots -
Fuck heroin for so many reasons. For ruining Scott Weiland among them. STP's Unplugged set gave fans everything they could have wanted. Including the first time hearing “Big Empty” outside of their practice space or a recording studio.
#9- Alice In Chains -
Another talented rocker lost too soon, Layne Staley's Unplugged performance would mark one of his last with the band before overdosing a few years later. The band had recently reunited leading up the show, having not performed together in close to three years. They still sounded as great as always.
#8- Pearl Jam -
The only reason this isn't ranked higher is because the viewer/listener was robbed. Pearl Jam only did 8 songs. But they were incredible. Their Unplugged set was recorded in front of fewer than 50 fans. The set consisted of songs from Ten plus a cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World”
#7 - Mariah Carey -
I know what you're thinking. STP, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Mariah Carey??? GTFOH. But not so fast my friend. Cast aside all the negative connotations Mariah's carried along over the years, all her shitty boyfriends, tabloid stories, etc. and just focus on her voice. It's one of the top 10, maybe 5 voices ever? And the cover she did of The Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" will always be one of the best of all time. So for that reason alone, I'm in.
#6- Alicia Keys -
Unreal performance by peak Alicia Keys in 2005. She played stripped-down versions of “You Don’t Know My Name,” “A Woman’s Worth,” and “If I Ain’t Got You,” and covered Prince’s “How Come You Don’t Call Me” and Ed Cobb’s “Every Little Bit Hurts.” She brought out guests Damian Marley, Common, and Mos Def for Etta James’ “Love It or Leave It Alone” and Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock.” She even brought out Adam Levine for an awesome cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.”
#5 - Jay-Z -
This was peak Jay-Z. A few months after dropping The Blueprint Jay-Z took the Unplugged stage along with The Roots band and brought out Mary J. Blige for “Can’t Knock the Hustle” and Pharrell for “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It Me.)” It reminded the rap world of what RUN DMC and The Beastie Boys had been so successful with years prior- that rap and rock go pretty well together if done right. It eventually led way to Jay-Z collaborating with Linkin Park for their mash up album Collision Course.
#4 - Oasis -
Confession. I am a big-time Oasis guy. Some would say stan. First concert I ever attended (snuck into Worcester Centrum with friend's older brother), first song I ever made out to ("Champagne Supernova"), and secret weapon karaoke/end of the night song is "Dont Look Back In Anger". I hate what cocksuckers Noel and Liam are and wish for the world's sake they'd shut their mouths, sack up, and swallow their pride. But I respect the fuck out of their talents. (If you don't get what the big deal is about them watch the documentary Supersonic on Amazon Prime and I guarantee it will change your mind.) Anyway, in classic Oasis fashion, Neil and Liam got in a blowout before the show. Liam acted like a child and said his voice hurt too much to sing. So Noel said "fuck you, I'll sing then". Liam decided to sit in the audience and heckle his own band throughout the show. No joke. Noel laughed him off and talked shit back while plowing through all of Oasis hit's from their first two albums accompanied by string quartet. Pretty amazing.
#3 - Paul McCartney -
Sir Paul crushed Beatles classics such as “Blackbird,” “And I Love Her,” and “We Can Work It Out.” His unplugged performance featured a number of blues covers, too, as well as an amazing cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
#2 - Eric Clapton
Everybody knows the bone-chilling rendition of "Tears in Heaven" Clapton did during this performance. His Unplugged performance came less than a year after the tragic death of his 4-year-old son, who died falling out the window of his NYC apartment building. Clapton played 14 songs, including “Layla” and several covers of well-known blues songs. But it was “Tears in Heaven,” a wrenching track in memory of his son Conor’s death, that stole the show. The following year, the album took home six Grammy awards and, to this day, remains one of the biggest selling live records of all time.
#1 - Nirvana-
Here's the full show, unedited and uncensored -