Here’s something you don’t get to see much of these days, some happy memories of Nirvana.
In a new e-Book, Sub Pop Records founder Bruce Pavitt opens up his personal album from a seminal early tour. In 1989, the label put on a special bill of Seattle talent; Mudhoney, Tad and a nascent Nirvana to tour across Europe, starting in Rome and culminating with a show at London Astoria that would see the bottom-of-the-bill band crowned by the media as the Next Big Thing. Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge In Europe, 1989 documents the journey.
“I had quite a bit of memorabilia from that time locked away,” Bruce tells NME. “To be honest, I was very traumatised by Kurt’s suicide and it took a while for me to go through it. But it was healing for me and I think it will be for the fans too – the pictures show Kurt at a more innocent time.”
The eventful story picks up the tour in Rome, where Kurt smashes a guitar, climbs the stage rigging and threatens to jump, complaining that the audience is full of “the kind of guys who used to be beat me up in high school”.
Even at this early stage, Kurt’s unpredictable spirit was in evidence. “It was a lot of drama from the first minute pretty much,” Bruce continues, “you know when he climbed the PA stack people really did think he was going to hurt himself, and I’ve never seen anything quite like that. Some other bands climb PA stacks just for kicks but this was a very different situation.”
Pavitt took him out for 24 hours, “walking around Rome, eating good food and drinking good coffee.” Kurt was able to continue the tour, they finished in London, and the rest was to become history. “I felt instinctively that this tour was going to have historical significance,” he remembers. “I felt that in my heart. It was just a really big deal for the label to have three of our acts come over for this tour leading up to this epic show in London. It was a big deal so I went out of my way to document it.
I keep hearing about plans to make films based on Nirvana. To me this would be the perfect plot, because it’s a Nirvana story with a happy ending.
Nirvana’s pre-Grohl drummer Chad Channing with Krist Novoselic
Kurt in reflective mode after the explosive events of the Piper Club, which saw him climb the speaker stack, threatening to jump off and split the band
Krist in younger, more handsome days
Kurt phoning then-girlfriend Tracy Marander after the theft of his passport in Geneva
Towards the end of the tour, Kurt signs a copy of early single ‘Blew’ at London’s Rough Trade Record store