The importance of Nirvana can never be understated. After breaking out in 1991 with their iconic anthem, Smells Like Teen Spirit, the Seattle band would go on to define an era. Kurt Cobain would become the unassuming poster boy for grunge thanks to his unique look, his ability to channel pessimism and confusion through his music, and the colossal selling Nevermind was regarded as an instant classic.
Beneath that, however, their catalogue is filled with collectable records, and rarities that have soared in value over the years as Nirvana’s popularity continues to grow and influence new generations around the world. We recently acquired what can only be described as the best Nirvana collection we have ever seen here, that any Nirvana collector worth their salt would be jealous of.
Starting right where it all began, the collection contained an original copy of Nirvana’s debut single, Love Buzz. Considered by most collectors to be the ‘holy grail’, this copy has remained in staggering condition. Released as part of the Sub Pop singles club, it is hand numbered out of 1000 in red pen, with a black and white wraparound sleeve. 1200 were in fact pressed with 200 unnumbered copies in circulation. Despite being one of the most heavily counterfeited records in existence, this is the real thing.
The recording of Love Buzz, a cover of a track by dutch garage rock band, Shocking Blue, is a different mix to what eventually appeared on their debut album, including the original cartoon introduction dubbed ‘Montage of Heck’. The b-side contains Big Cheese, the same track that would replace Love Buzz on initial UK copies of Bleach. It is without one of the most historically significant records in alternative rock, and one that will continue to be a white whale for many people.
This brings us quite nicely to Bleach. Released in 1989 on Sub Pop records in the US, and licensed to Tupelo in the UK, Nirvana’s debut is as unpolished and uninviting as grunge ever was. With the hooks kept to a minimum, playing off the sound of Mudhoney and The Melvins, with an apparent influence of everything from The Smithereens to Celtic Frost, Bleach was recorded for a mere $600. The modest reception it received means that original vinyl copies are collectable for their part in grunge history, but the 1992 repress’ that followed in the wake of the Nevermind explosion have also become collectors’ items. That’s before we even touch on the collectability of the dozens of import variants.
From the original run, one of the most sought after is always going to be the UK issue white vinyl pressing. As mentioned above, Big Cheese has replaced Love Buzz, and only 300 copies of this variant we pressed. As with many of Nirvana’s rarest records, this has also been counterfeited many times, with an almost identical version appearing around 10 years ago. Thankfully, our eagle-eyed buyers can spot one a mile off, and again, this is as real as it gets.
Over in Australia, there were numerous colours pressed by indie label, Waterfront. To go into every last detail would take an age, but they have a combination of yellow, red, blue, green, and pink vinyl variants, some with colour coordinated tinted sleeves, some with just the titles in the corresponding colour, some without. It is a complicated world, but we have a number of these variants in stock and you can find more information in our store. One of the rarest, however, is the green vinyl tour exclusive. It is limited to 500 copies, with a green tinted sleeve and a unique numbered cloth bag. It is an interesting piece, and one we haven’t seen for the best part of 10 years.
This collection proved that after doing this for nearly 30 years you can still be surprised and see rarities for the first time. Such is the case with a variant of Bleach that among all of the different variants released in 1992, nothing comes close the rarity of this one particular pressing. Licensed exclusively to Erika Records, package deal was put together out of 500 numbered copies on a red and white splatter/swirl coloured vinyl. It truly is a beautiful piece, and not to mention it comes with a blue vinyl copy of the Sliver 7”. We will undoubtedly never see another copy of this, and it is exactly what we mean when we describe records as ‘investment pieces’.
Of course, what Nirvana collection would be complete without Nevermind. While far from the hardest record on their catalogue to obtain, given the sheer volume that were sold (and continue to do so to this day) every now and then a special variant will arrive. In this case, it was a sealed, as new copy of the Mobile Fidelity audiophile pressing. There’s no better way to experience the bombastic drumming through Smells Like Teen Spirit; the driving riffs of In Bloom and Stay Away; the haunting reverb of Come As You Are, or even picking up every subtle nuance of the poignant closing track, Something In The Way.
Speaking of Nevermind, when Nirvana headed down under for an Australian headlining tour in 1992, a exclusive tour EP was released called Hormoaning. 4000 vinyl units were pressed on red and blue swirl, with some limited CD and cassette pressings with different artwork, and a small CD run for the Japanese market. Due to being counterfeited more times than any other Nirvana record, the value of true original pressings of Hormoaning have continued to rise.
Four of the tracks on the EP are taken from Nirvana’s BBC session with John Peel, and we covers by The Wipers, The Vaselines, and Devo. The remaining tracks, Aneurysm and Even In His Youth were b-sides recorded for Nevermind, and the version of Anuerysm is a different mix to what appeared on their 1992 compilation, Incesticide – which we also have a striking blue marble variant in stock.
As the years went by and Kurt Cobain began to feel the pressures of stardom, his health and mindset changed. He would, however, find the strength to pour all his anger and vitriol, intertwined wiuth a dichotomy of references to his love for Courtney Love, into Nirvana’s 1993 swan song, In Utero. It was louder and more disjointed than Nevermind, but with a controlled chaos and unrelenting sadness. From the gargantuan tracks such as Serve The Servants and Milk It, to the twisted love song, Heart Shaped Box, or the textbook quiet/loud formula of Pennyroyal Tea, it was the album Nirvana were destined to make. In hindsight, though, you can’t help but feel the mournful closing track, All Apologies, was Cobain’s way of saying goodbye, and if he knew that his time was not going to be long.
In terms of rare pressings, the clear vinyl variant of In Utero is a very desirable item. The price is slowly creeping up, and while coloured vinyl will always have its detractors, this pressing does, in some ways, sound even more crisp than the standard black vinyl. Of course, for the ultimate listening experience, the one to own is the mispressing of In Utero from 2003. While celebrating the 10th anniversary of the album, Geffen set out to reissue the LP, but instead of including the usual Scott Litt mixes of Heart Shaped Box and Pennyroyal Tea, it was released with the hallowed Steve Albini mixes, which we deemed as being too raw to release at the time. This would be issued for RSD Black Friday in 2013 for the 20th anniversary of the album, but the mispressing makes for a neat addition to any collection.
As we now know, In Utero would be the final studio album from the band after Kurt Cobain tragically committed suicide on April 5th, 1994. There would be a number of posthumous releases over the years, such as their historic headlining performance at the 1992 Reading Festival, the live compilation, From the Muddy Banks of The Wishkah, and the rarities box set, With The Lights Out.
The one release following the untimely break up of Nirvana, that is just as important as any of their studio albums, is the recording of their iconic 1993 acoustic performance for MTV, Unplugged In New York. It is Nirvana at their most exposed, particularly Cobain, who despite not favouring the spotlight, looks at home behind an acoustic guitar among the stargazer lilies that adorn the stage.
The performance itself is unlike anything else the band released, from the reworking of beloved tracks such as Come As You Are and Pennyroyal Tea, to being joined by The Meat Puppets for stirring, rare performances of Lake of Fire and Plateau, and putting their own spin on David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World. It is a unique experience to listen to, and the closing track, a cover of Lead Belly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night? is categorically one of the single greatest live performances of all time.
Of course, this is but a mere snapshot of the Nirvana items that we have in stock, and our collectors store is filled with a number of rarities and collector’s that will be pride and place in your collection. Or if you were ever thinking about starting to collect one of the most important bands of a generation, now as it the time, as it will be a long time – if ever – before we see some of these rarities again.