The first time Jon Stewart heard Nirvana, he thought Kurt Cobain and Co. sounded "like the Beatles had swallowed Black Flag." His recollection earned a slight smile from Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Nevermind producer Butch Vig Saturday night at a live question and answer session broadcast on SiriusXM's Lithium station in honor of the landmark album's 20th anniversary (the show will re-air at 3 p.m. today and 12 p.m. tomorrow). Here's what you didn't hear on the radio: secret superfan DJ Premier sneaking in for a photo with the band after all the contest winners SiriusXM flew in snapped official pics, and one of those winners falling down to one knee and proposing to his girlfriend directly in front of Dave Grohl. (She said yes and the band doled out genuine hugs to the newly engaged couple.)
A few of the band's tales from the studio were a bit too racy for The Amp. Remember: Howard Stern moved his show to satellite radio for a reason -- which reminds us, Baba Booey was in attendance, too! But here's a rundown of the trio's most illuminating revelations (which complement our own 5 Things You Didn't Know About Nevermind quite nicely):
• Grohl said playing Nirvana songs was a "process of simplification," and that's why Nevermind's impact was so massive: "I didn't want to be the drummer from Rush," he noted (adding a sorta "not that there's anything wrong with that").
• The band thought recording for a fancy major label was a pretty big deal, but Grohl "just found out" that during the Nevermind sessions, "Butch was staying at the $90 hotel, and we were staying at the $70 hotel."
• Vig recalled the one time there was "mass destruction in the studio" -- it was during the recording of "Lithium," which was not going well because the band kept speeding up. "After three or four takes, something snapped in Kurt -- it was kind of scary," Vig said. Cobain exploded in a fit of rage and the band churned out several moments of noise that turned into Nevermind's bonus track, "Endless, Nameless." "At the end, he smashed up his guitar" and Vig called it a day. Novoselic said Cobain would regularly "smash guitars at rehearsal," too. He'd be "mellow and sweet and just flip and be really intense -- his intensity was captured through the music."
• During the band's rise, "I never thought, 'Stop -- this is too awesome,' " Grohl said, but he later added, "I was introduced to anxiety through Nirvana."
• Determining Nevermind's track order "took like five minutes," Vig remembers -- Kurt just listed the names off in Geffen's Los Angeles office:
• During the Nevermind sessions, the band stayed in L.A.'s famous Oakwood Corporate Apartments, which were filled with "child actors," Grohl said. "Europe was down the hall... I was getting orange juice with Kid N Play."
• The concept for the album cover was born in those very Oakwood Corporate Apartments, where "Kurt was watching this special on underwater birth," Novoselic said. "It was this really beautiful, innocent, slo-mo image of babies swimming underwater."
• As Nevermind started to explode, Grohl knew something had shifted when the crowd changed from "People you'd expect at Nirvana show to people who just looked normal."
• The band's January 11, 1992 Saturday Night Live debut also marked the day they first spoke with "Weird Al" Yankovic about letting him parody "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
• Cindy Crawford came up to Novoselic at the VMAs and asked what he was drinking. "Beer!" he replied -- "And she took a hit off it!" Stewart proclaimed that since their lips had both touched the same glass, they had essentially made out.
• When Grohl arrived for his Nirvana audition (he flew in with a full drum set), he offered Kurt a bite of his apple during the van ride from the airport. The first thing Cobain ever said to him was, "No, man, those things make my teeth bleed."
[Photo: Brantley Gutierrez]
- Dave Grohl
- Kurt Cobain
- Krist Novoselic
- Jon Stewart