5 Essential Previously Unreleased Nirvana Songs

Updated on June 8, 2017
Jesse Drzal profile image

The sound of Nirvana is timeless, like all great music across every genre. The music will continue to inspire for generations to come.

Nirvana and the Alternative Movement

I can still picture the early nineties music scene clearly. Hair metal bands like Poison and Warrant dominated airwaves and MTV during the late eighties, only to wane in popularity. In the new coming decade, rap artists like Public Enemy, N.W.A and others were coming out with groundbreaking early albums (of which I enjoyed) forging the direction of that music.

Charts were dominated with pop music drivel, with acts like Milli Vanilli, Madonna and others pumping mindless noises into our eardrums with no substance, leaving us frustrated. Enter Nirvana, blowing the doors open with ''Smells Like Teen Spirit'' in late 1991 and helping forward the Seattle alternative grunge scene. The rest is history.

Although we know the top hits already, let's take a look at some unreleased recordings that came out starting in 2002, songs that were not on albums or b-sides, spanning the career of Nirvana and frontman Kurt Cobain that are available. If you already are a Nirvana fan, you may have your own list, these just serve as my own personal favorites.

Nirvana exhibit at EMP museum in Seattle, which has hundreds of Nirvana artifacts on display.
Nirvana exhibit at EMP museum in Seattle, which has hundreds of Nirvana artifacts on display. | Source

Pen Cap Chew

This was recorded during Nirvana's first ever studio session. Also known as the ''Dale Demo'', it featured Dale Crover on drums from the Melvins, who were a prominent punk band in the area and close friends of Kurt's. Crover worked with Kurt previously on the Fecal Matter project, which was an early collection of songs made after Kurt dropped out of school. The Dale Demo was recorded and mixed over the course of one day at Reciprocal Studios by Jack Endino, paid for by Kurt from saving money working as a janitor.

Kurt chose the studio on the strength of recent Soundgarden and Green River recordings, with Kurt being impressed by how the albums sounded. Two songs from the session ended up on the first issue of the Bleach debut album, with more appearing later on the Incesticide compilation. ''Pen Cap Chew'' was officially released on the With The Lights Out box set in 2004.

''Pen Cap Chew'' Video

You Know You're Right

This is the last Nirvana song recorded during what was the final studio session after the bands In Utero album. With its release in 2002, this was the first new Nirvana single to come out in eight years. A legal battle between Kurt Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, and Nirvana band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic previously ensued prior to release.

Love wanted the song to be part of a single album greatest hits collection as the standout track, while Grohl and Novoselic had other plans to include the song on a box set collection. Love eventually got her way, and the song was featured on the compilation album, Nirvana. An acoustic demo version was included on the With The Lights Out box set.

''You Know You're Right'' Video

Clean Up Before She Comes

Pre-dating the Bleach album, this is a home made demo dating back to 1988. Kurt's girlfriend from that period, Tracy Marander, maintained a full-time job to help support the couple so Kurt could stay home and create, working on mixtapes and writing songs. One of the deals though was Kurt had to keep the house clean for the couple while she worked, hence the title ''Clean Up Before She Comes''.

The song is available on the Sliver: Best Of The Box compilation as well as the With The Lights Out box set. Interesting song, and it's really cool how Kurt double tracked the vocals on this.

''Clean Up Before She Comes'' Video

Old Age

A few different takes of this song exist, one being a rough version recorded on a boombox, and also a cleaner studio version recorded as an outtake from the Nevermind album sessions at Sound City Studios by Butch Vig. The song was also used by Kurt's wife Courtney Love with different lyrics and some minor changes. Along with her band Hole, a version was played for the group's MTV Unplugged performance.

The studio recorded version was used for various B-sides by Hole with Courtney receiving a co-song writing credit. While recognized by some as a Hole song, this was first written and recorded by Kurt and Nirvana. The Nirvana studio outtake version of the song later became available on the With The Lights Out box set and Sliver: Best Of The Box. The homemade boombox version is available on the Nevermind Deluxe reissue album.


''Old Age'' Video

Do Re Mi

''Do Rei Mi'' was probably the last song written by Kurt. It was an acoustic boombox-recorded demo, with Kurt singing and playing the guitar. The song puts on display Kurt's Beatles influence with complex melodies and great vocals. Although a little rough in quality without studio treatments, this was most likely a foreshadow of things to come from Nirvana.

It first appeared on the With The Lights Out box set, with another medley of different takes included on Montage Of Heck: The Home Recordings. A great song and one of my Nirvana favorites in spite of a lack of proper studio recording.

''Do Re Mi'' Video

Nirvana Poll

Which Is Your Favorite Previously Unreleased Nirvana Song?

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© 2017 The Write Life


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