The sweater that Kurt Cobain wore when Nirvana recorded their MTV Unplugged performance in late 1993 has sold at auction for well above the expected estimate.
Perhaps one of the most iconic performances of the grunge era, when Kurt Cobain and Nirvana played on MTV Unplugged, the band was on top of the world. In Utero, Nirvana’s third album featuring Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl, was at the top of the Billboard charts, a successful American tour with opening acts The Breeders and Half Japanese had started in October, and Pat Smear from the classic punk band The Germs had been brought in as a touring second guitarist.
Nirvana was a well-oiled machine when they played MTV Unplugged, and no one yet knew that Kurt Cobain’s untimely death was less than a year away.
The concept for MTV Unplugged was fairly ingenious at the time. Take a popular rock band, strip away the electric guitars and basses, and have them play their hits in a toned down way in an intimate room.
For a band like Nirvana, the setup was easy and played to Kurt Cobain’s strengths (and strengths that the general music fan probably didn’t know he possessed). Instead of just playing their “hits,” Cobain and the rest of the band branched out, covering other bands, including The Vaselines (“Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam”), David Bowie (“The Man Who Sold the World”), and three songs by the Meat Puppets. For the latter, Kurt and the rest of the band invited Curt and Kris Kirkwood from the Meat Puppets onstage to assist with the songs.
There was a laid-back vibe to Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance that was surprising to many at the time. Playing with the band was guitarist Pat Smear and cellist Lori Goldston. Between songs, there was a banter between band mates that was witty and fun, a mark of many great acts from The Beatles to Metallica. For example, after Cobain does a solo rendition of “Pennyroyal Tea,” Grohl comments, “That was good, man.” To which, Kurt comments dryly, “Shut up.”
The songs weren’t played the same way that they were on the records. Instead of the explosive howls and feedback Nirvana fans had come to expect, Kurt Cobain and the others stripped the band’s sound back. Heavy distortion was traded in for acoustic strums. Cobain’s howls were replaced with gritty growls. The result was very well received by fans and critics alike.
For anyone who experienced the early 90s and the onset of grunge, Nirvana’s appearance on MTV Unplugged epitomizes the entire era in a way. Yes, we all remember the images and videos of Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, of Chris Cornell and Soundgarden, of Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots, but somehow, the image of Kurt Cobain sitting on that office chair, playing that acoustic guitar, cigarette in his mouth, blonde hair unkempt, wearing those sneakers, jeans, and that iconic cardigan sweater will forever be the image of grunge that is iced in music fans’ minds.
Perhaps that’s the reason why the sweater that Kurt Cobain wore for that appearance just sold for so much money.
Prior to the auction at Julien’s in Los Angeles, experts guessed that Kurt Cobain’s sweater would sell for somewhere between $40,000 and $60,000. Julien’s stated that they received the sweater from “a close friend” of the Cobain family. When the auction was over, the final sale price more than doubled the estimate. Kurt’s ratty, olive-green sweater sold to an undisclosed buyer for $137,500.
Following the MTV Unplugged appearance, Nirvana began a European tour in early 1994. While in Rome, Kurt Cobain was found unconscious and rushed to a hospital. It was later stated that Kurt had suffered a bad reaction from a combination of prescription Rohypnol and alcohol. The rest of Nirvana’s tour was canceled. Following the cancellation, Kurt’s heroin addiction reared its mighty head, and an intervention was organized where Cobain was convinced to enter rehab. After only a week at the facility, Kurt bailed on rehab, literally climbing over the facility’s fence, and took a plane back to Seattle.
One week later, on April 8, 1994, Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home, the victim of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
[Photo via Shadaz.Fr]