MTV Unplugged will go down in pop culture history as one of the most beloved live performance shows of its generation.
Over the course of its run on MTV, incredible performances from a myriad of musical acts including 10,000 Maniacs, Aerosmith, Robert Plant & Jimmy Page, Stone Temple Pilots, Eric Clapton, and more took part in the television program, in addition to one of Alice In Chains‘ final performances as a band. Arguably one of the most popular episodes from MTV’s Unplugged series belongs Nirvana when they put on an acoustic performance which aired on December 16th, 1993.
The days leading up to the taped performance—which took place on November 18th—didn’t go without their fair share of issues, with Cobain being beyond tense and nervous to perform a completely acoustic show (he demanded the use of effects pedals). The band also went back-and-forth between MTV’s producers as to the overall direction of the performance and the band’s choice on having members of the Meat Puppets join them on stage. The participation of Nirvana drummer and future Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl was also in doubt, as his notoriously intense drumming style wasn’t translating well to the more relaxed, unplugged vibe of the show.
Despite the issues, and Cobain’s clearly fragile state of mind during that time period (remember, this was roughly six months before his untimely death), the one-take, no-frills performance has since become one of the most popular acoustic performances of the 1990s. The band’s Unplugged performance has become so well-known within rock history, in fact, that the 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic guitar played by Cobain was recently sold at auction for a world-record-setting $6,010,000.
The group opened up with “About A Girl” (the only number performed from the band’s 1989 debut album Bleach) and continued with a setlist that strayed from their more commercial hits, outside of “Come As You Are” from 1991’s Nevermind.
Cobain, Grohl, and bassist Krist Novoselic were joined by guests including future guitarist (and future Foo Fighter) Pat Smear, Lori Goldston (cello), and both Chris and Kirk Curtwood of The Meat Puppets on acoustic bass and guitar, respectively. The latter of which performed three of their own tracks, including “Plateau”, “Oh, Me”, and “Lake Of Fire”.
Relive Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance with select songs available on YouTube below.
Nirvana – “The Man Who Sold The World” – MTV Unplugged
Nirvana – “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” – MTV Unplugged
Nirvana – “All Apologies” – MTV Unplugged
Nirvana – “Lake Of Fire” – MTV Unplugged
Nirvana – “About A Girl” – MTV Unplugged
Nirvana – “Come As You Are” – MTV Unplugged
Nirvana – “Polly” – MTV Unplugged
Nirvana – “Pennyroyal Tea” – MTV Unplugged
[A version of this article was published on 11/18/20]