Boxset, Update #6: Charley Cross is a Fucking Clown

And with that, we meet our final disc. But before I show you the running order, I gotta admit: this isn’t a moment too soon. It’s certainly not that my desire to work on this wanes, I’m not phoning it in (on the contrary, a ton to talk about in this post)–but my desire to get to other, smaller stuff waxes. I can work on big projects. It just ends up taking ages. When I start three or four, I start rushing to get them done before the next recap. I wanted to do it, I don’t regret a thing (ha)–but yeah, good time to wind it down.

But anyway, here’s the list:

Sound of Dentage, disc three, likely final running order

I was shocked to find that this third disc was the hardest of all of them to put together, simply because I’ve been running out of material. The first disc, I had all of With the Lights Out‘s sources to work from–the Community World Theater show, the 1987 Burckhard rehearsal, the fucking Fecal Matter tape–and the second disc was a wellspring of missed opportunities on the actual boxset’s part and a ton of unused studio material floating around for me to grab.

This third disc would’ve been a lot easier if I happened to own the deluxe version of In Utero, which has plenty of exclusive material to it. Alas, I don’t. This disc is why I’m using live stuff at all. This disc makes me yearn for those 1994 Robert Lang sessions, even if it’s majority Foo Fighters and goofing around. Worse yet, the actual boxset order was–surprisingly good! Barring a few utterly forgettable home demos and “The Other Improv”, which is just annoying, I don’t really have much to complain about or improve upon. As a result, I relied a whole lot more on it for cuts than the other two discs (doubt there was any WTLO material on disc two, and only a few towards the end for disc one).

That’s alright though. They didn’t brickwall (most) of the home demos at the very least. Since I really wanted disc two to end with the hurrah that was the Nevermind sessions, disc three picks up with an exhausted band with the whole world suddenly watching them. 1992 was a pretty fallow year for Nirvana stuff, least what we have, so again, lots of boxset cuts. Thankfully, they’re very good cuts, including that ten-minute “Scentless Apprentice” jam where you can almost pinpoint exactly where parts of the finished song were thought up and Kurt’s rather haunting acoustic demos. I wanted the later “Old Age” demo on there too, seeing as it more closely matches the Hole arrangement (thus providing context for it), but it just wasn’t gonna fit.

The Rio sessions were a given, and I used a ton from them (of course, the trading circle versions, which occasionally have a worse mix, but I’d rather that than a bricked master). One track that some people might have an issue with, but I’ll staunchly defend, is the unfinished “Closing Time” from Hole, which first appeared during Hole’s demo sessions for Live Through This (funnily enough, the next album in the Rediscovering pile!) and was played and jammed on live throughout much of 1993 and 1994. Being a Hole song and only having Kurt on bass, I’m sure someone’s gonna think it doesn’t fit. If Hole, then why not Earth? Why not Melvins? After all, Kurt played on their records too!

To which I say–dealer’s choice. It’s a pretty song, even if it is marred by cassette hiss and a bad join, and both Hole and Nirvana recorded at the same place around the same time. I say it fits contextually. Not to mention, if the Jury sessions were fair game on the real boxset, this one’s fair game on my boxset.

On the flipside, while the Pachyderm “Sappy” would make sense, seeing it was on the real With the Lights Out, I only threw it in as padding (seriously, without it, I had basically nothing from Pachyderm other than “Marigold”) and to make up for the actual boxset’s brickwalled mix of the thing. (I’m using the No Alternative mix, as the CD of it sits right next to me. Another future Rediscovering pick, by the way.) Of course, I already have the Sound City “Sappy” on disc two, so I’m thinking to make it match, (like the live bits), I’ll go back and add the home demo of “Sappy” to the first disc. Makes it something of a leitmotif.

Speaking of the live thing! I’ve said before I’m very much not into Nirvana’s live shows (singularly, anyway), but given the lack of material, I threw two cuts from the 02/16/94 Rennes, France show at the very end just to hammer home the point of how different and difficult this band had become. It’s pretty harrowing, reading, say, Melora Creager’s (who played cello on the band’s final European tour) account of how…ridiculously messy the Nirvana gravy train had grown:

It is by now clear if it was in doubt before that the Cobains’ marriage is in trouble. Cross (2001) carries recollections presumably from Courtney of the couple’s many fights over the phone, fights which culminated in Kurt phoning their lawyer Rosemary Carroll before the Munich show and demanding a divorce.

Rather than face the problems square on, Melora Creager believes that behind the scenes there was a culture of secrecy to hide the true extent of Kurt’s problems. “What I thought was weird, was that people acted like nothing’s wrong. They talked around him, or through him. I didn’t know what the details were, but I felt like ‘excuse me this guy is miserable.’ Pat would tell me what’s going on but it was all very secretive. He’d tell me cryptic things and I’d hear other bits and pieces from Jennifer, and I was just trying to put it all together. They didn’t talk much.

I felt like Krist cared a lot about Kurt, but whatever happened over the years that I wasn’t privy to… he just seemed sad about Kurt’s state. Kurt seemed like a really depressed guy, and I thought so much of his music and he seemed a really nice guy too, so I just thought of him as this tortured genius.”

If Kurt got little support from his band members, he had none from his manager either as Melora notes. “John Silva gave Kurt a carton of cigarettes for his birthday “Kurt said something like ‘Oh he’s trying to kill me’ They just seemed not to like each other and it wasn’t a secret.”

I’ve also long maintained that I do not buy into the tortured soul, people-over-music bullshit that tends to surround Nirvana–but this is business. This stuff did affect how they play. And frankly, you can kinda hear it, even if I did use what’s considered one of the better shows in the set. It’s a neater, tidier show than 1/23/88, but it sure as shit isn’t as lively, and Kurt sounds like he just wants it over (as opposed to the rabid warthog voice he’d break into at the aforementioned show). Consider that the dude, just like Layne Staley, was now being seen by fans as a fucking junkie icon:

It would seem that the rumours of Kurt’s drug use had reached such a level that Kurt was now seen as a junkie icon by Heroin users. Something sadly that would continue long after his death, as morbid junkies broke into the room where Kurt had committed suicide and taken Heroin supposedly in ‘honour’ towards him. Courtney Love’s later recollections of the phone call received from Kurt at the time would illustrate Kurt’s feelings towards this, he was according to Love “in tears” and desperate not to be the junkie icon he would later become. It sadly perhaps gave Kurt another reason to feel the world was better off without him. Indeed one would expect most people to feel not entirely dissimilar when faced with the prospect of becoming an advocate for one of the most insidious and lethal of narcotics.

Consider it: a man, being held up by other men, as a narcotics god. This is precisely why I don’t buy into the people-over-music bullshit. Nothing to do with why they were there on those stages, playing to people in countries none of them were even from. Just a man with a heroin problem, being celebrated for his heroin problem. I scarcely consider the Montage of Heck “oh boy what forgotten genius he had” fucking tripe any better.

One final point of notice on the music (and subsequent fallout). I took aim at the real boxset in my writeup over its final song being a pretty bland home demo of “All Apologies” instead of one of the more poignant tracks, and given the little narrative I’ve been building, I had to stick the landing.

Now, one of the biggest fights over the real boxset’s release was over a little song called “You Know You’re Right” (admittedly a given name, as it was just penciled in as “Kurt’s Tune #1”, but given that it’s the refrain, it’s a safer bet than “Mrs. Butterworth”). I spent a whole morning a few weeks ago reading through the archived NFC news items about the gigashitshow legal battle over this song between Courtney Love and the Cobain estate and Krist and Dave, who were actually in the band. Story goes, Krist and Dave wanted “You Know You’re Right” to be on the boxset, while Courtney considered it a waste there and thought it had potential as the headend of a single-disc compilation.

What followed is some of the spiciest shit I have ever read out of this camp.

On the message board at the official Hole website (Courtney Love’s band at the time), she said (among other things): “To clarify; Nirvana is mine. And by some fluke, those two [Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl] have some say, which I’m revoking. There are amazing Nirvana songs no-one’s ever heard in my little storage box that [Hole bassist] Eric Erlandson collected from around the house, and they are amazing. Four are beyond good – so I hope to have them out for the kids soon, but those two can’t have any say whatsoever.”

Here is the part of the Yahoo/Reuters story mentioning the poll I have been running here on NFC; “Nirvana fans have come down heavily on the side of the band members in the dispute. A poll on the fan club Web site shows 76 percent supporting Grohl and Novoselic, with just 6 percent on Love’s side. Everyone in the dispute agrees the song, with an introduction of ‘I don’t need to love again/I won’t sigh and mope again/I don’t need to love again’, would be a fitting final chapter of Nirvana’s legacy. ‘The fight is over control of Nirvana,’ said Rheaume. The new album would contain ‘out-takes, other stuff, whatever makes sense,’ he added.”

During the final hours of November, this site is even invited to the party. In a comment about NFC’s discussion board users, Courtney Love fumes (in part): “Get your shit together or let’s wait for a generation here. It would be better business and more astute management to put out a rarities record – not a 90-dollar boxset. A rarities record of shit YOU’VE never ever heard. And be grateful I played you what I did on TV tonight [the ‘Access Hollywood’ special], because unless Krist and Dave get the vast amount of cash THEY are demanding, you won’t be hearing it – and even then – it’s not coming out on Interscope.”

And my personal favorite, what I can only describe as “oh my God, how are you not in a home yet”–Kurt’s mom got on the horn to tell everyone that Krist and Dave fuck kids and Kurt actually hated them:

“I know that in the last year of his life, my son despised his bandmates and told me many times that he no longer wanted to play with them or have anything to do with them. Mr. Novoselic and his cohorts are attempting a character assassination on my daughter-in-law that is plain and downright untrue.

Mr Novoselic claims to have worked so hard as a band with my son. His romantic and revisionist version of a band history of sleeping on floors and generally being buddies with Kurt is just untrue. I don’t know how those two ever kept playing together. It was probably because Krist was willing to help drive and because he knew sticking by Kurt was going to get him to where he is today: an extremely wealthy man. I support my daughter in law in dissolving an LLC which never ever should have been formed. I will be hiring counsel of my own to protect the interests of my daughters, and to protect my son’s legacy from the mangling hands of what I believe to be a rat’s nest of liars and bandits.”

How’d this end, you ask? Well, how else could it? “You Know You’re Right” leaked online and it ate the lawsuit.

On May 7, 2002, a post on the livenirvana.com discussion board claimed the song was about to be released on-line. On May 10, three short clips appeared, quickly joined by a fourth (presenting a total of 47 seconds of the song), and a promise that the full track would be posted soon, a plan halted by legalities. In the finger-pointing that followed, some accused Grohl of inadvertently leaking the song by having copied it onto a CD of Probot tracks, a charge he staunchly denied. Other speculation put the leak down to a theft from Conway Studios.

It was no great surprise when the complete track mysteriously surfaced the following September. This time, there was no shoving the genie back into the bottle. Radio stations across North America, then around the world, began playing the track in defiance of cease-and-desist letters, and the end result was inevitable. By the month’s end, a settlement of the lawsuit was announced, and a video for You Know You’re Right was hastily assembled. The Nirvana compilation followed, hitting the Top 5 in the US and the UK shortly after its release.

So ultimately, Courtney got her way, and “You Know You’re Right” appeared to great applause on the “I still don’t own a copy of it somehow” greatest hits set Nirvana. The boxset itself got an acoustic home demo as a consolation prize which I feel nothing for, but given that this is my fucking boxset and I’m not beholden to any legal suits (and the track being almost 20 years released now), I’m throwing the studio cut at the tail end of the third disc.

What’s unfortunate is that no non-brickwalled and lossless versions of this song have surfaced. I have a “2008 Jack Endino mix” (…?) which isn’t brickwalled, but it’s clearly sourced from lossy. I have the Icon set with a lossless “You Know You’re Right”, but it’s bricked even harder than on Nirvana. As such, again, dealer’s choice–I decided to do my own mix of it using the circulating Guitar Hero: World Tour stems. These are lossy, Vorbis-encoded, but they sound pretty much transparent on any headphones I have and I was able to tweak the song to make it slam as manically as it should. If anyone has an issue with it, they can sub it out for another version of it. I’m happy with where it sits right now.

And at long last, that’s about it for the ordering. I’m gonna let it sit for a day or two, listen to all three discs in a row now that it’s all mastered and volume-adjusted, make some final tweaks, redo the art and readme, and it’ll be ready to throw on archives and on YouTube. We’ll see if the content bots like it as much as I hope anyone who’s into this stuff as much as I am is.

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