MTV Unplugged in New York is the debut live album by Nirvana, released November 1, 1994. It was recorded on November 18, 1993 in New York and broadcast on MTV. It is also their first posthumous release, coming after Kurt Cobain's death and added two bonus tracks that weren't broadcast on TV at the time. It became a huge best-seller and the live version of "About a Girl" became a minor hit in some countries, where it was released on single. The unquestioned highlight of all the covers the band played that night was their haunting closing cover, "Where Did You Sleep Last Night".
Nirvana's Unplugged In New York is perhaps the most famous concert in MTV's "Unplugged" series. The band chose not to perform any of their big hits, apart from "Come as You Are". It's also a partial Cover Album, where they performed songs by some of Cobain's musical influences and thus gave many of these artists more mainstream attention. Unplugged in New York is also popular with people who aren't huge Nirvana fans or dislike hard rock or alternative rock for that matter, because the acoustic set gives the audience a chance to hear the group's strength as songwriters and Cobain's ear for melody.
- "About a Girl" (3:37)
- "Come as You Are" (4:13)
- "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam" (4:37)
- "The Man Who Sold the World" (4:20)
- "Pennyroyal Tea" (3:40)
- "Dumb" (2:52)
- "Polly" (3:16)
- "On a Plain" (3:44)
- "Something in the Way" (4:01)
- "Plateau" (3:37)
- "Oh, Me" (3:26)
- "Lake of Fire" (2:56)
- "All Apologies" (4:23)
- "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" (5:08)
- Kurt Cobain - lead vocals, guitar
- Dave Grohl - drums, vocals, bass
- Krist Novoselic - bass, accordion, guitar
- Pat Smear - guitar
Where Did You Trope Last Night?
- Alternative Rock: Acoustic renditions of Nirvana songs from previous albums, along with cover material.
- Bowdlerize: The original 1994 album release cut some of the conversations with the audience. In one of the cut conversations Cobain says they can't play "Pennyroyal Tea" and "On A Plain" back to back, then says: "Let's just do it anyway, who cares, it's a television show. They'll edit in a different order afterwards." Despite that they perform "Dumb" instead afterwards. There's also a funny conversation about Davey And Goliath before Cobain performs the Meat Puppets songs.
- During "Lake of Fire" Cobain at one point originally came in too early and quickly muffled his line, before singing it at the appropriate moment. This moment was removed from the original 1994 release.
- Cover Album: The group covered songs by The Vaselines ("Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam"), David Bowie (The title track from The Man Who Sold the World,) Meat Puppets ("Oh, Me", "Plateau", "Lake of Fire") and Lead Belly ("Where Did You Sleep Last Night" is a cover of "In The Pines.")
I was simply blown away when I found that Kurt Cobain liked my work, and have always wanted to talk to him about his reasons for covering 'The Man Who Sold The World'" and that "it was a good straight forward rendition and sounded somehow very honest. It would have been nice to have worked with him, but just talking with him would have been real cool.
- David Bowie himself liked the band's rendition of "The Man Who Sold The World"
- During the final two songs Cobain takes time for requests, though all this audience conservation was cut from the 1994 album release, as well as the MTV broadcast. He refuses "Sliver", because he has to scream for it. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is dismissed by Novoselic: "That's for Tori Amos." When someone shouts "Rape Me" Cobain says: "I don't think MTV will let us play that".
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" is a far more dark and disturbing cover of the genuinely cheery sounding Lead Belly song "In the Pines".
- Deadpan Snarker: During a huge part of the concert, Cobain sounds rather depressed, sarcastically putting himself down and making snide comments. This is however a bit of misconception, because the CD release cut a lot of funny conversations between Cobain and the audience. He even jokes about how long the Meat Puppets (who he idolized) were taking to get ready for their set.before "Pennyroyal Tea"Kurt: Well, I think I'll try it in a different key. I'll try it in the normal key, and if it sounds bad, these people are just gonna have to wait.Audience: *laughter*
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The stage was decorated with stargazer lilies, black candles and a crystal chandelier. Cobain suggested this touch because it would look "like a funeral." Also makes the concert Foreshadowing and Harsher in Hindsight considering, seeing Cobain would be dead only half a year later. Series producer Alex Coletti later said pretty much exactly this in a Guitar World interview.
- I Am the Band: People who have seen the rehearsal tapes say they make crystal clear the extent to which Cobain was in charge of Nirvana. Among other things, he corrects Pat Smear's off-key vocals, and directs Dave Grohl to play louder or softer at times.
- Live Album: It was entirely played live, in one take. Occasionally you hear a few musical mistakes. When Cobain announces "The next song is "Oh, Me"" you hear one of Kirkwoods say: "Oh?" as if he expected a different number in the line-up.
- Metal Scream: Most of the chosen songs are soft and gentle. Only "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" ends with a trademark Cobain yell.
- New Sound Album: The acoustic sets of "MTV Unplugged In New York" was a surprising and welcoming change of sound compared to their previous loud rock albums.Kurt: What are they tuning, a harp?
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Although the official title of this album is "MTV Unplugged in New York", many people refer to it as "Unplugged in New York."
- Questioning Title?: "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?"
Kurt: I guarantee you I will screw this up. And I know exactly which part.Dave: Yeah, like he only screws one up.Kurt: (After the performance:) I didn't screw it up, did I? O.K., but here's another one I could screw up.
- Intro to "The Man Who Sold the World".
Dave: That's sounded good.Kurt: Shut up!
- And later...
- Special Guest: For the Meat Puppets cover versions the actual Meat Puppets perform along with Nirvana. Cello player Lori Goldston is also featured on a number of songs.
- Take That, Audience!: In a deleted part Cobain takes audience requests, though after hearing most of them he simply says tongue in cheek: "Fuck you all" and plays "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?"
- Think of the Censors!: The band struggle what final song to play, so they take suggestions from the audience. When one female fan shouted "Rape Me", Kurt's reply was this:Kurt: I don't think MTV would let us play that.
- Unplugged Version: As the title explains, though Cobain actually did plug his acoustic guitar into an amplifier that he had hidden in front of him.