MTV Unplugged in New York is a Live Album by American Alternative Rock group Nirvana, released through DGC Records on November 1, 1994. It contains perhaps the most famous concert to ever come from MTV's Unplugged series, and notably ended up being Nirvana's final concert, with "All Apologies" being the last Nirvana song Kurt Cobain played live during his lifetime.
The album was recorded on November 18, 1993 in New York and broadcast on MTV. It was also their first posthumous release, coming seven months after frontman Kurt Cobain's death, and added two bonus tracks that weren't broadcast on TV at the time.
The band chose not to perform any of their big hits, apart from "Come as You Are"; at that point, "All Apologies" and "Pennyroyal Tea" were both scheduled to be released from their then-new album, In Utero. It's also a partial Cover Album, as they performed songs by some of Cobain's musical influences and thus gave many of these artists more mainstream attention.
The album hit #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart in the United States, and the Official Charts Company album chart in the United Kingdom. It finished at #13 on the year-end Billboard 200 chart for 1995, and was in the top half of the OCC year-end chart in both 1994 and 1995. A vinyl re-release became a hot seller throughout The New '10s in the UK. It was certified eight-times Platinum by the RIAA, and triple-Platinum by the BPI. It also won Best Alternative Music Performance at the 1996 Grammy Awards, the band's only win for the award.
The live version of "About a Girl" also became a minor hit in some countries, where it was released as a single. However, the unquestioned highlight of all the covers the band played that night was their haunting closing cover of Lead Belly's "In the Pines," titled here as "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?"
The album was remastered, and re-released for its 25th anniversary on November 1, 2019. Released on CD, digital, and a double-record vinyl album, it added five rehearsal tracks.
- "About a Girl" (3:37)
- "Come as You Are" (4:13)
- "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam"note (4:37)
- "The Man Who Sold the World"note (4:20)
- "Pennyroyal Tea" (3:40)
- "Dumb" (2:52)
- "Polly" (3:16)
- "On a Plain" (3:44)
- "Something in the Way" (4:01)
- "Plateau"note (3:37)
- "Oh, Me"note (3:26)
- "Lake of Fire"note (2:56)
- "All Apologies" (4:23)
- "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?"note (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, Kurt 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.
- 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?"
- Shout-Out: Red Hot Chili Peppers provides a shout-out to Nirvana's "Unplugged" concert in the music video of "Dani California" from the album Stadium Arcadium.
- Intro to "The Man Who Sold the World".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.
- And later...Dave: That's sounded good.
Kurt: Shut up!
- Intro to "The Man Who Sold the World".
- 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.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: The entire concert takes a relatively soft tone compared to Nirvana's typical output. But most notably, while the original recording of "All Apologies" was already among the band's softer songs, the version played here is even more gentle than the original. For this reason, songs from the album received airplay on stations that wouldn't even normally touch hard rock, let alone grunge.
- 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.