List

20 Songs That Influenced Kurt Cobain

Stereogum | December 5, 2006 - 1:08 pm

This month’s Q features a story on “The Nevermind Era,” which is defined by a scientifically precise timeline, beginning 10/29/90 (“Dave Grohl settles in”) and ending 8/30/92 (“The Reading Festival,” Nirvana’s final UK concert). The article on this Anglo-centric 672 days of influence has behind the scenes anecdotes documenting the highs and the lows; it also has this list of songs “that inspired Kurt Cobain,” which the mag’s staff put together based on Cobain quotes and their editorial expertise. Here it is, with a recap of their reasoning for inclusion.

01. “Kool Thing” – Sonic Youth
Q included this because “the alternative rock heroes were instrumental in getting Nirvana signed by Geffen.”

02. “Debaser” – Pixies
As Cobain said, he “was basically trying to rip off the Pixies.”

03. “More Than A Feeling” – Boston
They’re thinking that “Smells Like Teen Spirit”‘s opening bore a “strong resemblance” to this cut.

04. “Seasons In The Sun” – Terry Jacks
The first record Kurt ever bought.

05. “My Sharona” – The Knack
In Kurt’s band bio, he wrote that Nirvana sounded like “Black Sabbath playing The Knack.”

06. “Rise Above” – Black Flag
Q traces Kurt’s lyrical sense to this punk staple.

07. “Sweet Emotion” – Aerosmith
Kurt and Krist put out a band ad listing Led Zep and Aerosmith as key influences.

08. “Chord Organ Blues” – Daniel Johnston
We all know how much Kurt loved his Daniel tee.

09. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” – Leadbelly
Covered during Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged appearance.

10. “I Saw Her Standing There” – The Beatles
From Meet The Beatles!, which made it into Kurt’s posthumously published Top 50 albums list.

11. “Lizzy” – Melvins
Kurt auditioned for a slot with the Melvins, but had a bout of the nerves and “fogot all the songs.”

12. “Lake Of Fire” – Meat Puppets
Included ’cause the band joined Nirvana for three songs at the Unplugged performance.

13. “The Revenge Of Anus Presley” – Butthole Surfers
Q says that the Surfers’ “outrageous lyrics appealed to Cobain’s often puerile sense of humour.”

14. “Search And Destroy – Iggy And The Stooges
Said Kurt: “Iggy Pop was my total idol.”

15. “Back In Black” – AC/DC
First riff 14-year-old Kurt ever learned!

16. “Black Sabbath” – Black Sabbath
Noted as a key influence on Bleach. Also noted for having inventing heavy metal.

17. “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Teeneaged Kurt and Krist once had a CCR tribute band called Sellout. Awwww.

18. “Anarchy In The UK” – Sex Pistols
Included for the thought that “A denial!” was a Gen X update of “Get pissed! Destroy!”

19. “Son Of A Gun” – The Vaselines
Nirvana covered three Vaselines songs in its day.

20. “My My Hey Hey (Into The Black)” – Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Kurt’s suicide note quoted Young: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”

Some of these cuts were included for well-founded anecdotal reasons — and some were just Q talking out their collective ass. Still, it’s a fun exercise: What songs do you hear reflected in Nirvana’s catalogue? If you’re really savvy, you’ll point out the analagous Nirvana track, right down to the section in question. Go!