Gil’s Second Hand Store in Nirvana’s hometown of Aberdeen, Washington was Krist Novoselic’s favourite shop, offering a cornucopia of guns, bear traps and chainsaws – “Artefacts from the golden age of logging,” he told Mojo – along with a voluminous selection of obscure second-hand vinyl. It was here, in Nirvana’s earliest days, that he picked up a beaten-up copy of the self-titled debut album by Dutch ’60s psychedelic band Shocking Blue, for a dollar. “I went home and put it on, and was like, ‘Wow, this is great – every song is really good,’” remembered Krist. “I think I busted the Love Buzz riff out at rehearsal – because Kurt had heard that album, too, he’d really liked it. And we just started to play [the song], and had fun with it.”
Nirvana didn’t take their goofy cover version too seriously, but it was integral to them getting signed by Sub Pop Records. Jonathan Poneman had been played the band’s demo by Jack Endino and was already smitten, but was struggling to convince his business partner, Bruce Pavitt, of the band’s merits. Jonathan dragged Bruce along to Nirvana’s show at Seattle’s Central Tavern on April 10, 1988, and when Bruce heard Love Buzz, he fell for Nirvana and said, “That’s the single.” Which it was – the group quickly cut the song with Jack, and it was slated for release via the Sub Pop Singles Club, a subscription service that enabled the cash-strapped label to get punters to pay for records in advance, and showcase some lesser-known local bands.
“Kurt wasn’t thrilled about doing a cover for Nirvana’s first release,” Jack says, but Jonathan argues that Love Buzz was “a great vehicle for the Nirvana sound, allowing them to demonstrate everything they did so well: melody, hooks… The response was ecstatic. Nirvana were such a powerful, out-of-nowhere phenomenon, and it started there.”