Nirvana’s Unplugged In New York Aired For The First Time 24 Years Ago Today
Nirvana’s famous MTV Unplugged appearance, Nirvana Unplugged in New York, first showed on MTV on this day (December 16) in 1993. The band played a set list made up of primarily lesser-known material and covers of songs by The Vaselines, David Bowie, Lead Belly, and Meat Puppets, whose Cris and Curt Kirkwood joined Nirvana onstage.
The band famously wanted to do something far removed from previous MTV Unplugged shows. According to a certain Dave Grohl, talking to Rolling Stone in 2005, “We’d seen the other Unpluggeds and didn’t like many of them, because most bands would treat them like rock shows—play their hits like it was Madison Square Garden, except with acoustic guitars.”
It’s said that the band looked to Mark Lanegan’s 1990 album The Winding Sheet as a source of inspiration.
In a 2008 interview with Guitar World, producer Alex Coletti recalled the network was unhappy with the band’s choice of the Meat Puppets as guests (“They wanted to hear the ‘right’ names – Eddie Vedder or Tori Amos or God knows who,” Coletti said) and the dearth of hit Nirvana songs on the set list.
In the end it turned out alright, though:
MTV Unplugged in New York was released following the death of Kurt Cobain. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and is the group’s most successful posthumous release. It has been certified 5x platinum in the United States by 1997 and it also won the GRAMMY Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996.
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