A Personal Note on Nirvana: With The Lights Out By
With the Lights Out
After cashing in
on Kurt Cobains private diaries and the rushed release of You Know
Youre Right in the fall of 2002, Courtney Love is now gladly accepting
your $60 for an elaborate box set of Nirvana rarities, just in time for the
and commercialism go so hand in hand and because Nirvana and Kurts story
reminds us so much of Christmas, Universal Music and Courtney Love are rewarding
the fans by releasing the long-awaited box set after more than seven years.
So, why now? Why not on a more meaningful day that meant something to him or
to us? If this box set was truly meant to celebrate Nirvanas music and
Kurts memory, then why let it out on the most commercial release date
along with U2, Gwen Stefani, Kelly Clarkson, Goo Goo Dolls, and many more? Because
when it comes to Nirvana, its all about cash. Whats more profitable
than putting together a bunch of outtakes, unfinished songs and home videos,
selling it for $60, and calling it a deal for the Christmas shoppers?
Isnt this against everything that Nirvana stood for? What happened to
the foundation of grunge and the punk/rock ideology?
Universals Geffen label recorded close to 400,000 advance orders of the
box set priced at $60 (although you could find it for as low as $40 at some
retail stores). And according to Billboard, With The Lights Out, sold
over 106,000 in the first week of release and brought in the biggest opening
sales for any box set since Garth Brooks' The Limited Series in 1998.
Thats more than $5 million worth of revenue for the label and Courtney
Love in only one week. Needless to say, the set will continue generating even
more profit in the months ahead and lets not forget the revenue from international
The four-disc set, With The Lights Out, includes 81 tracks, 68 of them
previously unreleased. It was originally planned for release in 2001, but a
dispute between Courtney Love and the surviving band members delayed the project.
Kurt died without any legal agreement or a valid will, thereby giving control
of 96% of Nirvanas publishing rights to Courtney Love. In 1997 Krist Novoselic,
Dave Grohl, and Courtney Love signed a partnership contract, which requires
that all three vote unanimously on decisions such as the release of Nirvanas
songs, etc. Shortly after, Love filed a lawsuit against Novoselic and Grohl
to break up the partnership and gain 100% rights to the wealth of material Kurt
and Nirvana left behind. Krist and Dave wanted to release the box set earlier
(to commemorate Neverminds tenth anniversary), but Love disagreed,
arguing that a best of Nirvana CD should come out first. They wound up in court,
but settled; the best of Nirvana album (another quickie holiday release) hit
the stores in November 2002 with only one previously unreleased track, You
Know Youre Right.
With The Lights Out features three CDs, opening with a live cover of
Led Zeppelins Heartbraker from the bands first public
performance in 1987 and a DVD of rare performances and rehearsal footage - including
a handful of rehearsals at the home of Krists mom when Kurt was only 20.
Disc 1 includes the earlier days of the band and the poor quality of recordings
on Mrs. Butterworth and Help Me Im Hungry makes
you feel more intimate to the beginning of Nirvana. If You Must
(recorded in 1988) is a perfect example of an early track reflecting the bands
sound and dynamics, which seem to have been born from the very early days. Kurts
rough guitar tone, Krists flexible beat on the bass, and their explosive
swings in the beat make this previously unreleased track sound like an old familiar
tune from Bleach or In Utero. On the more melodic side, weve got
Dive (also recorded in 1988), which, in retrospect, vibrates the
mood and the sound of Nevermind. And finally a bluesy trio of Leadbelly
covers including They Hung Him on A Cross.
Disc 2 is mostly post-Nevermind Nirvana with Dave as a permanent member
in the bands lineup. Many of the bootlegged Nirvana tracks that have navigated
the net for years have been compiled into one CD, which includes: Verse
Chorus Verse, Old Age, a cover of Velvet Undergrounds
Here She Comes Now, and the Wipers Return of the Rat.
Disc 3 features a wide range of outtakes, studio sessions, and home recordings
- from the In Utero demo sessions in Rio De Janeiro to Kurts home
recording of Rape Me. Moving forward in the chronological format
of the set, we arrive at Do Re Mi and You Know Youre
Right, which were both put to tape only weeks before Kurts death.
The tunes are so alive, explosive, and vibrating. Its like a melancholy,
bittersweet feeling that takes you back and forth in time and makes you want
to avoid the ending that we all know too well. And for me, this just reconfirms
my own personal take on his story and the fact that he was still so full of
music and soul, even to the last minute.
So, all of this, the recording, the songs, the outtakes, the home videos, and
the pictures go inside a glossy box on the retailers' shelves. And my problem
is not just the inappropriateness of the release date; my problem is the lavish
treatment of this material, which Kurt would have never wanted. My problem is
pricing it at a level that many Nirvana fans cant even afford. My problem
is the industry that has squeezed an unplugged album, a live CD, a single box
set, a best-of album, and now a complete box set out of a band that only had
three studio albums. If its a financial gain, then lets put a sticker
on it and dedicate a percentage of the profit to fund schools and develop the
music programs. If its for the fans as they claim it, then
lets just put it on the Internet for free or downplay the extravagant
packaging and lower the price point. The music and the mans memory are
just too sacred to be thought of and treated as corporate entities and financial
With The Lights Out does have some very amazing and spine- tingling moments
and I am sure that the hardcore fans will enjoy every minute of it. Is it a
treasure for the fans? Most definitely. Has it been handled and presented the
way Kurt (and the true Nirvana fans) would have wanted it to? Certainly NOT.
But in the end, who I am to tell you what to think of this box set? Who am I
to tell you how it should have been done? All I can tell you is that I personally
am not putting a penny in the pocket of the music industry or Courtney Love
for offering me a deal!
With the Lights Out