Good news! There’s a new episode of our Nirvana fan podcast, Heart Shaped Pod, available now! It’s about the best obscure Nirvana songs. You can listen to it right damn here:
It’s also available on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and all of the other places fine podcasts are downloaded. Even better, you can read notes about each of the songs we talk about in the post below. Do it!
The 20 Best Obscure Nirvana Songs (#20 – #11)
Now, keep in mind, we’re using the word “obscure” loosely when it comes to some of these picks. Does an album cut from Nevermind that doesn’t get enough attention qualify as obscure? Maybe not, but get off our backs. You know what we mean. These are songs that you don’t hear regularly on classic rock radio and things of the like.
So, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to it…
#20. “Sliver” (Nirvana)
This is probably the most well-known song on the list. “Sliver” was an integral part of Nirvana’s live shows for years before they blew up. So, it’s fitting that when the rarities and B-sides collection Incesticide was released, “Sliver” was the first single and video. Lyrically, it’s a really simple song about a kid who has to stay with his grandparents while his parents go to a movie for the night. But it’s also a fantastic example of how Kurt Cobain was able to evoke powerful emotions and feelings (fear of abandonment, in this case) from seemingly pointless lyrics.
#19. “Aneurysm” (Nevermind Deluxe Edition)
Another staple of Nirvana’s live shows, “Aneurysm” was first recorded during the Nevermind album sessions. Somehow, it never made it onto that album. Even more curiously, it was left off of the 2002 self-titled “Best Of” collection. That’s some bullshit right there.
#18. “Lake Of Fire” (MTV Unplugged)
The MTV Unplugged In New York album is a bit of an anomaly compared to most of the other performances that emanated from that legendary series. You can chalk that up to the wildly unconventional set list. It featured lots of covers and barely any hits, but somehow it 100 percent worked. The Meat Puppets are the source of three of those cover songs, and this is arguably the best of the bunch.
#17. “Ain’t It A Shame” (Sliver: The Best Of the Box)
The first of two Leadbelly covers on this list! He was Kurt Cobain’s favorite musician, according to the onstage banter from the MTV Unplugged album, anyway. This song first showed up on the With the Lights Out box set, but later appeared on the single disc “best of” version of that release as well. You should definitely own one or the other. You definitely don’t need to own both.
#16. “I Hate Myself And Want To Die” (In Utero Reissue)
If you read last week’s column about rare (and insanely valuable) Nirvana records, you already know the story behind “I Hate Myself and Want To Die” and its unfortunately timed appearance on the “Pennyroyal Tea” single. Now listen to the song! I mean, you should’ve done that last week while you were reading that other article, but it’s fine.
#15. “Molly’s Lips” (Incesticide)
Another cover! This time from ultra-obscure indie band The Vaselines. They were all but finished as a musical entity by the time Nirvana became a thing. Kurt’s ceaseless praise of the duo brought renewed attention to their music. They still tour sometimes. Check them out if you can!
#14. “Sappy” (Nevermind Deluxe Edition)
You can also count “Sappy” among the better known Nirvana “obscurities”. It was officially released (albeit as a hidden track) on a compilation album called No Alternative at the height of the band’s fame. It was also a staple of their live shows and arguably one of the most beloved songs they ever released. Despite all this, it never appeared on any of the studio albums.
#13. “Lounge Act” (Nevermind)
This, however, is absolutely on a Nirvana studio album. It’s on the one everyone knows, even. That said, between all the big name singles (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “In Bloom”, “Come As You Are”, etc) and super famous album cuts (“Polly”, “Drain You”), “Lounge Act” almost never comes up when people talk about songs from the album that made alternative rock famous. That’s a travesty, because it’s one of the best.
#12. “Do, Re, Mi” (With The Lights Out)
A snapshot of what might have been. This home demo stands as one of the last original songs Kurt Cobain ever recorded. It’s obviously unfinished, which explains all the mumbling in place of actual lyrics. The melody is beautiful though, and unlike anything else Nirvana ever released. Damn shame we never got to hear the finished version.
#11. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” (MTV Unplugged)
Arguably Kurt Cobain’s greatest live performance ever. Another Leadbelly cover, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” closed out the MTV Unplugged performance. Recorded in November, 1993, it’s also Kurt Cobain’s last great live performance. The last one on television, anyway. As far as closers go, you can’t do much better than this.
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