If you love music, you probably celebrated Record Store Day earlier this month. If you’re like most people, you likely dished out $20 for a rare release from one of your favorite bands, then continued to peruse the stacks until you left with a nice haul tucked securely under your arm. But for some people, it’s not enough to feel the crooked rumblings of vinyl records emanating from dusty speakers.
Some just need to create those sounds themselves, be it through a slew of guitar pedal kits or a synthesizer and an electronic mixing board.
It’s not a stretch to say that Kurt Cobain was one of those people, driven by a mad impulse to seemingly create and destroy in alternating quantities. Sadly, it was the latter that won out, but not before a beautiful banquet of music was assembled. This Record Store Day, Cobain’s band, Nirvana, dished out a 7-inch single of their tune “Pennyroyal Tea,” slated for an early 1994 release but canceled at the last minute. In honor of Nirvana’s enduring legacy (and their participation in RSD 2014), here’s a list of their top three tracks — and the guitar multi effects pedals you’ll hear on the recordings.
3. “About a Girl” – from Bleach (1989)
Never the most famous Nirvana single, “About a Girl” has now come to be remembered as one of the best. Ostensibly written after a night of Beatles-binging, “About a Girl” takes us through the clean opening notes before ripping through a structured solo that benefits from a warm vintage tone, likely resulting from an older amplifier. During its most famous rendition (the MTV Unplugged show in ’94), Cobain opted for an acoustic guitar instead, opting for a natural woody sound.
2. “Come As You Are” – from Nevermind (1991)
Cobain was famous for his heavy guitar distortion, and perhaps the only thing he was more famous for was trashing his own sound equipment. But the watery opening notes of “Come As You Are” show the songwriter’s ear for unique tones, as well. Using a chorus pedal and his signature guitar, Cobain was able to capture a murky but still clean-sounding effect that was a far cry from the heaviness on the ubiquitous “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and other singles like “In Bloom.”
1. “All Apologies” – from In Utero (1993)
There’s no denying the acerbic sweetness of “All Apologies,” a song most have come to see as Cobain’s swan song. Utilizing a gentle guitar tone that gradually becomes more forceful thanks to reliance on distorted guitar pedal kits, “All Apologies” takes us on an adventure of the loud-quiet-loud dynamics Nirvana has always been known for. In the end, as the final lyrical couplet goes, “All in all is all we are.” That same thing might as well be true for Cobain’s sound gear.
Two decades after the dissolution of the band, it seems borderline silly to discuss a breakdown of its songs. But what Nirvana, a recent inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, means to the older generations is that the world can very much be changed one power chord at a time. It just takes the right guitar pedal kits to do it. Get more here.