I never knew just how badly I needed to see Koe Wetzel cover Nirvana until today.
Well technically, it’s a cover of a cover…
And, that song would be “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” which originated from two different tracks, “In the Pines” and “The Longest Train.”
The authorship of both songs is unknown and dates back to at least the 1870’s. Both songs are believed to have originated in the southern Appalachian region of the United States, with influences from Eastern Tennessee and Kentucky, Western North Carolina and Northern Georgia.
Over the years, it has been covered by a countless array of artists, including bluegrass musician Bill Monroe as well as folk and blues legend Lead Belly. They each did their own versions of the song in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
But it was made most famous by the one and only band Nirvana, more specifically frontman Kurt Cobain, during the bands Live On MTV Unplugged set in 1993. Kurt remarked at the beginning of their performance that Lead Belly was the favorite performer of every member of the band, and it’s where they got the inspiration to cover it themselves.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, that specific performance is still critically acclaimed to this day, and the emotion and passion in Kurt’s voice is palpable.
When he absolutely lets it rip and screams the lyrics at the end… fully body chills. Every. Time.
Kurt ultimately died by suicide about five months after this recording, and the whole entire Uplugged set is one of the greatest musical performances I’ve ever seen, honestly.
The band recorded it on November 18th, 1993, at Sony Music Studios in New York City, and Nirvana had intended to release it as a single called “Where Did You Sleep Last Night (In the Pines),” but when Kurt tragically passed in April of 1994, those plans were immediately canceled.
Instead, they eventually included it posthumously on their MTV Unplugged in New York album in November of 1994 and used it as a promotional single after the album’s release.
And, now, let’s get to Koe’s version.
For all the times I’ve heard the grunge, alt-rock and Nirvana influence specifically in Koe’s art and how much he talks about their inspiration in his sound, I’d never heard him sing any of their songs.
Aside from this…
He’s clearly plastered during this performance, and hysterically admits it to the crowd, but I still love every bit of this video. Koe even stops in the middle of the song in a very Kurt-like, and let’s be honest, pretty Koe-like, manor, saying:
“Nothing really matters, cuz we’re all just here to have a good time and tomorrow’s Saturday. I am so fucked up on this stage right now.”
Koe is gearing up to hit the road next week for the opening shows of his Road To Hell Paso tour, and even though he rarely ever does covers, I feel like a rendition of “All Apologies,” “Come As You Are,” or another Nirvana original would be amazing, right?
Really, we need more of this:
And you definitely need to watch Nirvana’s original performance if you haven’t ever seen it before.
Kurt introduces his version with some lovely words, too, saying:
“Fuck you all, this is the last song of the evening.”
Kurt also mentions before they start playing that he wanted to buy Lead Belly’s guitar, that was up for sale at the time, for a cool $500,000. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out and he never purchased the guitar.
And ironically, the guitar Kurt is playing during this specific set (a 1950’s Martin D-18E ) would eventually go on to be the most expensive guitar ever sold at auction after it was purchased for $6 MILLION in 2020.
The sweater he wore here also sold for $334,000 in 2019, becoming the most expensive sweater ever sold at auction.
If you’ve never seen this before, it’s well past high-time to change that, especially on what would’ve been the legends 56th birthday today: