Watch Nirvana Perform as an Opening Band, Two Years Before Their Breakout Album Nevermind (1989)

The sto­ry of Nir­vana’s first album, first sin­gle, and first video launch­ing the band to instant mega-star­dom, and the sto­ry of their trag­ic crash back down to Earth, have been told too many times to count. Less well known are the years of the band’s ear­ly ascent through the local Pacif­ic North­west scene, open­ing for then-big­ger acts like TAD (who got swept up, then left behind in grunge’s first wave). Nir­vana first formed in 1987 in Aberdeen, WA and played as a few iter­a­tions with names like Fecal Mat­ter and Skid Row, always as a three-piece with Kurt Cobain out front and Krist Novosel­ic on bass.

As they ironed out their image (avoid­ing a law­suit from the Jer­sey hair met­al band), Nir­vana also moved through a cou­ple dif­fer­ent drum­mers behind the kit before luck­ing into Dave Grohl. “Aaron Bur­ck­hard was Nir­vana’s first drum­mer,” writes the Muse­um of Pop Cul­ture, “but he and the band ulti­mate­ly part­ed ways. While the band searched for a replace­ment, Dale Crover helped Nir­vana with their first demo and Dave Fos­ter hon­ored their live book­ings. Chad Chan­ning offi­cial­ly joined Nir­vana in 1988, and the band began work on their debut album Bleach, which was offi­cial­ly released in June of 1989 fol­lowed by a short Amer­i­can tour and a lengthy UK tour.” Just above, you can see them open for TAD on Decem­ber 1, 1989 at Fahren­heit, Issy-les-Moulin­eaux, France.

Signed to Seat­tle indie label Sub Pop at the time, the band was eager for suc­cess but had­n’t quite nailed down their sound. When Nev­er­mind pro­duc­er Butch Vig heard Bleach the fol­low­ing year, after Sub Pop recruit­ed him to work with the band, he “thought it was pret­ty one-dimen­sion­al,” he writes, “except that one song, ‘About a Girl.’ ” Cobain would only say he want­ed the band to sound like “Black Sab­bath.” The label’s Jonathan Pone­man assured Vig that Nir­vana “would be as big as The Bea­t­les,” but that would­n’t hap­pen until Chan­ning left, or felt pushed out. As Vig remem­bers, there was con­sid­er­able “ten­sion between Kurt and Chad” dur­ing their first ses­sions in Madi­son, Wis­con­sin in 1990. “Kurt would some­times go behind the drums and show Chad how to play.” Of course, that’s some­thing the moody Cobain was also known to do to Chan­ning’s replace­ment.

Musi­cal ten­sion did not result in long-term hard feel­ings, Chan­ning says. “I found out what a real­ly nice guy Dave is.” For his part, Grohl has pushed for recog­ni­tion of Chan­ning’s con­tri­bu­tions, object­ing to his exclu­sion from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. “Grohl took steps to rec­ti­fy the injus­tice,” notes Far Out Mag­a­zine. “With Chan­ning in atten­dance, Grohl pub­licly applaud­ed and thanked Chan­ning for his vital con­tri­bu­tions to the band, and more crit­i­cal­ly, not­ed that some of Nir­vana’s most icon­ic drum riffs from the peri­od were, in fact, Chan­ning’s.” Hear some of the evi­dence above in a setlist that includes sev­er­al tracks from Bleach, includ­ing “About a Girl,” and “Pol­ly” from the upcom­ing Nev­er­mind. And stick around for TAD, for­got­ten stal­warts of the Seat­tle scene.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

The Record­ing Secrets of Nirvana’s Nev­er­mind Revealed by Pro­duc­er Butch Vig

How Nirvana’s Icon­ic “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” Came to Be: An Ani­mat­ed Video Nar­rat­ed by T‑Bone Bur­nett Tells the True Sto­ry

Nir­vana Refus­es to Fake It on Top of the Pops, Gives a Big “Mid­dle Fin­ger” to the Tra­di­tion of Bands Mim­ing on TV (1991)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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