What better time than now for footage of a legendary Seattle band covering a legendary Boston band to come back into play? After all, the Super Bowl is four days away, and we’re at the point where any Seattle trash-talk fodder comes in handy.
It’s nearly impossible, however, to trash talk Nirvana (unless we’re speaking specifically of Dave Grohl who some people can’t stand. The trio basically launched a genre out of the Seattle area and continue to be one of the most influential rock groups of all time. That said, there’s no denying that things could get a bit sloppy in Nirvana’s live show– it was one of the many endearing parts of grunge in general.
Such was the case at the 1992 Reading Festival in England when the band riffed of their most famous hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and landed on the three chords of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” This was clearly improvisation on the part of Kurt Cobian, not something that was pre-rehearsed by the band, and it kind of shows. Lyrics are flubbed, keys are crossed, and well, it’s not great. That’s OK though, Nirvana is allowed to do whatever the hell Nirvana wants to do.
According to Rolling Stone, Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic were well aware of how similar the two riffs sounded, to the point where Cobain thought it was a bit goofy. “It was so close to a Boston riff or ‘Louie Louie.'” he said. “When I came up with the guitar part, Krist [Novoselic] looked at me and said, ‘That is so ridiculous.'”
Rolling Stone also points out that Boston’s Tom Scholz was aware of the similarity, but was more honored than offended. “I take it as a major compliment,” Scholz said in 1994, “even if it was completely accidental.”
At the end of the day, this doesn’t quite add fuel to any Boston vs. Seattle fire, but it’s certainly interesting to look back on one rock pioneer paying homage to another, especially if that other is from right here in the Hub.