Certain Songs #1342: Nirvana – “Sliver”

Album: Incesticide
Year: 1990

Recorded swiftly in a couple of sessions in July 1990 with Mudhoney’s Dan Peters on the drums, “Sliver” showed such a quantum leap over nearly all of the songs on Bleach, and totally pointed towards the noise-filled pop songs that would make Kurt Cobain into a household name.

That said, “Sliver” is a bit of an anomaly in Nirvana’s catalog: instead of the impressionistic lyrics that characterized the vast majority of his work, “Sliver” describes a specific incident.

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Certain Songs #1341: Nirvana – “School”

Album: Bleach
Year: 1989

Look, I’m no better than the rest of you: after Nevermind took control of our lives, I went back and bought Bleach just like everybody else did. And in fact, I waited nine months after buying Nevermind before I bought Bleach — at Ragin’ Records, naturally — because I think I needed for the tidal wave to recede just a bit.

But, absent Dave Grohl, who provided a busload of hooks to Nevermind, and absent Cobain’s confidence to follow his poppier instincts, and absent any kind of production values — every penny of the $606.17 they paid Jack Endino was on the album, but not a penny more — most of Bleach never connected to me. There were exceptions of course: “About A Girl,” which felt completely different from the rest of the record, “Love Buzz,” of course, and the scary-ass “School,” which showed just what Kurt Cobain could do with just three lines.

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Certain Songs #1340: Nirvana – “Love Buzz”

Album: Bleach
Year: 1988

It’s probably a bit ironic that given that Kurt Cobain was stuck with the “voice of a generation” tag that Nirvana started their recording career with a cover.

That said, it does fit in with one of my many many Nirvana theories, all of which you’ll be subjected to in the next couple of weeks: that they were one of the greatest cover bands ever, up there with The Rolling Stones or The Who in their ability to take just about any song and make it their own.

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Certain Songs #1339: Niney The Observer – “Blood and Fire”

Single, 1971

As you might imagine with a nearly 50-year-old reggae track, a lot of the exact details surrounding “Blood and Fire” are a bit sketchy: when and where it was recorded, who played on it, and so forth.

But as you might not imagine with a nearly 50-year-old reggae track, “Blood and Fire” still sounds absolutely amazing, like it was recorded last week, and that no doubt has to do with the auteur behind the track, Winston Holness, who was nicknamed “Niney” after losing a thumb, and dubbed himself “The Observer” after mentor Lee “Scratch” Perry’s “The Upsetter.”

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Certain Songs #1338: Nina Simone – “Mississippi Goddamn”

Album: Nina Simone in Concert
Year: 1964

One of the earliest and most enduring of Civil Rights anthems, Nina Simone composed “Mississippi Goddamn” in an hour as a response to the murder of activist Medgar Evans, and in a weird way, it was her Colin Kapernick moment: shit that had no doubt been bugging her her whole life had piled up so much, she couldn’t keep quiet about it anymore, damn the consequences.

And sure enough, it was banned in the very South that had spurred the writing of it in the first place. Ostensibly for the word “goddamn” in the title, but she could have called it “Mississippi Goldurn” and they would have figured out a reason not to play it.

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