The Section About Nirvana From Chuck Klosterman’s Grantland Story on Kiss
This Thursday, Nirvana will also be inducted into the Rock Hall, in their first year of eligibility. (It was the 15th try for Kiss.) No one disputes the validity of this inauguration. Coincidentally, a pre-famous Nirvana covered a Kiss song in 1990, performing “Do You Love Me” on a compilation titled Hard to Believe. Nirvana historians care about this because it’s one of the only Nirvana recordings for which forgotten ex-guitarist Jason Everman plays in the studio; Kiss historians care about it because it gives credence to the theory that Kiss directly influenced Nirvana (and should therefore be credited as rightful progenitors of grunge, not unlike Black Sabbath and Neil Young). I’m not sure how sincerely one can take the latter claim, since (1) Nirvana seem to be making fun of the song as they play it, and (2) it was often impossible to differentiate between what Kurt Cobain liked and what he mocked, and it was sometimes hard to tell whether Cobain’s mockery had any relationship to his actual feelings. (Kiss are also Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready’s favorite band, which might have been enough to make Cobain hate them at the time.) My gut feeling is that Nirvana covered “Do You Love Me” because they thought it was comically masculine. But there’s one moment in their cover version that I always think about: It’s when the singer is directly addressing the song’s female antagonist, an opportunistic groupie obsessed with the trappings of fame and success. Among the various things she likes is “All the money, honey, that I make.” But Nirvana were singing this song in 1990, when they were broke and unknown. This being the case, they changed the words: Instead, they sing, “All the Mudhoney that I make.” Which, I suppose, was intended as a funny little in-joke for Mark Arm not to laugh at. But 24 years later, it feels different. When I hear it today, it seems like Nirvana were both fascinated and amused by Kiss; it seems like they liked the structure of the song, viewed the lyrical details as ironic, and enjoyed the process of recording it. But the idea of directly talking about how rich they were — even before they actually were rich — was just too unnerving for them to accept and replicate, even sardonically. It was so counter to what they valued (or — more accurately — what they aspired to value) that they felt more comfortable making a joke about the word “honey.”
They couldn’t even force themselves to pretend to talk like the band they were pretending to honor.
Read the whole thing here.