For Nirvana fans, MTV Unplugged was the beginning of the end.
Although the band turned in an iconic performance, it wasn’t long after before Kurt Cobain was found dead in his home.
Despite its place in Nirvana history, Dave Grohl almost wasn’t a part of the legendary set.
When talking about the performance, MTV producer Alex Coletti talked about the difficulty of restraining Grohl saying:
“Up until the day of the concert, there was talk of Dave not playing at all in the show. Kurt wasn’t happy with the way rehearsals were going; he didn’t like the way Dave sounded playing drums with sticks. Dave’s a heavy hitter, and the thing about ‘Unplugged’ is, if the drummer doesn’t get it under control, it makes it a bad-sounding electric show, instead of a good-sounding acoustic show.”
While Grohl kept trying to play softer, Coletti gave him the brushes instead of drumsticks saying,
“I was afraid Dave would just roll his eyes, like, ‘Oh great, the asshole from MTV is trying to be my friend. But he opened the package and said ‘Cool, I’ve never had brushes before.’ As it turned out, he used both the sticks and the brushes during the show. It’s nice that the band was so amenable to trying new things.”
Grohl wasn’t out of the woods yet during rehearsal.
When rehearsals began for “Pennyroyal Tea,” Cobain insisted on playing the song by himself at showtime, with Coletti saying,
“It was very personal, and he wanted to feel simple and raw, just him singing his heart out. Any other instruments were getting in the way of the emotion of the song for him. Dave plays drums like Animal from ‘The Muppet Show,’ and Kurt knew that, he was very deliberate about it.”
No matter how hard Grohl hit, Nirvana’s performance remains a key part of alternative rock history.