On November 1, 1994, Nirvana released MTV Unplugged in New York. Learn more about the iconic album below.

  1. It was recorded a year before it was released. The actual session was recorded on November 18, 1993 and was aired on December 16.
  2. It was the first album released following Kurt Cobain’s death.
  3. It has since gone on to become the band’s most successful posthumous release, becoming 5x Platinum.
  4. The cardigan worn by Cobain during the performance was recently auctioned off for $334,000.
  5. The album earned the band the 1996 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.
  6. Nirvana had watched other MTV Unplugged’s and wanted theirs to be different. According to Dave Grohl, “We’d seen the other Unpluggeds and didn’t like many of them, because most bands would treat them like rock shows—play their hits like it was Madison Square Garden, except with acoustic guitars.” They intentionally performed less hits and more covers, something the MTV producers were not very keen on.
  7. Going acoustic made Cobain very nervous. According to MTV producer Alex Colleti, Cobain insisted on running his acoustic guitar through his amplifier and effects pedals, so MTV built a fake box to disguise the amplifier. Colleti stated that “It was Kurt’s security blanket. He was used to hearing this guitar through his Fender. He wanted those effects. You can hear it on ‘The Man Who Sold the World’. It’s an acoustic guitar, but he’s obviously going through an amp.”
  8. The band rehearsed the session for two days, but because Cobain was suffering drug withdrawals, there were a lot of problems. Cobain wanted the show to feature lesser-known songs while MTV wanted it to be full of hits. When they couldn’t agree, Cobain refused to play.
  9. Ultimately he changed his mind, but MTV producers were almost certain he wouldn’t show up.
  10. When asked what they wanted the stage to look like, Cobain suggested stargazer lilies, black candles, and a crystal chandelier. When show producers asked, “So like a funeral?” Cobain responded, “Exactly. Like a funeral.”.
  11. In addition to the three members, then-touring band member Pat Smear joined the band playing guitar while Lori Goldston played the cello.
  12. The session was recorded in one take, a rarety for the show.
  13. In all, the band performed 14 songs. One from their debut Bleach, four off Nevermind, three off In Utero and six covers including The Vaselines, David Bowie, Lead Belly and the Meat Puppets.
  14. Meat Puppet members Cris and Curt Kirkwood joined the band on stage to perform three songs.
  15. The set ended with a cover of Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”, whom Cobain described right before the song as “his favourite performer ever”. His rendition has been regarded as one of the greatest live single song performances of all time. Atlantic critic Andrew Wallace Chamings stated, “For the final line, “I would shiver the whole night through,” Cobain jumps up an octave, forcing him to strain so far he screams and cracks. He hits the word “shiver” so hard that the band stops, as if a fight broke out at a sitcom wedding. Next he howls the word “whole” and then does something very strange in the brief silence that follows, something that’s hard to describe: he opens his piercingly blue eyes so suddenly it feels like someone or something else is looking out under the bleached lank fringe, with a strange clarity.”
  16. After the song, Cobain argued with MTV producers, who wanted an encore. Cobain refused stating that he felt he could not top the performance of that song.
  17. Following Cobain’s death, the album was commercially released for the first time. It became Nirvana’s highest-earning first week of sales, selling 310,500 units.

MTV Unplugged in New York is listed as one of the most influential rock albums on countless lists. There’s no denying its cultural impact or the longevity of its songs. Today, an exclusive box set celebrating the album has become available through the band’s website.

MTV Unplugged in New York track list:

  1. “About a Girl”
  2. “Come as You Are”
  3. “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” (Eugene Kelly, Frances McKee)
  4. “The Man Who Sold the World” (David Bowie)
  5. “Pennyroyal Tea”
  6. “Dumb”
  7. “Polly”
  8. “On a Plain”
  9. “Something in the Way”
  10. “Plateau” (Curt Kirkwood)
  11. “Oh, Me” (Curt Kirkwood)
  12. “Lake of Fire” (Curt Kirkwood)
  13. “All Apologies”
  14. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” (Traditional; arranged by Lead Belly)

25th Anniversary Reissue Bonus Tracks

  1. Come As You Are (Rehearsal)
  2. Polly (Rehearsal)
  3. Plateau (Rehearsal)
  4. Pennyroyal Tea (Rehearsal)
  5. The Man Who Sold the World (Rehearsal)
Filed under: MTV Unplugged, Nirvana