Kurt Cobain’s ‘Unplugged’ Sweater Sells For Astronomical Amount

11 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Kurt CobainIt’s an unexpected feeling when a Beatles song ties a knot in your stomach, but listen to Kurt Cobain covering “And I Love Her” and you’ll start to feel one coming on.NEW YORK • Even after eight years of contemplating Kurt Cobain for an authorised documentary, writer and director Brett Morgen had trouble closing the vault.

The cardigan has long been one of the most iconic of Kurt’s looks although it would have been found in the wardrobe of any 90s grunge kid; paired with a band T-shirt, a shirt (plaid optional) and jeans. The rendition in question appears on “Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings,” a new album of Cobain’s very rough demos being released this week alongside the DVD version of “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,” a bleak documentary from writer-director Brett Morgen about the rise and fall of the Nirvana frontman that premiered on HBO in May.

It was expected to fetch up to $80,000 but went well over the asking price, selling for a cool $140,800 at auction house Julien’s rock memorabilia auction, held on Saturday. The cardy was described by Julien’s as ‘a blend of acrylic, mohair and Lycra with five-button closure (one button absent), with two exterior pockets, a burn hole and discoloration near left pocket and discoloration on right pocket.’ But it wasn’t the only piece of Kirt memorabilia available for fans to bid for, as a lock of the musician’s hair was also sold on the day for an estimated $4,000.

Yet precisely because you know who’s messing around with the effects pedal on the instrumental ‘Reverb Experiment’, or doing the caterwauling on ‘The Yodel Song’, the temptation is to look for method and meaning where it doesn’t always exist. It’s mostly the sound of a young punk rocker loosening his brain and his fingers, mewling along with his guitar until he produces the spore of a Nirvana song (or doesn’t). Other items on sale included John Lennon’s acoustic guitar which went for over £1.6 million, the jacket Michael Jackson wore to Elizabeth Taylor’s wedding, a 1965 baseball autographed by The Beatles and Elvis Presley’s gold leaf grand piano.

The rest of the track list is spackled with weird monologues and play-acted scenes performed in funny voices, sometimes punctuated with belches and onomatopoeic flatulence. Playful yodelling and experimental sound collages can be heard amid demos of Nirvana songs such as Sappy and Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle. In addition to a 13-track CD version and a double LP on vinyl (out next month), a boxed set includes a 31-track deluxe edition, the film (on Blu-ray and DVD), a cassette of the soundtrack, a hardcover book, a puzzle (with collectible storage container), a poster, postcards and a bookmark.

The song’s basic structure was evidently in place when Cobain sat down to record it, but the chorus is still just a vague, mumbled vocalisation to be fleshed out later until the moment when – seemingly out of nowhere he blurts the line, “//I miss the comfort in being sad”//, and the whole thing suddenly snaps into focus. In 2007, Courtney Love, Cobain’s widow, had granted Morgen full access to the archives – most notably 108 untapped cassettes of home recordings that were initially vetted by Cobain’s sister, Kim. Something similar happens during the bad-tempered, never-to-be-heard-from-again ‘Burn My Britches’, when he clumsily segues into the hymnal refrain of ‘Nevermind’ track ‘Something In The Way’ and you can almost hear the light bulb buzzing above his head. I think Kurt is a profound and incredibly important artist.” Though the album is tied to his film’s DVD release, Morgen has said he has no financial stake in the soundtrack. “It’s my understanding that if the album is profitable, the beneficiary would be his family.”

Morgen doesn’t see it that way. “It’s a tribute to Kurt that his admirers and fans would feel protective of him,” Morgen recently told the New York Times. More unsettling still is the thought that these recordings technically constitute Cobain’s first solo album, yet it’s hard to sit through to his morbidly beautiful cover of The Beatles’ ‘And I Love Her’, or the larval versions of ‘Been a Son’ and ‘Sappy’, and regret having done so. But, he said, “if you came across a sketch of ‘Guernica’ by Picasso, is there anyone saying we shouldn’t see it?” Seeing it — or hearing it — is one thing. But should your demos still manage to survive you, that shouldn’t mean the custodians of your art have carte blanche to rush them off to retail shelves in time for the holidays. (And make no mistake: “Montage of Heck” is being spewed into the universe as a stocking stuffer, not a “Guernica” sketch.) Unless a late artist’s beneficiaries are in financial need, charging money for uncompleted musical work that was never intended for release in the marketplace is unconscionable.

If there’s still a burning feeling that the world needs to hear this music, or that it could help enhance the public’s scholarly understanding of the artist, that’s fine. There are plenty of ways to make sure the public can access the recordings — for instance, through the Library of Congress or through digital media centers such as the Free Music Archive.

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