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Kurt Cobain Nearly Banned Dave Grohl From Performing at Nirvana’s ‘Unplugged’ Concert

On Nov. 18, 1993, Nirvana took a trip to New York City and taped their iconic ‘Unplugged’ set for MTV. The special aired less than a month later on Dec. 14, adding yet another immortal moment to Nirvana’s vast list of achievements. However, 20 years later, MTV has revealed that at the insistence of Kurt Cobain, drummer Dave Grohl almost didn’t perform at the ‘Unplugged’ set.

To celebrate the 20 year anniversary of Nirvana’s ‘MTV Unplugged in New York’ concert, the TV channel released some special behind-the-scenes footage along with testimonies from those who made the event possible. MTV writes that “there isn’t one thing you’d change” about the concert, which legions of Nirvana fanatics certainly agree with, but according to MTV, Dave Grohl almost didn’t make the cut.

“What I didn’t know was up until the day [of the 'Unplugged performance], there was talk of Dave [Grohl] not playing at all in the show,” Alex Coletti, who produced ‘Unplugged,’ remembers. “Kurt wasn’t happy with the way rehearsals were going; he didn’t like the way Dave sounded playing drums with sticks … He’s a heavy hitter, and the thing about ‘Unplugged,’ especially with rock bands, is if the drummer doesn’t really, really get it under control and tries to play a rock show on a smaller kit, then it brings the show to a bad-sounding electric show instead of a good-sounding acoustic show.”

Coletti handled the situation by sending a production assistant to Sam Ash to buy Grohl some new gear, including wire brushes and sizzle sticks. As a strong suggestions disguised as an early Christmas present, Grohl accepted the gear and went on to perform with his new gifts during ‘Unplugged.’

Though Grohl knocked it out of the park during the intimate concert, Cobain chose to play ‘Pennyroyal Tea’ alone, which was completely undecided until mid-performance. “Am I gonna do this by myself?” Cobain asks onstage. Looking a bit frustrated, Grohl responds, “Do it by yourself.” “I think that song meant a lot to him,” says ‘Unplugged’ director Beth McCarthy-Miller.” I think it was very personal and I think he wanted it to feel simple and raw and just him singing his heart out. And I think any of the other instruments were getting in the way of the emotion of the song for him.”

Watch MTV’s retrospective of Nirvana’s ‘Unplugged’ show in the videos above and below.

‘Nirvana’s ‘Unplugged’ Turns 20: A Look Back’

You Think You Know Nirvana?

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