Friday on My Mind: Kurt’s Musical Influences

It’s time again for Friday on My Mind, the weekly collaboration between KEXP and King 5 News where we center a post around a common theme. This week we thought we’d talk about a few of the artists who made a musical influence on Kurt Cobain.

With April 5th marking the 18th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s passing, many of us have taken the time this week to remember and reflect upon the life of the man and the impact his music had on modern pop music as we currently know it. Amidst all the articles, blog posts, and news stories analyzing his immense legacy and the profound heaviness of how he left us, it’s also good to remember that when it came down to it, Kurt Cobain just loved music. For a man who is seen as having reluctantly ushering in a heavier sound into the ears of a mainstream audience, Kurt Cobain had varied tastes and here are a few of the artists and songs that demonstrate that variety.

Boston - More Than a Feeling

Kurt Cobain and Kris Novoselic were both from and met in Aberdeen, Washington, which is a small logging town in Grays Harbor County. So it would make sense that the classic rock anthem “More Than a Feeling” would have been a part of his musical upbringing. The epic Boston track was the 1st single off of the 1976 self-titled album. The main guitar riff of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is similar to “More Than a Feeling,” which it could be said is similar to “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen. Imitation is the best form of flattery.

Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit as performed at the Reading Festival in 1992...

Pixies - Here Comes Your Man

Cobain had mentioned frequently that when he created music, he was “basically trying to rip off the Pixies.” “Here Comes Your Man” was the second single off of the seminal Pixies album Doolittle. Although Doolittle was released in 1989 and was the third official album release for the band, “Here Comes Your Man” was originally written many years prior by a 14-year old Frank Black, which would explain why it wasn’t one of the band’s favs. It’s said that they often referred to it as “the Tom Petty song”.

AC/DC - Back In Black

Again showing his small town America roots, Kurt Cobain had stated in interviews that the first guitar riff he learned on the guitar was “Back in Black” by AC/DC when he was 14 years old. Released in 1980 on the album of the same name, the song has been shown love by other artists with indie cred as well. The Beastie Boys sampled the song in “Rock Hard” in 1984. Then in ’86, Boogie Down Productions sampled in their song “Dope Beat”.

Honorable Mention

The Vasalines - Molly’s Lips (LIVE on KEXP in 2009)

The Glasgow band left a big impression on Cobain leading him to cover their songs “Molly’s Lips,” “Son of a Gun” and “Jesus Don’t Want Me for his Sunbeam.” He described them as his “most favorite songwriters in the whole world”.

The Meat Puppets - Lake of Fire

The Phoenix band formed back in 1980 and is cited as an influence not just by Cobain, but Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement.

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