The band Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain “tried to assimilate”

Nirvana may have pushed grunge and alternative music further into the mainstream, but frontman Kurt Cobain always remained a lover of outsider music. While he was inspired, like most artists, by legends such as The Beatles and David Bowie, he also admired countless musicians who were less commercially viable.

The Nirvana frontman had an undying love for underground music scenes, particularly punk. He once named the Wipers as one of his favourite bands, including three of their records, Is This Real?, Youth of America and Over the Edge, as part of a list of his favourite albums. Cobain described the band as a “Portland punk band who were started in the late seventies by Greg Sage and released maybe four or five albums”.

Cobain was such a fan of the band that he “tried to assimilate” them. But Wipers’ influence extended beyond Nirvana – they also influenced Cobain’s wife and Hole frontwoman Courtney Love, as well as another of Cobain’s favourite bands, the Melvins. According to the frontman: “The first two [albums] were totally classic and influenced the Melvins and all the other punk rock bands. They’re another band I tried to assimilate. Their songs were so good.”

Cobain was particularly complimentary towards Wipers vocalist and guitarist Greg Sage, gushing, “[He] was pretty much the romantic, quiet, visionary kind of guy. What more can I say about them? They started Seattle grunge rock in Portland, 1977.” Nirvana even covered two Wipers songs, ‘D-7’ and ‘Return of the Rat’, to pay tribute to their influence. As a result of this, the Portland punk rockers gained a wider audience.

Cobain’s attempt to pay back the Melvins for their influence was less successful. The band hired him to produce their fifth studio album, Houdini, but fired him shortly after due to his issues with substance abuse. Nonetheless, Nirvana’s commercial success continued to provide alternative bands with wider opportunities and audiences. As the Melvins’ frontman Buzz Osbourne admitted: “Left-of-centre bands were getting signed because Nirvana and Soundgarden were selling tons of records.”

Cobain went on to use his platform to promote outsider artists far beyond Wipers and the Melvins. When he wore a T-shirt which featured lo-fi musician Daniel Johnson’s accompanying art for ‘Jeremiah the Innocent’, from Hi, How Are You, he was introduced to a whole new cult crowd. He thought the Japanese punk girl group Shonen Knife were the best band in the world and even invited them on tour with Nirvana. He ruined a show in Buenos Aires to show his support for The Breeders.

Taking their inspiration from the likes of Wipers and the Melvins, Cobain and Nirvana were born out of those alternative scenes. Accordingly, Cobain’s support for underground, leftfield music knew no bounds.

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