We’re having another swim around in the ocean of the Far Out archives to bring you the isolated vocals of the wonderfully talented Kurt Cobain on Nirvana’s iconic song ‘Come As You Are’. The track originally appeared on the band’s seminal 1991 LP Nevermind and showcases just what a special talent Cobain truly was.
This isolated vocal version of the track is not actually taken from the record but instead from the trio’s famous MTV Unplugged session in 1993. The live element of the song brings out yet another of vulnerability layer in Cobain’s vocal and considering how stripped back the performance is, there is more tenderness in this piece than the one that appears on the album.
Looking back with the knowledge of Cobain’s tragic suicide, it is easy to add extra gravitas on to the singer’s performances. However, it remains hard to ignore the pain you hear in the vocals on the song. They’re amplified upon hearing certain lyrics, particularly noticeable when Cobain repeatedly sings the line “I don’t have a gun”. Sadly, it would be the cause of his death and the agony in his voice as he repeats that lyric is clear as day in this version.
According to Cobain, the track was his way of voicing his frustrations at society, stating it was “about people, and what they’re expected to act like.” It was a weighty subject than was beginning to slow down Cobain and his drive for life.
Knowing what we know now about how much Cobain was suffering at the time of recording the historic MTV Unplugged In New York session adds extra depth to the recording. It’s a sound that isn’t as easy to pick up on the original album version. Where bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl are both respectively putting in powerful performances the sound can sometimes dilute Kurt’s lyrics and the emotion behind them.
However, maybe the lyrics weren’t always the point. Speaking to VH1 Classics, drummer Dave Grohl remarked this about Cobain’s creative process when asked about the track: “We wanted them to be almost like children’s songs; we would tell people they were intended to be as simple as possible. Kurt’s focus was the melody—he used to say that the music comes first and the lyrics come second.”
The melody was always the most important musical factor to Cobain and, on occasion, it is easy to forget just how powerful his songwriting was and how relevant it is still to this day. While putting the melody at the forefront of the track the singer championed his expression above all else.
This song, in particular, is one of his finest hours with the pen and in 2005, Cobain’s hometown Aberdeen, Washington, celebrated the track when they put up a welcome road sign which read ‘Welcome to Aberdeen. Come As You Are’, as a tribute to their greatest son.
Listen to Kurt Cobain’s isolated vocals from Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged sessions and get a heartbreaking picture of the pain the singer was dealing with inside.