Sometimes a single image can tell you all you need to know about a story. If you look above, the smirk across Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s face, you will get almost the full picture of the moment the band performed Boston’s ‘More Than A Feeling’ to a packed crowd at Reading Festival in 1992.
One of the most legendary sets on British soil, the moment Nirvana brought grunge to the city of Reading, will forever go down in history as a band becoming legends. That was the night, on British soil at least, that Nirvana became icons.
The group had been having success over this side of the pond for some time. But nothing could compare to the mammoth stage they found themselves son now. Headling Reading Festival was a big deal and the band were [propelled there largely by their album Nevermind and the outsider anthem of a generation, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’
The song’s lyrics may feel like the battering of teenage hands against riot shield but in fact it was born out of Cobain’s then girlfriend’s choice of deodorant. Aside from the lyrical conception, the iconic riff was also marred with a certain baseness. Cobain himself admitted to Rolling Stone, “It was such a cliched riff,” he said. “It was so close to a Boston riff or ‘Louie Louie.’ When I came up with the guitar part, Krist [Novoselic] looked at me and said, ‘That is so ridiculous.’”
It’s hard to deny the similarities between a lot of classic songs, with a more than a hint of Pixies too, but confident the tune was original, Cobain and Novoselic pushed on. Once the song found fame, however, the similarities between it and Boston’s fist-pumping seventies charmer, ‘More Than A Feeling’.
The songs are in a different key and the similarities clearly weren’t strong enough for it to warrant Boston’s Tom Scholz taking offence. “I take it as a major compliment,” Scholz said in 1994, “even if it was completely accidental.” It didn’t spark the need for the singer to get into the band either.
Scholz admitted to Rolling Stone a few years ago that he hadn’t spent much time getting to know Nirvana, “The only times when I’ll hear other music will be at the ice skating rink or the gym,” he said. “It’s been debated whether [Nirvana playing a bit of “More Than a Feeling”] was homage or thumbing their nose. Regardless, Nirvana was, from what I’ve heard, a great band. I was really impressed by the couple of things I heard. Regardless of what the context was, it’s an honour to be heard in the same airspace as Nirvana.”
Nirvana had their fun with the whole suggestion when they took to the famous stage at Reading Festival in 1992. Cobain strums the opening pattern of the track and Novoselic and Grohl jump in with the song’s trademark chorus. As Antony ‘Dancing Tony’ Hodgkinson, the drummer from Bivouac, pirouettes across the stage Cobain suddenly kicks into business mode and the real anthem begins once more.
It may only be 20 seconds of fun but it’s worth every moment. It’s a joy to see Nirvana at their peak and still in the moment of enjoying their stardom. It wouldn’t end so well for the trio but during this moment, everything was right.
Watch Nirvana covering Boston’s ‘More Than A Feeling’ on Reading Festival back in 1992