Nirvana’s 1991 gig at OK Hotel in Seattle has gone down in the grubby annals of grunge history. While it was memorable as one of the pivotal moments of the new wave of music the show also paid homage to the past with the band’s cover of Devo’s 1980 B-side ‘Turn Around’.
In the footage below, Kurt Cobain, backed by Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic ran through a treasure trove of grunge anthems with a feverish pace that would outline the band’s early intensity and mark Cobain out as a superstar. Nirvana would even give the debut performance of their new song ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit‘ at the show. It would also allow the singer to cover one of his most treasured bands, Devo.
In the early nineties, the passion for Devo had drastically waned. The band once labels as the future of music by David Bowie had become tiresome among Gen X rock and roll fans. When their 1990 record Smooth Noodle Maps, which tragically contained the song ‘Devo Has Feelings Too’, failed to chart and their live audiences dwindled, Devo decided to split in March 1991.
Just a few short weeks later, one of the band’s biggest fans chose to honour the group with a performance of one of their rare B-sides. The track, ‘Turn Around’ was released in 1980 as the B-side to Devo’s biggest hit ‘Whip It’. Nirvana had picked up the song in their live set the previous year but something about this performance rings out as the essential version.
While only a smattering of people in the crowd seemed to know the track at all, it delighted Cobain. “Of all the bands who came from the underground and made it in the mainstream, Devo were the most challenging and subversive of all,” he said in 1992. “They’re just awesome. I love them.” Nirvana loved the cover so much they officially released the song later that year with the track eventually finding a home as ‘Turnaround’ on their 1992 compilation record, Incesticide.
The performance of the 1980 tune is a shining moment on an incredibly illustrious evening of rock. You can watch the full performance below (including that debut of SLTS) and there’s a snipped version below that.