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Exploring the reason why Nirvana refused to support Ozzy Osbourne


Kurt Cobain grew up listening to Black Sabbath, but when the opportunity arose to support Ozzy Osbourne in what would have been a blockbuster line-up, Nirvana decided against accepting the generous offer.

Playing second fiddle to another band wasn’t of interest to the Seattle three-piece at that point in their career, even if it was Osbourne who came calling. While it would have been an exciting tour, Nirvana had established themselves as the most exciting and important band of their generation following the unexpected success of Nevermind and became acutely aware of their standing.

Cobain and his band became inundated with offers to support stadium-filling acts from the likes of Guns N’ Roses and Rush. However, Cobain didn’t want Nirvana to coat-tail on anybody else’s success, and if Nirvana were to play these vast arenas, the singer was insistent that it would be as headliners only.

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Discussing the situation, Cobain told Gilbert Blecken in 1991: “I can understand Ozzy liking us because we have at least some similarities with his former band. Sure, I respect the man, I have always loved his music except for his last five albums or whatever.”

Cobain also spoke about an encounter he had with Osbourne, which paints a tragic picture of the health of the Black Sabbath singer. He reflected: “Ozzy was also in the same mixing studio that we were in for our last record, and we met each other in the hall sometimes”.

Adding: “We didn’t speak, but there were a few times where we were coming towards each other and I had to move up against the wall and wait for him to stumble past me ’cause he was so fucked up. He (Ozzy) also asked us to go on tour with him, but we turned it down. It would have been fun and kind of exciting to be part of his last shows, but we don’t really wanna play in huge arenas supporting someone.”

Unsurprisingly, Osbourne didn’t remember the encounter with Cobain until he was reminded about it by Dave Grohl. The Black Sabbath singer recounted: “Apparently, I met (late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain), ’cause I was talking to Dave Grohl and he said, ‘You probably don’t remember this, but when you were in Devonshire Studios in the (San Fernando) Valley, me and Kurt were in the room where they had a pool table. When you walked in we were like, ‘F***ing hell,'” Ozzy said.

Even though he forgot meeting Nirvana, as part of his 2009 memoir, I Am Ozzy, Osborne said how touched he was to discover Cobain admired him. He wrote: “It had a huge impact on me, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ – and I was very proud when I found out that Kurt Cobain was a fan of mine. I thought he was awesome.”

Osbourne is undoubtedly regretful that he wasn’t present in the moment when he crossed paths with Cobain and had to learn about it second-hand. However, his warm-hearted reflections on ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and pride in discovering the importance of his music in shaping the late Nirvana frontman signify how greatly he respects Cobain’s art.

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