Revisit Nirvana’s impeccable cover of The Velvet Underground’s ‘Here She Comes Now’
If there’s one thing Nirvana were remarkably good at, it’s the uncanny ability to make others’ songs sound like their own. It’s also a command of material that Cobain and co had a grasp on from the very start. Back in 1990, before Nevermind turned them into rock stars, their cover of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Here She Comes Now’ proves they were destined for the top.
The cover would come at a curious time for the band. Nirvana, Kurt, Krist and at the time pre-Dave Grohl drummer Chad Channing, were beginning to see the benefits of their hard work. They were a few months off their seminal album but were still being roundly touted as one of the bands to emerge from the growing underground rock movement.
The future was certainly looking bright for the band but that didn’t deter them from their roots and they were still keen to pay homage to the past. They, alongside another North West stalwart The Melvins, decided to cover two tracks in tribute to one of their favourite bands and biggest influences; The Velvet Underground. The VU, the world’s first purveyors of alt-pop, were a group cherished by both of the bands and so the split single seemed was the perfect concoction.
The Melvins would take on one of the more easily recognisable tracks from Lou Reed and co. and chose to cover ‘Venus in Furs’ from the band’s debut record The Velvet Underground & Nico. Cobain, Novoselic and Channing. decided to go a little more leftfield and picked up the cover of ‘Here She Comes Now’ from The Velvet Underground’s sophomore album White Light/White Heat. Released as a split single, Nirvana’s track would later appear on a tribute album to the bandknown as Heaven & Hell.
Many covers can feel less of a homage to the original and more like a direct copy, forgetting what made the original song so initially interesting. Not so with this song, as Nirvana manages to walk the line between respect and artistry.
First of all, the song is almost twice as long as the original. The track feels like it is split in half with one side feeling quieter and more thoughtful, more akin to the original jangle, until it explodes into a wall of distorted heavy rock. It’s a sign of things to come as the band are clearly in the midst of perfecting their own signature light and shadow experience.
The volume continues to gather pace and is matched by Kurt’s uncannily stretched growl. Cobain moving from singing to pure screaming after just a few minutes only to soon let his rearing guitar take over and do the talking. Complimented by Novoselic’s undulating basslines, the band are quickly possessed and deeply bedded into a jam session of epic proportions.
This is where Nirvana achieve the perfection of performing somebody else’s song. They take the track and add in their own distinctive tonal sound, at once able to lullaby a baby bear to sleep only to be violently thrashed awake by its mother. But in doing so, they pay respect to the original creators of such a noise, The Velvet Underground.