Remembering when Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain formed a tribute band with Mark Lanegan
Delving into the Far Out Magazine Vault, we look back at the formation of ‘The Jury’, a tribute band formed by Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain.
Lanegan and Cobain joined forces years before they secured major national prominence with their respected bands in a bit to honour the great blues artist Leadbelly. The band, which they named ‘The Jury’ became the side project of both musicians but sadly only lasted a handful of songs.
As Dangerous Minds points out, after the first Nirvana U.S. tour, Cobain and Lanegan began work on the side project and scheduled a session at Reciprocal Recording with Skin Yard guitarist Jack Endino to record some potential new songs. It is believed that the subsequent recording would coincide with a special release via Sub Pop. “Mark and Kurt got together,” Endino once said of the project. “I think they got drunk together, or really stoned, and wrote a bunch of songs, and got all excited and told Jonathan [Poneman, co-founder of Sub Pop Records], ‘Hey we want to do an album together!’
Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and Screaming Trees drummer Mark Pickerel completed the band lineup to make a formidable four-piece.
However, during the two recording sessions in August 1989, the new project was abandoned and the Leadbelly tribute band was formed: “When they showed up, they said, ‘Well, we tried writing some songs, but we didn’t record them and we forgot ‘em all. So we’re going to do some Leadbelly songs instead,” Endino explained further.
The duo first recorded ‘Where Did you Sleep Last Night’ which saw Lanegan take on the lead vocals. ‘Grey Goose’ followed but as an instrumental, something that only materialised as Lanegan decided he didn’t want to sing during the recording. Rounding off the demos, Cobain took control of the vocals on two more tracks ‘Ain’t It a Shame’ and ‘They Hung Him on A Cross’.
By this point, the side project collaboration was beginning to fizzle out to what seems now like a wasted opportunity: “At the end of it, we started to lose interest in it quickly, realising it wasn’t as cool as the originals that we liked listening to,” Lanegan said. “We told Sub Pop that it probably wasn’t going to happen, and that’s when they suggested to me that I make a solo record.”