When Nirvana was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, their surviving members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic knew they had to do something different without the presence of their late leader Kurt Cobain.
The two members had to do Cobain’s legacy justice, they couldn’t roll-out a pound shop Cobain like Queen has attempted with the addition of Adam Lambert following the death of Freddie Mercury—a decision, in truth, which seems to make the band appear more like a tribute act to Mercury if nothing else. Grohl and Novoselic came up with the intuitive idea to perform Nirvana classics with all-female singers, a plan which included Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon who slotted perfectly into their line-up and delivered a performance that Cobain would have undoubtedly adored.
After the Nirvana members discovered that they were to be inducted into the esteemed rock and roll class of 2014, they were initially nervous about what direction their live performance could take without their uncompromising frontman’s presence. After brainstorming, Novoselic and Grohl decided to ensemble an all-star cast of vocalists who could replicate Cobain’s contributions. However, every male artist they approached to join refused point blank because of the pressure to do Cobain justice.
Grohl told Rolling Stone: “Some of them were nervous, I think some of them were maybe apprehensive because of how heavy the whole thing is.” Things all changed once Joan Jett signed up to take part. Following a conversation with P.J. Harvey, who said she’d love to be an honourary member of Nirvana for the night, was unfortunately forced to pass due to scheduling conflicts.
Despite Harvey not being able to take part, it did give Grohl a lightbulb moment, as he recalled: “We thought, ‘Wait, it has to be all women. Don’t even ask anyone else. If we can fill the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance with these incredible women singing Nirvana songs, then we’ll have achieved our own revolution. It also added a whole other dimension to the show. It added substance and depth, so it didn’t turn into a eulogy. It was more about the future.”
Once he explained that it would be an all-female cast, the likes of Lorde, St. Vincent and Kim Gordon all happily obliged to join Nirvana on vocals for the celebratory event. All four of the pioneering women, who represent different eras, were relatively straightforward choices for Grohl, who said: “Joan Jett, who formed the Runaways, changed rock and roll for women, Kim Gordon, from Sonic Youth, was this beacon of light in the predominantly macho, male underground punk rock scene. St. Vincent is a wicked musician that’s pushing boundaries now. And Lorde has an incredible future ahead of her as a writer, performer and vocalist.”
Gordon went on to perform a blistering rendition of ‘Aneuresym’ that night which was electrifying with the former Sonic Youth member looking like she’d been performing alongside for Grohl and Novoselic for decades.
The former Sonic Youth leader Gordon was a fitting choice to take part in proceedings for a number of reasons, without her it’s possible that Nirvana wouldn’t have become the household name they are today after she recommended the band to major label Geffen and the rest is history.
Watch the incredible footage from that 2014 evening, below.