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Watch rare footage of Nirvana covering Led Zeppelin track 'Immigrant Song'

Whilst Nirvana and Led Zeppelin share some similarities in terms of their status and legacy – being two of the biggest rock bands to have ever graced the earth – musically and in terms of ethos, they are very different. In fact, Nirvana and their frontman, Kurt Cobain, had a strange relationship with Led Zeppelin. He grew up loving their music, but as he became more ensconced in punk, Cobain started to hold disdain for certain lyrics that he deemed to be sexist.

Speaking to Adam Synder for Interview Magazine in 1991, Cobain explained that he grew up listening to hard rock by the likes of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Aerosmith. He even learned to play their songs on the guitar, but when he started getting into punk, this all changed. 

“I sold my Aerosmith and Led Zepplin collection for twelve dollars,” Cobain said. “I completely threw away my hard-rock roots and was into MDC and Black Flag.”

Asked whether Led Zeppelin became “uncool” to him, Cobain confirmed that this was the case. “Although I listened to Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, and I really did enjoy some of the melodies they’d written, it took me so many years to realise that a lot of it had to do with sexism,” he expressed. “The way that they just wrote about their dicks and having sex. I was just starting to understand what really was pissing me off so much those last couple years of high school.”

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Cobain then proceeded to discuss how his disillusionment with the likes of Led Zeppelin actually led to his love of punk. “And then punk rock was exposed and then it all came together,” he said. “It just fit together like a puzzle. It expressed the way I felt socially and politically. Just everything. You know. It was the anger that I felt. The alienation.” 

Despite Cobain hating what Led Zeppelin stood for, the grunge heroes would still cover the English rockers at certain points over their career, with the most notable coming in the form of their rendition of ‘Heartbreaker’ a highlight of 1969’s Led Zeppelin II, which features on the Nirvana compilation Sliver: The Best of the Box.

The most notable does not mean the best, though. Arguably, the best Led Zeppelin cover Nirvana delivered came in the form of the noisy rendition of ‘Immigrant Song’ in their rehearsal space in bassist Krist Novoselic’s mother’s house in Aberdeen, Washington, circa 1988. 

Only existing as footage, in it, we see the fresh-faced band, featuring one of their early drummers, who appears to be Chad Channing, tearing through a sludgy version of the 1970 classic. With Novoselic and Channing really going for it, and taking up most of the screen time, at one point, the camera spins around to find Kurt Cobain doing what can only be described as the most Kurt Cobain thing possible.

With his distorted guitar cranked up, Cobain is singing towards the wall, right up against it, facing away from his other band members, whilst delivering many of the unhinged screams that he’d become famous for over the next few years. He sounds like he’s about to burst, in a not dissimilar way to his performance on ‘Scentless Apprentice’ from In Utero.

The footage acts as a time machine that transports back to the days when Nirvana were at their greenest, starting to find their feet creatively. It paints a candid picture of the trio doing what they did best; having fun with their music.

Watch Nirvana cover Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ below.

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