Over the past week, there have been several media reports detailing the surfacing of a long lost mixtape by Nirvana front man, Kurt Cobain. The mixtape, called ‘Montage of Heck’, has been the subject of intense online interest despite being available in the bootleg world for years. The hand-crafted mixtape offers a fascinating and strange trip through the musical world of the then-twenty-year-old Cobain.
Compiled in Kurt’s hometown of Aberdeen, ‘Montage of Heck’ is a surreal cultural arc dating back to 1988. It provides fans with an intimate glimpse into the private musical world of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest talents. Originally circulated among local fans and close friends, the mixtape has now become the stuff of cultural mythology.
For the duration of the tape’s thirty six minutes, Kurt navigates his way through the history of popular music. The songs are stuffed in between moments of chaotic sound collage, ranging from flushing toilets to samples of the Flinstones. Certain musical choices are unexpected (sarcastically included?), while others make sense. John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High made the tape, as did George Michael’s cheesy hit I Want Your Sex and other cuts by Cher, Donny Osmond and William Shatner.
On the credible side of things, seventies blues rockers Led Zeppelin appear with Whole Lotta Love. The surprise inclusion of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence sets the tone early on, while cult Beatles cuts pepper the tape’s first half (Taxman, A Day In The Life, Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite). Later, after the onslaught of the Butthole Surfers, the VU and then Zappa, Kurt throws in The Day We Fall In Love by The Monkees. Of course, very few of these songs appear in their original form. Instead, they are the essential ingredients in Kurt’s strange brew.
Tracy Marander, Kurt’s girlfriend at the time, spoke to the Guardian about the newly released mixtape. “I love ‘Montage of Heck’,” she said. “He made it using records, some TV, and random sounds he recorded. It was all made in Aberdeen, I believe. It took him quite a while. He used to like to make TV montage VHS tapes too. The TV ones are a mix of 60s to 80s TV shows, old movies, bad movies, bits of commercials and late night infomercials.”
And what inspired Kurt to make these tapes? ‘He may have been stoned during part of it, but he didn’t smoke every day, at least not at that point – too broke. He made a few others, but mostly just complete songs with a few oddities thrown in.” According to Ms. Marander, Kurt derived a lot of pleasure from the early exercise (recorded at home on a 2-track recorder): “He used to listen to it while stoned or on acid too. It always trips people out.”
The complete upload and track list of ‘Montage of Heck’ appear below. Enjoy!
The Men In My Little Girl’s Life by Mike Douglas
The Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! by The Beatles
A Day In The Life by The Beatles
Eruption by Van Halen
Hot Pants by James Brown
Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves by Cher
Go Away Little Girl by Donny Osmond
Rocky Mountain High by John Denver
Everybody Loves Somebody by Dean Martin
The Candy Man by Sammy Davis, Jr.
In A Gadda Da Vida by Iron Butterfly
Wild Thing by William Shatner
Taxman by The Beatles
I Think I Love You by The Partridge Family
Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl? by The Barbarians
Queen Of The Reich by Queensryche
Last Caress/Green Hell covered by Metallica
Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin
Get Down, Make Love by Queen
ABC by The Jackson Five
I Want Your Sex by George Michael
Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden
Eye Of The Chicken by Butthole Surfers
Dance of the Cobra by Butthole Surfers
The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave by Butthole Surfers
New Age by The Velvet Underground
Love Buzz by Shocking Blue
Orchestral music from 200 Motels by Frank Zappa
Help I’m A Rock / It Can’t Happen Here by Frank Zappa
Call Any Vegetable by Frank Zappa
The Day We Fall In Love by The Monkees
Sweet Leaf by Black Sabbath (intro)
Theme from The Andy Griffith Show
Mike Love (of The Beach Boys) talking about Transcendental Meditation
Excerpts of Jimi Hendrix speaking at the Monterey Pop Festival
Excerpts of Paul Stanley from KISS’ Alive!
Excerpts of Daniel Johnston screaming about Satan
Excerpts from sound effects records
Various children’s records (Curious George, Sesame Street, The Flintstones, Star Wars)
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