A Kurt Cobain guitar from the start of Nirvana’s career, and a letter which almost spelt the end of it both crossed the block at Julien’s Auctions in New York last weekend.
The two items were part of the company’s Music Icons sale at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square, which also featured memorabilia from everyone from Elvis to Lady Gaga.
First was a Univox Hi-Flier electric guitar used on stage during a ferocious show at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey, on July 13, 1989. The show was part of the band’s first U.S tour, to promote their debut album Bleach released in June of that year.
Nirvana’s line-up then included drummer Chad Channing and second guitarist Jason Everman, who had helped pay for the Bleach recording sessions, but who later fell out with the rest of the group and left before the end of the tour.
Footage of the entire Maxwell’s gig exists online, and Cobain can be seen first playing, then smashing the instrument, during the band’s customary end-of-set destruction.
Following the show Cobain famously asked Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis to join Nirvana, then the band returned to stay at the New York apartment of Janet Billig, a record company executive who later worked with Hole, The Breeders, Dinosaur Jr., The Lemonheads and Smashing Pumpkins.
Cobain gave Billig his smashed guitar as a gift, and it remained in her collection for many years before selling at Julien’s for $56,250.
Second was a personal and emotional letter written by Cobain to record label boss David Geffen in 1992, following the publication of an article in Vanity Fair about his wife Courtney Love.
The now-infamous story Lynn Hirschberg accused Love of using heroin whilst pregnant with the couple’s daughter, and that the pair had engaged in a month-long drug binge which saw her shooting up whilst he threw up in cabs.
Cobain vehemently denied the claims, and wrote to Geffen for help in clearing his wife’s name. The letter read (in part):
"Hi, my name is Kurt Cobain, I’m the lead singer, guitar[ist] and songwriter for the band Nirvana. Supposedly I’ve made your company a lot of money."
"Something so severely defremating [sic] towards my family has come up in an article in Vanity Fair that has forced me to decide on breaking up my band."
"I’m so extremely pissed off about this piece of trash journalism that I’ll lay anything on the line for the love of my wife and my daughter."
The letter, which also saw Cobain make rare mention of his own drug addiction and rehab, sold for $28,125.