Kurt Cobain’s ‘Montage of Heck’ mixtape surfaces

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Kurt Cobain was always a champion of weird underground bands and the classic rock titans his band would soon join in the history books. Now there’s a new document of his rangy, funny and influential tastes in music.

“Montage of Heck” is a mixtape Cobain made on a home 4-track recorder in 1988. It’s now surfaced on the blog Dangerous Minds, and it’s a cross between a zany late-night radio show and the coolest college radio station record collection you could ask for as a late ‘80s rock fan.

The mix features snippets of songs ranging from established Cobain favorites (Velvet Underground, Black Sabbath) to contrarian pop favorites (Sammy Davis Jr., Cher, the Partridge Family) to truly bizarre found-sound snippets (Mike Love of the Beach Boys discussing meditation practices, the singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston yelling about the devil). It’s also got a clip from Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz,” which Nirvana would cover on its debut 7-inch single.


For a then-21-year-old aspirant punk, it’s a funny and antagonistic document of an insatiable musical mind. But it’s also a reminder that Nirvana championed all sorts of outre influences, including fringe noise bands and decadent classic rock, on their way to becoming one of the world’s greatest rock bands.

And this was all in the pre-Internet era, when discovering underground acts and forming such open-minded tastes took a lot more effort than today.

Listen to the full mix above, and trace the path of influence, humor and pop-savviness that would yield one of America’s most beloved songwriters.

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