Kurt Cobain’s Moody 1988 Mixtape: A Wormhole into the Strange Mind of a Rock Legend
A mixtape created by a young Kurt Cobain was recently discovered and released online. It’s a truly bizarre brew of classic hits, toilet flushes, and rants about Satan.
If you’ve ever longed for a journey into the deep, dark mind of late Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, this might be the closest you’ll get.
A mixtape dubbed “Montage of Heck” has surfaced on the site Live Nirvana!, which bills itself as the “most comprehensive Nirvana website on the Internet.” Cobain reportedly recorded it in June 1988, one year before the band would release their debut LP, Bleach, and was made using a 4-track cassette recorder. “Montage of Heck” isn’t your traditional mix—rather, it’s a zany, almost Lynchian sound collage comprised of snippets of classic hits by the likes of Queen and Led Zeppelin to more “out there” tunes, like William Shatner crooning “Wild Thing.”
There are also alarming segues and interludes, including brief scraps of dialogue such as Fled Flintstone yelling for his bowling ball, Jimi Hendrix speaking at the Monterey Pop Festival, and nuggets from several future Nirvana demo tracks, e.g. “Blandest,” “Help Me,” and “The Landlord Is A Piece of Shit From Hell.” “Montage of Heck” is available in two versions: An 8-minute mono version which contains more Nirvana scraps, and a 33-minute stereo version. Part of the short version was used as an intro to the Nirvana single “Love Buzz,” and is referred to as “Buzz Cut.”
It kicks off with spoken work snippets of Mike Douglas’ “The Men In My Little Girl’s Life”—a truly creepy, Freudian 1960s show tune by the acclaimed talk show host about a father struggling to cope with his daughter seeing boys. “Then came ponytails and jeans / And my little girl was in her teens / Popsie, there's a boy outside / His name is Tom / He wants to take me to the prom / Ok, popsie / He's cute, popsie / We'll be home early, popsie,” Douglas says. Douglas’ song is followed up by distorted sounds, audio of someone peeing, a toilet flush, and vintage TV dialogue, and various sounds on a loop (a liquid being poured into a glass, vomiting—which lasts for nearly 20 seconds, an ad for Olympia Beer from his home state of Washington, Daniel Johnston ranting about Satan being a “motherfucker,” etc.), all serving as a manic segue to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence.”
The sound effects on “Montage of Heck” were all allegedly created by Cobain, including the urination sounds, vomiting into a toilet, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic ranting about pot and whiskey, and Cobain mimicking James Brown.
In June 1988, when Cobain allegedly composed the “mix,” he was in the process of ironing out tracks for Nirvana’s Bleach, and two years removed from his previous band, Fecal Matter. He was also infatuated with Bikini Kill! member Tobi Vail (Cobain would meet Courtney Love two years later at Portland’s Satyricon nightclub).
You can listen to the stereo (long) version of the mix here, and the full track list is below:
Montage of Heck Track List: “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)