Brett Morgen, director of the Emmy-nominated Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck documentary, gave Nirvana fans a one-of-a-kind treat Wednesday night (Oct. 7) in Los Angeles.
As part of Cinefamily’s Show And Tell series at the Silent Movie Theater in West Hollywood, Morgen debuted Universal Music Enterprises’s Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck: The Home Recordings, Deluxe Edition, accompanied by video footage Morgen discovered while making the film but did not use in the final doc.
“It’s not a movie,” Morgen stressed of the video collage he assembled only a day before the event. “It’s footage to make your life easier for 73 minutes…I know it’s fucking weird. I smelled someone smoking weed. So in case you want to take five minutes and pass it around…” It was a suggestion many in the audience took to heart, sharing joints while the album played.
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The music comes from the more than 200 hours of previously unreleased audio Morgen found on cassettes in a storage facility filled with Cobain’s belongings. The cassettes, as well as Cobain’s journals, became the backbone of Morgen’s acclaimed documentary.
The soundtrack album will be released Nov. 13 on CD and digitally, with a 2-LP vinyl edition to follow on Dec. 4. The documentary, also out on home video on Nov. 13, will be available in the Super Deluxe Edition, which includes the audio, as well as on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital video formats. Wednesday night’s custom-made video, however, Morgen stressed will never been seen again.
The 31 tracks on the Deluxe Edition range from inchoate fragments of tunes, such as opener “The Yodel Song,” which features Cobain strumming an acoustic guitar and vocalizing indecipherable lyrics, to almost fully-shaped songs. While most of the tunes will be new to fans, a number of them will sound familiar as early demos of what became Nirvana tracks “Been A Son,” “Clean Up Before She Comes,” “Scoff,” “Sappy” and “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle,” as well as a cover of the Beatles’ “And I Love Her.”
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In addition to the music — most of it only Cobain accompanying himself on acoustic or electric guitar — there are a number of spoken-word tracks, including a hilarious fake commercial for the 1988 Capitol Lake Jam, played by Nirvana, made up by Cobain with him speaking in both a silly falsetto and a deep baritone, and a rumination on Sea Monkeys, in which he declares “Paula Abdul is a Sea Monkey.” Much more upsetting is “Aberdeen,” a reading of a story, some of it perhaps apocryphal, about his discovery of marijuana as a young teen, his failed attempt to lose his virginity to a mentally disabled neighbor, and his first suicide attempt by lying on a train track.
The falsetto, comic voice returns on the bizarre track “Beans.” Some of the tracks, such as “Montage of Kurt,” are simply droning, ambient noises, and strange ramblings from Cobain.
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As the music played in the theater, footage of Cobain as a precious, smiling infant and toddler unspooled. In addition to the early home movies, Morgen also drew from more than 30 minutes of footage shot by Cobain, including stop animation featurettes. While much of the footage was lighthearted, some of it was disturbing, especially in light of Cobain’s eventual suicide, including intentionally grainy black and white video of Cobain slashing his wrists with a Coca-Cola can and he and his friends making a violent (albeit very amateurish and cartoon-like) slasher film.
Morgen, who introduced a showing of Montage of Heck following the album playback, cautioned not to read too much into the images and the music. “If you find a metaphorical connection,” he said, “It’s all you.”