Love him or hate him, Kurt Cobain is one of the most instantly recognizable figures in music. The Nirvana frontman is a face that everybody recognizes from somewhere—whether from the iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video or mournfully covering David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World.” Tragically, the event that cemented his place in music legend was his suicide—coming in 1994 after seven years of fronting Nirvana. In that time, he created some of the most enduring grunge music ever created, in three studio albums (in order, Bleach, Nevermind and In Utero), the last of which was released shortly before his death. Endless speculation has surrounded his passing and his music (with some claiming his death was a murder and a cover-up, while others claim he’s in fact still alive), but one of the most interesting rumors concerns his final dabbles in music—the alleged creation of a solo album.
Eric Erlandson, ex-guitarist for Hole and author of the book Letters to Kurt, claimed in an interview with Fuse TV that Cobain was working on new music at the time of his death. “That’s really what he was going towards, a solo album but working with different people. I was really excited about some of the stuff he was working on. I got to see him play it in front of me. That’s why I was really sad [when he died]. I was like, ‘Oh man, not only are you cutting off a life, but a message to the world, a musical path… He was cut short. Who knows where the music would have gone”, going on to say that Cobain’s new releases were “headed in a direction that was really cool. It would have been his White Album”. More importantly, Erlandson also claimed that several recordings of these songs still exist and that he hopes one day the rough takes will find their way out to the Nirvana-loving public. He mentioned that Cobain had covered a well-known song (which he declined to specify the name of) in a version that Erlandson described as “heartbreaking”.
Of course, whenever anyone announces anything new about Kurt Cobain, it sends hundreds of Nirvana junkies into a tizzy. And the news that he was recording a solo album has sent social media and music websites into a frenzy, trying to work out if it’s just another rumor, and what can be done about it if it’s not.
While a special box set of Nirvana recordings was released in 2004, there are claims that they do not take into account the music Cobain was working on in his final months. In fact, Erlandson claims that the closest thing to his new material that can be found along the vein of the album that he planned on releasing is a rough recording of the song “Do Re Mi,” only found on the box set. Whether or not it’s true, there’s enough hear to spark new speculation over how Kurt had planned to move forward in his musical career.
However, other sources have hit back at these claims, stating that Cobain was, at best, toying with the idea of making a solo album. Butch Vig, the producer for their second album Nevermind, has attempted to discredit Erlandson’s claims. Vig stated to NME that Cobain was mostly interested in the work of Hole, his wife Courtney Love’s band, and that “He was working on songs, but they were just in his head. He might have just played them to Eric….Around that period he only wanted to talk about Courtney’s album, I never heard any of his new songs.” He also claims that even if Cobain has gone as far as too actually perform the songs for Erlandson, it’s even more unlikely that any recordings exist.
It’s worth bearing in mind Erlandson’s relationship to Cobain—bandmate of his wife Courtney Love, with whom he allegedly had a stormy relationship—and the fact his band are getting back together for a few live shows in the near future. While it might be cynical to suggest that he only said these things in interviews to stir up interest in his own music, it seems odd that he should have thought it necessary to wait twenty years before mentioning this alleged solo album to anyone.
Whatever your opinion on this, the umpteenth in a long line of rumors about Kurt Cobain, it seems like this particular whisper might well be untrue. With the likelihood of finding any “lost” recordings at this point pretty slim, Cobain’s solo album seems to have been put to bed for good, leaving fans with three albums and a lot of wonderful memories to hold on to.