The internet has imploded over the last few days over the presumed resurfacing of a 1980’s pre-Bleach mixtape made by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. While subsequent reports have revealed the tape has in fact been floating around for some years now, listening to its bizarre mix of sounds provides an interesting look into Cobain’s mind in the formative years before Nirvana broke through.
Viral reports over the last few days have stated that the mixtape, dubbed Montage of Heck, was compiled by Cobain in his hometown of Aberdeen in 1988 using a 4-track cassette recorder. However, Cobain’s former girlfriend Tracy Marander told The Guardian that it was actually made in 1987 and that Kurt used a two-track recorder.
“He made it using records, some TV, and random sounds he recorded,” she said. “It was all made in Aberdeen, I believe. It took him quite a while. He used to like to make TV montage VHS tapes too. The TV ones are a mix of 60s to 80s TV shows, old movies, bad movies, bits of commercials and late night infomercials.”
The mixtape features a slew of mind-bending sounds, like snippets of 60s, 70s and 80s TV shows mixed with sounds of the toilet flushing and someone vomiting. There are bits of classic rocks songs by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Velvet Underground and Van Halen. Plus snippets of a few unreleased Nirvana songs, Daniel Johnston’s rants on Satan, white noise and Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound Of Silence.
There were reportedly two versions of Montage Of Heck made. Once is a truncated clip clocking in at eight minutes long, and the other a full 36-minute take which you can, and must, listen to below. Cobain used part of the short version as an intro for Nirvana’s first single, Love Buzz.
“I think he just did it because he was bored. He started doing it, and just kept going. It was a project,” added Marander. Fans have known about Montage of Heck for years now, it having been available on bootlegs for well over a decade.
“There are a lot of copies of copies out there. I’m not even sure where mine is,” continued Marander. “He may have been stoned during part of it, but he didn’t smoke every day, at least not at that point – too broke. He made a few others, but mostly just complete songs with a few oddities thrown in.”
“He used to listen to it while stoned or on acid too,” she added. “It always trips people out.” So yes, it might not be the unearthing many are talking about, but nearly 30 years on, Montage Of Heck is still an exhilarating and mind-bending sonic experience.
See below for a list of tracks featured and/or hidden in the Montage Of Heck mixtape, via Livenirvana.com. Go ahead, trip out.
Montage Of Heck Tracklist (NOT in order)
“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).