TRIVIA: When Nirvana's fourth and final studio album was first released twenty years ago, the song 'Rape Me' got the band into quite a fix. A representative from the sales department at Geffen Records (which produced In Utero) said that large chain stores were aversive towards the inclusion of the track in the album.
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"We were told that the largest chain department stores would not sell this title with the song listed on the cover. It would have to be changed to be available in these stores. Geffen gave Nirvana the option for the album to be sold in these stores or not. In many parts of the country, these were the only stores where you could buy CDs. Kids shopped there with their families. The choice was that Kurt would rather reach kids in the stores rather than not be there at all. So he agreed to change the song title, but it had to be done quickly.
Kurt said, 'Why dont you just change it to Sexually Assault Me?' I said, 'The problem is that it won't fit in the artwork as designed. It will be clumsy and take too long to modify.' So I asked him to come up with a four-letter word that wasn't a swear word, and we can substitute that. You can imagine some of the four-letter words he came up with to explain his position on it. Then he said, 'Ill tell you what, just call it 'Waif Me.'' I thought that was a brilliant substitute, specifically because in his view a waif wasn't gender-specific. That was the substitute made and how the release went out into the big chain stores."
Up till today, we've had two different versions of In Utero. One being the phenomenal and transformative rock album released in 1993. The band themselves were unassuming about the reception album with Kurt Cobain saying, "We're certain that we won't sell a quarter as much, and we're totally comfortable with that because we like this record so much." The album was later re-released shortly in 1994 again, with reedited artwork, and listed 'Rape Me' as 'Waif Me'. Unfortunately with timing of Kurt Cobain's death, this album went on in history to be labelled a pseudo suicide note/farewell message from a troubled young man. With Cobain known to be highly opinionated (he used the liner notes in 1992's rarities compilation Incesticide to call out jocks, racists and homophobes), this stigma lingered for a while.
Twenty years on, with the reissue of In Utero, it seems that it is the positive we take from it. We begin to remember Nirvana as a band who responded to incredible commercial and critical success while never losing their sense of purpose. A band who created music for themselves that also translated well to the masses. A band who tried to 'keep it real' despite the immense pressure. To many, Nirvana paved the way for many musicians and artists to be able to practice what they believed in.
The 20th anniversary reissue of In Utero - being the third version of the album you will ever listen to - includes a remastered version of the original mix, B-sides, a handful of demos and a cheeky but moving liner-note essay by Bob Goldthwait who had toured with the band. For an album that had so long lived with a glooming stigma, this reissue is a stark contradiction. We begin to hear and appreciate the cello lines in the chorus of 'Serve The Servants', the vocal harmonies in 'Dumb' and begin to realise that Cobain had smart pop sensibilities, the headbanger that is 'Scentless Apprentice' that had one of Dave Grohl's favourite lines: You can't fire me because I quit, and the restrained verses in 'Heart-Shaped Box', and of course the album highlight 'All Apologies'. Years on, In Utero is still an visceral and empowering album about feeling alive. Nirvana taught us and the next generation of musicians to focus more on the music not the hype. "All in all is all we are."
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