Fecal Matter (band)

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Fecal Matter
Also known as Brown Towel, Brown Cow
Origin Aberdeen, Washington, USA
Genres Punk rock, grunge, noise rock
Years active 1985–1986
Associated acts Nirvana, Melvins
Past members Kurt Cobain
Dale Crover
Greg Hokanson
Buzz Osborne
Mike Dillard

Fecal Matter was a short lived punk rock band from Aberdeen, Washington, formed in 1985 by Kurt Cobain, the future frontman of the grunge band Nirvana, and Dale Crover of The Melvins. Melvins members Buzz Osborne (often known as "King Buzzo") and Mike Dillard also joined the band during rehearsals the following year.

Songs from group's sole recording session were issued as the Illiteracy Will Prevail demo tape, which remains unreleased officially[1] with exception of the song "Spank Thru". The recording marks the earliest known documentation of Cobain's songwriting, and its release helped Cobain establish himself as a composer and performer among his peers in the underground rock scene in Washington state.


Activity (1985–1986)[edit]

Fecal Matter was formed in early 1985, after Kurt Cobain had dropped out of Aberdeen High School.[2] One of "several joke bands" that arose from the circle of friends associated with the Melvins,[2] it initially featured Cobain singing and playing guitar, bassist Dale Crover, and drummer Greg Hokanson.[3] They spent several months rehearsing original material and covers, including songs by The Ramones, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix.[2][4] Buzz Osborne later recalled the "certain magic" of group's simple but effective original material, citing as memorable their "ability to put something together in an interesting way."[2]

In the Burien home of Cobain's aunt Mari Earle, Cobain and Crover recorded the Illiteracy Will Prevail demo on a 4-track recorder.[3] Crover played both bass guitar and drums on the recording. The date of the recording session has been disputed, but Nirvana biographer Gillian Gaar contends that early 1986 is most likely.[2] The two recorded 13 original songs in total, which Cobain would later remember as a "totally abrasive" batch of punk songs reflecting his dual interest in Black Sabbath and Black Flag.[2]

Later in 1986, Osborne and Mike Dillard joined the group playing bass and drums, respectively.[3] This incarnation rehearsed for a brief time only; Michael Azerrad's Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana records Cobain's frustration with Osborne for not taking the band seriously enough to buy a bass guitar amplifier.[3] The only live performance of this era occurred on May 3, 1986 in Olympia under the name Brown Towel (and sometimes reported as "Brown Cow").[2] This short-lived and related project featured Cobain's poetry and lyrics along with Osborne and Crover's accompaniment.[2]

Fecal Matter disbanded that year while the Melvins recorded their debut EP, Six Songs.


Cobain began passing the Fecal Matter demo tape around to friends and peers. He had wanted to collaborate with acquaintance Krist Novoselic for some time. After hearing the tape and particularly liking "Spank Thru", Novoselic agreed to form a band, which became Nirvana.[2][5] The two began loose rehearsals later in 1986 for the new project, and reused three songs originally written for Fecal Matter: "Downer", "Annorexorcist", and "Spank Thru".[2]

"Spank Thru" is the only track from the tape to be officially released, arriving on the 2005 Nirvana rarities album Sliver: The Best of the Box.[citation needed] The song's first half satirizes adolescent hard rock and the sentimental love lyrics that arena bands used to veil songs about sex.[6] "Spank Thru" develops into a high-energy punk song in its second half, with lyrics about masturbation.[6] According to music theorist Tim Hughes, "While Cobain is mocking the heavy metal kids who regularly beat him in high school, the frenzied energy he displays simultaneously communicates a sense of the dumb, frustrated, angry state of mind that fuelled those beatings."[6]

"Downer" was re-recorded for Nirvana's Bleach album. The song "Annorexorcist", part of a 9-minute medley on the Fecal Matter demo, was also re-recorded by Nirvana in a version released on 2004's With the Lights Out boxed set.

In March 2006, an incomplete, poor-quality version of Illiteracy Will Prevail was leaked. A week later, three full songs from the demo were briefly hosted on a MySpace site ("Sound of Dentage", "Bambi Slaughter" and "Laminated Effect"). The clips were confirmed authentic by collector Mike Ziegler and others who had heard the demo, in contrast to various forgeries that had arisen.[7] Additional songs were leaked in November 2007.


Illiteracy Will Prevail
Demo album
Released 1985/86
Recorded 1985/86
Genre Punk rock

Illiteracy Will Prevaildemo cassette

  1. Sound of Dentage
  2. Bambi Slaughter
  3. Laminated Effect
  4. Spank Thru
  5. Class of 86
  6. Blathers Log
  7. Instramental



  1. ^ "Kurt Cobain's 45th birthday: His other band : The Music Mix : EW.com". Entertainment Weekly. February 20, 2012. Retrieved July 18, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gillian G. Gaar. Entertain Us!: The Rise of Nirvana Penguin, 2012
  3. ^ a b c d Michael Azerrad. Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Doubleday, 1993. ISBN 0-385-47199-8.
  4. ^ Gillian G. Gaar. The Rough Guide to Nirvana. Penguin, 1993.
  5. ^ Nevermind, It's an Interview promotional CD. Geffen Records, 1992, DGC CD-PRO-4382.
  6. ^ a b c Hughes, Tim et al. (2006). "Nirvana: University of Washington, 1990". In Inglis, Ian. Performance and Popular Music: History, Place and Time. Ashgate Publishing. p. 161. ISBN 0754640574. Retrieved March 30, 2013. 
  7. ^ Alan Lonsdale (2001). "Live Nirvana Fakes Guide". LiveNIRVANA.com. Retrieved July 18, 2012. 

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