About a Girl (Nirvana song)

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"About a Girl"
Nirvana about a girl.png
Single by Nirvana
from the album MTV Unplugged in New York
B-side"Something in the Way" (live)
ReleasedOctober 24, 1994 (1994-10-24)
FormatCD
RecordedNovember 18, 1993 (1993-11-18)
Genre
Length3:37
LabelDGC
Songwriter(s)Kurt Cobain
Producer(s)Nirvana and Scott Litt
Nirvana singles chronology
"Pennyroyal Tea"
(1994)
"About a Girl"
(1994)
"Aneurysm"
(1996)
MTV Unplugged in New York track listing
Music video
"About a Girl" on YouTube
"About a Girl"
Song by Nirvana
from the album Bleach
ReleasedJune 15, 1989
Recorded1988–1989
GenreAlternative rock
Length2:48
LabelSub Pop
Songwriter(s)Kurt Cobain
Producer(s)Jack Endino
Bleach track listing
11 tracks
  1. "Blew"
  2. "Floyd the Barber"
  3. "About a Girl"
  4. "School"
  5. "Love Buzz"
  6. "Paper Cuts"
  7. "Negative Creep"
  8. "Scoff"
  9. "Swap Meet"
  10. "Mr. Moustache"
  11. "Sifting"

"About a Girl" is a song by American rock band, Nirvana, written by vocalist and guitarist, Kurt Cobain. It is the third song on the band's debut album, Bleach, released in June 1989. A live version, recorded during Nirvana's MTV Unplugged performance in November 1993, was released as a single to promote the posthumous album MTV Unplugged in New York in October 1994, and reached number one on the Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart and number 22 on Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay chart.

History[edit]

Dating back to 1988, "About a Girl" was reportedly written after Cobain spent an entire afternoon listening to Meet The Beatles!, the 1964 second American release by the Beatles, repeatedly.[1] According to Cobain, he had largely been concealing his pop songwriting at this time, and was reluctant to include the song on Bleach in fear of alienating the band's then-largely grunge fan base. In a 1993 Rolling Stone interview with David Fricke, he explained:

"Even to put 'About a Girl' on Bleach was a risk. I was heavily into pop, I really liked R.E.M., and I was into all kinds of old ‘60s stuff. But there was a lot of pressure within that social scene, the underground — like the kind of thing you get in high school. And to put a jangly R.E.M. type of pop song on a grunge record, in that scene, was risky." [2]

However, Bleach's producer Jack Endino was excited about the song, and even saw it as a potential single.[3] Years later, Butch Vig, who produced Nirvana's 1991 breakthrough album Nevermind, cited "About a Girl" as the first hint that there was more to Nirvana than grunge. "Everyone talks about Kurt's love affair with... the whole punk scene, but he was also a huge Beatles fan, and the more time we spent together the more obvious their influence on his songwriting became," Vig told the NME in 2004.[4]

"About a Girl" was recorded for Bleach in December 1988 by Endino in Seattle, Washington. It remained one of the few songs from Bleach which Nirvana continued to perform live until Cobain's death in April 1994. A live acoustic rendition was recorded during the band's MTV Unplugged set on November 18, 1993, at Sony Music Studios in New York City. It was released on the band's posthumous MTV Unplugged in New York album in 1994 and was the only commercial single from that album.

The Bleach version was re-released on the band's 2002 "best-of" compilation album, Nirvana. The Unplugged version was re-released on the band's second hits compilation album, Icon in 2010. The Unplugged version also appears as a playable song in the video game Guitar Hero World Tour, and the Bleach version appears as downloadable content for the Rock Band video game. "About a Girl" is also a BMI award-winning song.[5]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

About A Girl was recorded in the key of E minor with the open chords of e minor and G being used for all verses. The power chords of C#5-G#5-F#5 are used twice for the start of the chorus followed by E5-E5-A5-C5 to finish the chorus. After the second chorus the main verse chords are played 4 times until an 8-measure repeated guitar solo is played followed by the chorus progression then the main riff is played 4 times to lead into the third verse and final chorus which the lyric "I can't see you every night" is repeated once and held till a final "for free" is sung and the lyrics "I do" are sung 4 times to end the song.

According to Chad Channing, Nirvana's drummer around the time of Bleach, Cobain didn't have a title for the song when he first brought it into the studio. When asked what it was about, Cobain replied, "It's about a girl." [6]

The girl in question was Tracy Marander, Cobain's then-girlfriend, with whom he lived at the time. Apparently, Marander had asked Cobain why he had never written a song for her, and Cobain responded with "About a Girl". The song addresses the couple's fractured relationship, caused by Cobain's refusal to get a job, or to share cleaning duties at their apartment (which housed many of his pets). During arguments on the subject, Cobain would occasionally threaten to move into his car, at which point Marander would usually relent.[citation needed]

Cobain never told Marander that he had written "About a Girl" for her. In the 1998 Nick Broomfield documentary Kurt and Courtney, Marander revealed that she only found out after reading Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana.

Reception[edit]

"About a Girl" has frequently been cited as early evidence of Cobain's pop songwriting abilities. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic wrote that the song "illustrated signs of [Cobain's] considerable songcraft."[7] Evan Rytlewskia of Pitchfork called it "a glimpse at the melodic impulses that would make [Cobain] one of the defining rock musicians of the ’90s."[8]

Single[edit]

The MTV Unplugged version was released as the only commercial single from MTV Unplugged in New York, peaking at number one on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart in late 1994. It also appeared on Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay chart, peaking at #22. Five thousand numbered limited edition copies were sold in Australia, and an additional 200 copies were unnumbered for promotional use. A standard single was also sold in countries across Europe. The following songs appear on the single:

  1. "About a Girl" (Cobain)
  2. "Something in the Way" (Cobain)

Chart positions[edit]

Recording and release history[edit]

Demo and studio versions[edit]

Date recorded Studio Producer/recorder Releases Personnel
1988 Cobain residence, Olympia, Washington Kurt Cobain With the Lights Out (2004)
Sliver: The Best of the Box (2005)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
December 1988 - January 1989 Reciprocal Recording, Seattle, Washington Jack Endino Bleach (1989)
Nirvana (2002)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Chad Channing (drums)
October 26, 1989 Maida Vale Studios, London, England John Peel Unreleased
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar, backing vocals)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Chad Channing (drums)

Live versions[edit]

Date recorded Venue Releases Personnel
February 9, 1990 Pine Street Theatre, Portland, Oregon Sliver (1991)
Bleach (20th Anniversary Edition) (2009)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Chad Channing (drums)
October 31, 1991 Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA Live! Tonight! Sold Out!! (1994)
Live at the Paramount (2011)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums)
November 25, 1991 Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands Live! Tonight! Sold Out!! (DVD) (2006)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums, backing vocals)
August 30, 1992 Reading Festival, Reading, England Live at Reading (2009)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums)
November 18, 1993 Sony Music Studios, New York City, New York MTV Unplugged in New York
Icon (2010)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic – (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums, backing vocals)
  • Pat Smear (guitar)
December 13, 1993 Pier 48, Seattle, Washington Live and Loud (2013)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums, backing vocals)
  • Pat Smear (guitar)

Accolades[edit]

  • Ranked #2 in NME's "Top 20 Nirvana Songs" (2004)
  • Ranked #2 in Q's "10 Greatest Nirvana Songs Ever" (2004)
  • Ranked #1 in Q's "The 100 Greatest Singers and their 1000 Greatest Songs" (2007) in which Kurt was ranked as the 7th greatest singer

Covers[edit]

According to the official Foo Fighters web site, Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl covered "About a Girl" with himself on vocals during a studio session with music producer and friend Barrett Jones at some point before Nirvana disbanded in 1994. The recording has yet to surface.[30]

Studio covers of the song have been done by American rock band Cibo Matto, on their 1999 Moonchild EP, and Brazilian singer/ songwriter Cibelle, on her 2005 About a Girl EP.

The song has been covered live by American rock band Puddle of Mudd. A reggae version of the song was released on the Little Roy album Battle for Seattle in 2011.

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  • About a Girl discography information at sliver.it
  • Azerrad, Michael. Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, Doubleday, New York: 1993, ISBN 0-86369-746-1

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Azerrad, Michael (1994), Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana
  2. ^ "LiveNIRVANA.com Interview Archive | 1993 | October 25, 1993 - Chicago, IL, US". Live Nirvana. Archived from the original on September 4, 2012. Retrieved 2011-09-24.
  3. ^ "Countdown: 20 Greatest Nirvana Songs Ever". NME. March 26, 2004. Archived from the original on February 6, 2005. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
  4. ^ "Countdown: 20 Greatest Nirvana Songs Ever". NME. March 26, 2004. Archived from the original on February 6, 2005. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
  5. ^ Nirvana songs listed by BMI. bmi.com Retrieved on December 26, 2012.
  6. ^ Krist Novoselic (2009-10-28). "Bleach: Krist Novoselic Interviews Chad Channing - Page 1 - Music - Seattle". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 2011-09-24.
  7. ^ Stephen Thomas, Erlewine. "AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine". Allmusic. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  8. ^ Rytlewski, Evan (10 September 2018). "The 200 Best Albums of the 1980s". Pitchfork. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  9. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Nirvana – About a Girl %5BMTV Unplugged Version%5D". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  10. ^ "Ultratop.be – Nirvana – About a Girl %5BMTV Unplugged Version%5D" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  11. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 2676." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  12. ^ "dankehitlister.dk -". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  13. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. January 14, 1995. p. 9. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  14. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2003). Sisältää hitin: levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972. Otava Publishing Company Ltd. ISBN 951-1-21053-X.
  15. ^ "Lescharts.com – Nirvana – About a Girl %5BMTV Unplugged Version%5D" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  16. ^ Vinsseldalistinn 10 - 17 November 1994 (last week's position). timarit.is. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  17. ^ Salvatori, Dario. (1999). 40 anni di hit parade italiana: [le canzoni, gli interpreti, i record e le curiosità di tutte le classifiche dal 1957 a oggi]. Firenze: Tarab. ISBN 88-86675-55-0
  18. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Nirvana ((USA))" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  19. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Nirvana – About a Girl %5BMTV Unplugged Version%5D" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  20. ^ "ABOUT THE GIRL". Polskie Radio. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  21. ^ "Archiwum Listy Przebojow - Trojki - Nrivana". www.lp3.pl. Polskie Radio. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  22. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Nirvana – About a Girl %5BMTV Unplugged Version%5D". Singles Top 100. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  23. ^ "Nirvana Chart History (Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  24. ^ "Nirvana Chart History (Radio Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  25. ^ "Nirvana Chart History (Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  26. ^ "Nirvana Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  27. ^ "Official Rock & Metal Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  28. ^ "RPM 100 Hit Tracks of 1994". RPM. Retrieved November 23, 2017.
  29. ^ "RPM 100 Hit Tracks of 1995". RPM. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
  30. ^ "About a girl - Foo Fighters Postboard". Bbs.foofighters.com. Retrieved 2011-09-24.

External links[edit]