On January 30, 1994, the band Nirvana entered the recording studio for the last time. That day, the trio recorded a single song that would later become the most discussed and controversial recording of their entire career.
Moving ahead to Valentine’s Day in 1995, the band Hole performed an acoustic session for MTV’s Unplugged series at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.
Their performance drew mainly from their second studio album “Live Through This.” The set-list featured three out of four singles from the album: “Miss World,” “Softer, Softest,” and “Doll Parts.” They also performed several cover songs, including Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf,” Donovan’s “Season Of The Witch,” and The Crystals’ “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss).”
Courtney Love, Hole’s lead vocalist, introduced the latter as “a really sick song.” She later humorously labeled it a “nice feminist anthem.”
Despite objections from her bandmates, Courtney Love included two songs written by her late husband, Kurt Cobain, in Hole’s setlist.
Kurt Cobain was Nirvana’s frontman and had tragically passed away the previous spring. The first of these songs, “Old Age,” was initially demoed by Nirvana in 1991. Later, Cobain gave the song to Love, who recorded it for Hole’s 1993 EP “Beautiful Son.”
The second song, listed as “You’ve Got No Right” on Hole’s Unplugged album, was actually titled “You Know You’re Right.”
This song held significance as the final song ever recorded by Nirvana, marking Kurt Cobain’s last musical contribution. This song later sparked a disagreement between Courtney Love and Cobain’s former bandmates, Kris Novoselic and Dave Grohl, leading to legal disputes before its eventual release. Dave Grohl described it as both “beautiful and disturbing,” capturing its emotional depth.
The recording studio at the heart of this history is Robert Lang Studios, located around 10 minutes away from Dave Grohl’s previous residence in Seattle. The studio boasts a charming exterior with red brick walls, arched doorways, and slanted red slate roofs, giving it the appearance of an enchanted castle.
In January 1994, Nirvana had booked a three-day session at Robert Lang Studios. The band had hopes of recapturing some of the magic they had experienced during their focused recording sessions for “In Utero” at Pachyderm Studios in Minnesota the year before. However, the atmosphere within the Nirvana camp had notably shifted as the new year began.
According to Dave Grohl, Nirvana’s drummer, the year 1994 started off on a challenging note. Kurt Cobain had been struggling, and the band was navigating their newfound fame and its associated challenges.
Cobain’s face had graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Kurt openly discussed fame, his marriage, fatherhood, addiction struggles, and the band’s creative direction. Cobain acknowledged that his drug use had created tensions within the band. He expressed his belief that they were creatively stagnant.
Amid these circumstances, when Cobain failed to show up at the studio on January 28 and 29, his bandmates, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, barely reacted, hinting at the underlying dynamics. During this time, Grohl and Novoselic worked on some original songs by Grohl, some of which would later appear on the first two albums by Foo Fighters, Grohl’s subsequent band.
Finally, on the afternoon of January 30, Kurt Cobain arrived at the studio without his guitar. The trio began working on a song they had only played once before. The song had different lyrics during a live performance on October 23.
This song was placed between the iconic tracks “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “All Apologies.” After recording a satisfactory take, the band paused for dinner and discussed returning to the studio after their planned European tour to finish the recording. Unfortunately, they never got the chance to do so.
As time passed, the differing opinions between the surviving Nirvana members and Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney became evident. It was particularly regarding the song “You Know You’re Right.” In 2001, Courtney Love filed a lawsuit against Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and the band’s record label, Universal Music Group.
Her aim was to gain control of Nirvana’s master tapes. While both sides agreed on releasing the song, the disagreement revolved around its presentation. For Grohl and Novoselic agreed that the song was a part of Nirvana box set.
However, for Courtney Love, it had to take center stage on a single-disc “greatest hits” compilation. Love’s lawsuit emphasized the song’s potential as an unreleased hit.