date_range 1991

Kurt Cobain’s Fender Stratocaster (Black, destroyed during “Endless, Nameless”)

In early 1991 Kurt started playing a black left-handed Stratocaster with a white pickguard and a full-sized humbucker in the bridge position. The first time the guitar was photographed appears to be March 8, 1991, at Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Canada.

Nevermind Studio Sessions

Kurt had this guitar with him when the band entered the studio for the second time to finish up the album, in May 1991, during which they recorded most of the songs that ended up on the final release of Nevermind (“Polly” was recorded year earlier). Kurt used guitar during the sessions, but had problems with it and ended up destroying it during the recording of “Lithium” (photo). Allegedly, the mistakes that Kurt made during the recording of that song, ended up becoming riffs for the hidden track on the album called “Endless, Nameless”, which begins after 10 minutes of silence following “Something in the Way”.

One that was tough was “Lithium.” We tried in vain to track one afternoon and it just didn’t feel right and that’s when Kurt went crazy after the third or fourth take and they launched into that bonus track on Nevermind, “Endless, Nameless.” It just came out of the blue. And I’ve never seen so much rage and frustration coming out of someone; you could literally almost see Kurt’s vocal chords coming out of his throat he was screaming so hard. Then he smashed his left-handed guitar, which ended the session for the day. [‘Nevermind’ Turns 25, Butch Vig Reflects on Producing Nirvana’s Classic: ‘They Wanted to Be the Biggest Band in the World‘]

We had some problems at first recording “Lithium.” For some reason the band kept speeding up, and it took away from the power of the song. After the fourth take that didn’t come out right, Kurt went right into “Endless Nameless.” He didn’t even tell anyone he was going to do it and the rage and frustration on his face was so f***in’ scary. All of us were like, “Whoa!” The band just went into it with him, and I was rolling tape so I recorded the whole thing. And then Kurt smashed his guitar to bits at the end of it. [Butch Vig Remembers the Making of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind,’ 25 Years Later]

Post Nevermind Sessions

A guitar that looked almost identical to this one was used by Kurt as late as October 1991, so it is likely that Kurt repaired it, or at least re-used some of the parts. The main differences are the fact that the new guitar had a Tune-O-Matic bridge installed instead of the stock Fender tremolo, and had its humbucker rotated to a straight angle, and one has to guess the new was also new.

Kurt kept using the guitar occasionally up until October 1991, when it was finally destroyed at the end of the set at Cabaret Metro in Chicago on the. The band played “Endless, Nameless” for their closing song, during which Kurt took Dave’s place behind the drums. After the show ended they completely demolished Dave’s drum set, reportedly using this guitar as their main tool of destruction.

Current Whereabouts

A black Stratocaster body is currently owned by the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, with a story attached to it that it was the guitar used during the “Nevermind” sessions. The body is split in half, and there are mounting holes visible on the top, which at some point held the Tune-O-Matic bridge.

The body of Kurt’s Stratocaster on display at the EMP Museum. Photo by: OnceAndFutureLaura/Flickr

This proves the theory that Kurt repaired the black Stratocaster after he partially destroyed during the studio sessions, and it’s worth pointing out that the body was not destroyed in the studio, but at a later date (as is pointed out in the previous section).

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