Kurt Cobain’s Marshall JCM800 Amp

This amp was seen on stage around June 1991, more precisely on June 17 at Crest Theatre, Sacramento, CA, and on June 14 at Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, CA.

As explained nicely in the comments by Sebastian, and not so nicely by Kevin, the amp actually belonged to Mike Johnson of Dinosaur Jr, for whom Nirvana opened up on those exact dates.

However, to prevent anyone (read “any amateurs”) from making a mistake thinking this amp belonged to Kurt, we’ll still keep it on the list.


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2 years ago

Kurt never used a Marshall amp except the JMP 50 – for the last studio session on January, 30th, 1994 – which belonged to studio owner Robert Lang. The JCM800 and the ‘cowbox’ seen here is the property of the other special guests of the show: ‘Kai Kln’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM6rs-In0q4
His Mesa/Boogie is clearly visible, seating next to his Hiwatt 4×12….
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…that he used at least since June 10, 1991, Gothic Theatre, Englewood:
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4 months ago
Reply to  Sebastian

I hate to be this guy, but you’re wrong buddy. Kurt infact used a Marshall live on 8-24-1991 in Cologne, Germany 🇩🇪 It looks like that JMP you mentioned to be honest. Check it out https://youtu.be/RKtAJfY_ibY

2 years ago

From June 10-20, 1991, Nirvana supported Dinosaur Jr.’s Green Mind West Coast tour.

From the beginning on June 10, 1991 at Gothic Theatre, Englewood, CO, till at least June 17, 1991 at Crest Theatre, Sacramento, CA, Kurt played his Mesa/Boogie and a slanted Hiwatt 4×12 cabinet.

Nirvana played mostly at first or as second spot before headliner Dinosaur. That is why the Marshall JCM 800 100W is always visible when Nirvana played, as Dinos backline is already on stage.
It is a JCM 800 model because it has 11 knobs and only one black input on the right side. (JCM 900 has 10 knobs and 2 black Inputs jacks – one for the footswitch.) It was also pretty expensive in 1991.

On February 19th, 1991, Dinosaur Jr. released their fourth studio album ‘Green Mind’.
The only single from that album ‘The Wagon’ was already released in 1990 and featured a cow huged by an ape on the cover comment image)

I therefore suspect that the cow(s) at the Marshall JCM 800, the Marshall cabinet and 4×12 flightcase are indicative of Dinosaurs property. Also, if it would be his cabinet, Kurt would have taped the Marshall logo off.

In addition, the operating display in the left corner of the JCM 800 amplifier is switched off all the time when Nirvana played, since there is no red light.

4 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kopilovic


Looks like a Marshall to me 🙃

5 months ago

Y’all. Cmon. Really? This is so amateur. Nirvana never used Marshall’s. The amps in question belong to Mike Johnson of Dinosaur Jr. these are the dates Nirvana opened up for DINO Jr. Nirvana is set up in FRONT of Dino’s setup. Those amps aren’t in use. They belong to Dinosaur. This is how opening bands are set up. In FRONt of the headliners stuff.

4 months ago

Just to chime in – The other commentators are right that the JCM800 pictured here did not belong to, nor was it ever used by Kurt Cobain and is simply part of Dinosaur Jr’s gear. They are also right in saying that Cobain used a Marshall JMP 50 combo amp at – and owned by – Robert Lang Studios when “You Know You’re Right” was recorded.
What they are wrong about is saying Cobain “never” used a Marshall/Marshall plexi amp live or any other tie in the studio. It is VERY easy to confirm by simply watching footage from the documentary film “1991; The Year Punk Broke” during footage from the band’s performance on August 8th, 1991 in Cologne Germany.
For some reason (the whole story might be available online) – maybe ease of set-up/lack of time/some other reason, Nirvana borrowed the amps and drum set of the local German band “Rausch.” Kurt can be seen plugged into their 4 input vintage Marshall head. Due to it’s size, enclosure type and 4 inputs, I can say with practical certainty that it is a 100 watt model vintage Marshall. With the most likely model being a Super Lead 100. It could also be – but a little less likely so just due to the fact that they are rarer – a Super Bass 100 or less likely still, a Marshall Major 200 watt model. Regardless, it’s certainly a vintage, “large box,” 4 input, non-master volume Marshall built sometime between 1967 and 1975.
The amp is plugged into some kind of odd, off-brand speaker cabinet that at first glance looked to be a vertical 2×12 cabinet but on closer inspection and the placement of the microphone on the cabinet, it looks like it’s either a very oddly shaped 4×12 or perhaps a 6×10 model.
Krist for his part is using Rausch’s Marshall Silver Jubilee 300 bass amp plugged into an Ampeg 8×10 cabinet.
The only equipment of their own that Nirvana used during this gig was their guitars/basses, their effects pedals (DS2 and Small Clone for Kurt, Rat for Krist) and Dave used his own 14″x8″ snare drum and I’d assume of course his own drum sticks. The rest of the gear – amps and all drums and cymbals besides the snare, belonged to Rausch.
There’s a video of Rausch from a year later at Bizarre Festival 1992 and you can see by then they still had the same drum kit and the same 8×10 Ampeg cabinet.
The other report of Kurt using a Marshall comes from Earnie Bailey but this is a case of a reliable source (Earnie Bailey) that unfortunately can’t be fully confirmed. Earnie Bailey says that Kurt had three amps with him at Pachyderm Studios during the “In Utero” recording sessions. His Fender Quad Reverb (an amp you either don’t have on this site or have listed as “Fender Combo Amp” or incorrectly listed as a Twin Reverb), his Randall RG-120 Commander and a 1970’s 100 watt Marshall Super Lead that was modded to the specs of a Fender Dual Showman. When it comes to this modded Marshall though, Steve Albini says he does not remember Kurt using a Marshall during the sessions.
It’s likely that both Bailey and Albini are correct. With Earnie being in charge of Nirvana’s gear and likely responsible for getting it to and from Pachyderm studios, he likely knows the amp was sent along with the rest of the band’s gear to the session. With Albini being the one who recorded the sessions, he likely knows that it was not used but was in fact there, just unbeknownst to him.
None of this is to say Kurt preferred Marshalls or that any of these instances are more than minor coincidences. It’s simply to continue the journey of setting the record straight on as many details as possible for one of the most important recording artists of all time. A band so big and so influential and important to so many that such seemingly minor details will definitely matter to some. Hope my rant helps somehow!