Kurt Cobain’s Randall RG-120 Commander Amp

access_time First seen circa 1989

Kurt was first seen using this amp around July 1989 (search for Nirvana, Hoboken, NJ, June 13, 1989, on Google) – which was just after the release of Bleach album (June 15, 1989). However, according to Jack Endino, who produced Bleach, the Randall amp was used even prior to that.

When they recorded Bleach, Kurt’s Randall was in the shop so they borrowed my amp, which was a Sixties Fender Twin. […] Kurt brought in a little closed-back 2×12 cabinet with two Celestion [speakers], most likely 70-watt models.

The Definitive Kurt Cobain Gear Guide

From Jack Endino’s statement, one can conclude that Kurt used this amp until June 1989, at which point it was broken. Unfortunately, photos from around early 1989 and late 1988 are scarce, so it’s hard to determine when exactly Kurt started using it.

Be that as it may, it seems that Kurt repaired the amp and used it at least until the end of the North American Bleach tour, or around October 1989. After that, the band went to Europe, and at that point, Kurt seemed to have switched to a Fender Twin Reverb.

The Bullfrog Cabinet

Jack Endino mentions Kurt bringing in a 2×12 cabinet to the Bleach studio sessions. This was probably the same cabinet that Kurt used together with his Randal Commander amp – which, based on photos, seems to be a BFI Bullfrog model cabinet.

The Randall Today

Apparently, this amp is still around to this day. At some point in 1990, it was seen sitting in Krist Novoselic’s house (photo below), and more recently, it was allegedly used by Courtney Love in studio (source needed).

Kurt Cobain playing a Randall Commander amp at Krist’s home. Photo source: Mike’s Archive/YouTube.

There are even more recent photos of it sitting in a glass display case, so it is likely owned by some sort of a museum (if you happen to know about current whereabouts, be sure to leave a comment).

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access_time 1990

Mesa/Boogie Studio .22 Preamp

This was Kurt main pre-amp, used for live performances ever since May 2, 1990. According to several sources, Kurt trashed his Sunn amps the day earlier, on May 1st at the Cat’s Cradle, Chapel Hill, NC, and bought the Mesa Boogie on May 2nd before playing at Milestone in Charlotte. I was at this show and bought one of Kurt’s Beta Leads. Nirvana – 5/1/90 – Cat’s Cradle, Chapel Hill, […]

access_time 1990

Crown Power Base 2 Amplifier

This was Kurt’s main guitar amp prior to Nevermind studio sessions and during the album tour. For most of the tour, the amp was seen sitting in a rackmount case, underneath a Mesa Boogie Studio .22 Preamp. This same exact setup was allegedly used during the studio sessions, plus some other amps provided by Butch Vig. Kurt had a Mesa/Boogie, but we also used a Fender Bassman a lot and […]

access_time 1988

1960s Fender Twin Reverb

Kurt used a Fender Twin Reverb to record Bleach album. That particular amp, however, wasn’t owned by him, but by Jack Endino, who produced the record. When they recorded Bleach, Kurt’s Randall was in the shop so they borrowed my amp, which was a Sixties Fender Twin. I’m a tube nut, so everything was tweaked and up to spec on that amp, but it didn’t have speakers because I had […]

access_time 1991

Marshall JCM800

Kurt used this amp on a few occasions in June 1991, more precisely on June 17 at Crest Theatre, Sacramento, CA, and on June 14 at Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, CA. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but the amp was either a JCM800 or a JCM900 model. 1991 was the last year that the Marshall made JCM 800 amps, and JCM 900 came out in 1990 – so […]

access_time 1989

Fender Combo Amp

Kurt was seen using an unknown Fender amp around the time when the band released Bleach, circa May 1989. Based on this photo – Nirvana in Auburn, WA, May 26, 1989, it seems that the Marshall on top with the “Nirvana” was Jason Everman’s, while the Fender combo sitting underneath it was used by Kurt. The amp on the right, sitting on top of a red cabinet, was Krist’s bass […]

access_time 1992

Crest 4801 Power Amp

Kurt used this amp from around January 1992 for the majority of Nirvana’s live performances. The amp was used together with a Mesa/Boogie Studio .22 Preamp – both of which were mounted on a rack shelf often seen sitting behind Kurt on stage. Prior to January 1992, Kurt used a Crown Power Base 2 power amp instead of this amp.

access_time 1990

Sunn Beta Lead Head

Kurt was seen using these amps towards the latter part of the Bleach tour – circa February/March 1990 (for photos see Kurt Cobain’s Sunn amp). They were used up until May 1, 1990, when they were trashed at a concert at Cat’s Cradle, Chapel Hill, NC, and replaced the day later with a Mesa Boogie Studio .22. I was at this show and bought one of Kurt´s Beta Leads. Nirvana […]

access_time 1989

Fender Twin Reverb Silverface

This amp was seen behind Kurt on stage starting with Nirvana’s European tour in late October 1989, in support of Bleach. However, the amp belonged either to TAD or Mudhoney with whom Nirvana toured, and there was never a cable going into the amp while Kurt was performing – meaning, he likely never used it himself.

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