Today – February 20, 2017 – would have been Kurt Cobain’s 50th birthday. The singer and songwriter, frontman of the band Nirvana, is beyond iconic: not only did he create a sound that truly captured the unrest of its era, but he lived such a fast, short, and glamorously tragic life that he’s reached permanent Rock God status, idolized now by kids who weren’t even born when his suicide made headlines in 1994.
Cobain’s musical genius, his public struggle with drugs, and his rocky relationship with singer Courtney Love (not to mention the conspiracy theories surrounding his suicide) make him a fascinating subject to study, and there have been plenty of tell-alls and cheesy dramas in the decades since his death.
2015 documentary Montage of Heck is the most recent (and perhaps one of the most controversial). It explores Cobain’s early life and rise to fame in his own words, using materials like home videos and journals to chronicle his obsessions with music, drugs, and Love.
The film’s director, Brett Morgen, released a companion album of early demos, jam sessions, and other found clips he came across in his research. Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings includes unheard works-in-progress (of songs like “Been A Son” and “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle”), fuzzy soundscapes (little snippets with titles like “Kurt Ambiance” and “Kurt Audio Collage”), and bizarre ramblings (“Sea Monkeys,” “Rhesus Monkeys”). And, when the album was first announced, Morgen promised it’d include “a sketch comedy routine featuring Kurt voicing all the characters.”
Well, “1988 Capitol Lake Jam Commercial” isn’t really a sketch, but it’s a fun little clip showing Cobain’s great sense of humor (which is also evidenced in the story behind his immediate approval of Weird Al’s pitch to lampoon “Smells Like Teen Spirit”).
Check out the sketch, a syrup-y slow radio spot for a grunge fest featuring a few wacky voices, below: