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Random Notes

Rolling Stone - October 29th, 1992.

Nirvana at the VMA's ...

By Chris Mundy


The biggest coup for the ninth go-round of the MTV Video Music Awards was that in addition to breaking out of the standard award-show stupor ... yanking in real rockers like Guns N' Rosed, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Elton John, En Vogue, Eric Clapton, U2, Def Leppard, Bobby Brown, Michael Jackson, Bryan Adams and the Black Crowes ... it transformed the entire lot next to UCLA's Pauley Pavilion into the hippest trailer park in North America. And just as in mobile-home villas across the country, the backstage lot had its share of soap operas.

The first started before the cameras rolled. Scheduled opener Nirvana was almost tossed off the bill when it decided to debut a new tune, "Rape Me." While that controversy brewed until the wee hours of V.M.A. eve, Pearl Jam was in hot water for wanting to play the Dead Boys’ "Sonic Reducer."

"If I was a fan at home and heard new songs, I’d be on the edge of my couch," said Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder backstage. "The first MV Awards I ever saw, I remember thinking, ‘This is like the anarchy awards.’ It would be cool if it was like that again because that’s exciting."

In the end, the Black Crowes nabbed Nirvana’s slot, and Pearl Jam and Nirvana, under protest, played "Jeremy" and "Lithium," respectively.

"You can’t fight show business," said Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain about the decision. "It’s the first time I’ve felt like a whore, a real whore. We actually had to compromise."

And fight. After Courtney Love yelled to Axl Rose that she and her husband planned to make him the godfather of their child, Cobain and Rose exchanged heated words. That, in turn, set off a night-long chain of petty skirmishes that culminated with Ruse’s laying siege to the Nirvana trailer with bodyguards and a film crew.

Not that the night didn't have its tender moments. When Nirvana ended a feud with its Seattle mates in Pearl Jam, Vedder sealed the peace by slow dancing to Clapton’s performance with both Love and Cobain.

In all, the evening provided more flash than shows like the Grammys have in years, and the feel stayed fairly communal. The smell of pot wafted around the lot’s biggest bash — which spilled out of the Black Crowes’ trailer — and artists seemed oblivious to two self-appointed God Squad deputies hoisting a banner begging them to "Stop Promoting Sin."

"Awarding somebody for how they take themselves creatively is kind of preposterous," said Chili Peppers singer ANTHONY KIEDIS. "I think everyone realizes that awards are just an excuse I for a little bit of a throw-down."