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Kurt Cobain’s Montage of Heck

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 04, 2014

In 1987 or 1988, Kurt Cobain made a mixtape called Montage of Heck. The Guardian has the backstory.

The tape itself is a surreal, often psychedelic insight into the mind of the 20-year-old Cobain: cut-ups of 60s, 70s and 80s TV shows interspersed with the sound of the toilet flushing and people vomiting, bits of the Beatles and Led Zeppelin interspersed with troubled Austin singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston screaming about Satan, and white noise so intense that when Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound Of Silence starts up it comes as physical relief.

There are snippets of a few unreleased Nirvana songs, too, among the tumult and screaming and dead-end repetition, amid the excerpts of William Shatner, The Partridge Family, Queen, Queensryche, Butthole Surfers, James Brown. In many respects, Montage Of Heck echoes and predates turntable culture, the ubiquitous YouTube mash-up and the Beatles’ experimental sound collage Revolution No 9.

The entire mixtape is available on Soundcloud and Vimeo.

Here’s a rough tracklist. Just a year or two after Cobain recorded Montage of Heck, Nirvana released their debut album, Bleach, and they were off to the races.