When PJ Harvey almost fronted Nirvana

PJ harvey

Kurt Cobain is one of the most influential figures in alternative music history. The Nirvana singer, a formidable frontman, grunge pioneer, and unwavering advocate for equal rights, remains one of the most referenced and revered rock stars of all time.

Cobain played a key role in Nirvana’s overwhelming success. The grunge band couldn’t have reached the heights or hearts they did without him. He blended sludgy soundscapes with pop sensibilities, carving out dark lyrics with unparalleled intent. Cobain also reinvented the concept of the frontman for a new age.

Expectedly, Cobain’s sudden death in 1994 would effectively end Nirvana’s activity. Grieving their former frontman, the remaining members would stop working on a live record they had been concocting and focus on other endeavours. Dave Grohl went on to form the Foo Fighters. While Krist Novoselic went around new projects before settling on Flipper for a few years.

Following the frontman’s suicide, his bandmates vehemently avoided performing Cobain’s songs without him. Nirvana songs were conspicuously absent from the Foo Fighters’ live performances, as Grohl openly admitted. However, on one occasion, Cobain’s former bandmates considered asking PJ Harvey to front a cover of a classic In Utero song.

PJ Harvey has had a massive impact on the alternative scene. It also infused her art-rock with punk and politics, earning the admiration of Cobain. The Nirvana frontman once named Harvey’s debut, Dry, as one of his favourite albums. This implied that she might be a worthy contender to perform with Grohl and Novoselic.

Almost two decades after Cobain’s death, Grohl was planning a London show for him and Novoselic’s supergroup, Sound City Players. Harvey would have been in good company if she had accepted Grohl’s invitation, given their impressive list of collaborations, which included Stevie Nicks and Paul McCartney.

Grohl had to look at alternatives after learning that Nicks and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty would be unavailable for the gig. “Someone came up with the idea of doing a Nirvana song with PJ Harvey,” he told the magazine. “Kurt loved her and we love her and we thought, ‘Yeah, what would we do?'”

“I said, ‘God, what if we did ‘Milk It’ from In Utero with Polly singing? We all looked at each other, like, ‘Whoa, that would be amazing’,” he said. Grohl’s hopes were dashed quickly, however, when Harvey was also unable to attend the gig.

Despite the fact that the collaboration never materialised, Grohl’s prediction was most likely correct. It’s easy to imagine Harvey’s voice on ‘Milk It’ because it bring a fresh perspective to the track with Cobain’s admiration behind her.

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