Demo Tracks: The Gateway to Fanship

21Jun14

I made a serious leap this weekend, when I bought (used) the Nirvana box set “With the Lights Out.” It’s a collection of demos, live cuts, alternate takes, B-sides and oddities. It’s natural for a popular-yet-defunct band to release such sets, but they’re definitely not for everyone. So why did *I* get it? And what does that say about me that I can’t stop humming “Sappy?”

The way I see it, there are a couple levels to musical fanship. First you start out casual. You hear something, and you like it. Then you buy an album. Then you buy other albums. Eventually, if you find you truly love the band, you start seeking out every release, regardless of well-known poor reviews (later-period Stones) or redundancies (later-period Ramones). Somehow, you’ve made it to a level where you don’t so much care about the quality of these albums. You’re just satisfied as long as it still sounds enough like the band you crave, because it’s the band you crave. I don’t care that “Emotional Rescue” is just a lesser version of “Some Girls” because it still sounds like the Stones.

ANYWAY, there’s still another level of fanship evidence, and this is by owning demos. The ownership of demo songs is a great way to show where your heart lies. Anyone can buy all the studio-released albums. But it takes EFFOR to seek out demos.

Sometimes. I’ve come across most of my Ramones demos by picking up the reissued Ramones CDs, and this might make me a poseur if a.) I didn’t also own and regularly play those aforementioned lesser albums, and b.) my reissued CDs actually replaced other CDs which did not contain demos.

If ownership of demos are a true barometer of fanship, then I’ve just bumped Nirvana into my top 3 or 4 bands. And it’s going great, by the way. Like I said, I’ve really come to like “Sappy,” and there are some interesting demo versions of album cuts like “Very Ape” and “Scenteless Apprentice.” I’m sure I’ll grow to love even more songs once I actually figure out what they’re named. But for now, it’s more interesting to just languish in the enormity of the set, and let yourself believe that Nirvana is still important, or ever was. I mean, who’s to say one way or the other, but when you have the numbers like these, it’s hard to argue against it.

 

Other observations:

1.) My least favorite Nirvana song is “Polly,” yet I now own at least five versions of this song. I owned three without even trying: “Nevermind,” “Unplugged” and “From the Muddy Banks….” Now I picked up two more. Sigh.

2.) Ironically, one of my favorite songs is “In Bloom” and I only have ONE version of that. On CD. There is a video version on the accompanying DVD.

3.) It’s funny to me how often people — particularly Beatles fans — will remind you how Cobain was a fan of the Beatles. Like that separates him from 10 million other people. I’ve personally never felt this influence that much until hearing some of these demos, where his singing sounds a lot like John Lennon. It just do.

4.) I can’t tell if it’s just nostalgia, or the weird focus the death of an artist gives the work, but it feels like there were enough songs lying around for them to have made two more albums. Some of them are just good enough, but a lot them are damn good. Like I said, I don’t know if I am just seeing everything as SO POWERFUL because of the consequences surrounding the songwriter, but Nirvana has been confusing in that way for 20 years now.

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