25 Years Ago: ‘Hormoaning’ EP Displays Another Side of Nirvana
Everyone involved with Nirvana was knocked out by the success of Nevermind, which was well on its way to being a global phenomenon as 1991 came to a close. Geffen and DGC Records were caught off-guard by the band’s surging fame, and then took action to capitalize on it.
This meant more tour dates, including Nirvana’s first – and only – concerts in Australia and Japan, set for January and February 1992. To drive interest in the band’s appearances and sell some more product, Geffen conceived of a stop-gap EP, called Hormoaning, that would be exclusive to these two countries. The only problem was that, with Nirvana’s rampant touring, there wasn’t much time to record new material.
No bother, the record company cobbled together six songs from existing recordings, pairing the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” b-sides “Even in His Youth” and “Aneurysm” with four songs Nirvana recorded with British DJ John Peel in late 1990. All four were covers: “Turnaround” by new wave rascals Devo, “D-7” by Portland punks the Wipers and both “Molly’s Lips” and “Son of a Gun” by Scottish indie pop-rockers – and Kurt Cobain favorites – the Vaselines.
When discussing the EP on Australia’s Triple J Radio, Nirvana’s members seemed less than enthused about the “souvenir” release, with bassist Krist Novoselic lackadaisically saying, “Oh, it was recorded here and there…” and drummer Dave Grohl making sure to specify that some of the music was more than a year old.
But to a fanbase hungry for anything Nirvana, the EP was greeted with excitement. Hormoaning, came out on Feb. 5, in the midst of the 11 Australian shows, and preceding Nirvana’s four concerts in Japan. Only 15,000 copies were produced down under, and they quickly became collector’s items. The Japanese edition, which featured a non-cleared cover stolen from the inside of the Nevermind booklet, was a mass-produced release. Each version was a hit in its respective country with Hormoaning even hitting No. 2 on the Aussie charts.
The excitement translated back to the U.S., where both the music press and Nirvana die-hards were eager to hear the imported discs featuring the Peel sessions (which were unavailable in North America). Because the trio had focused almost totally on original material when recording their first two albums, listeners were curious to hear how their choice of cover songs added to the band’s repertoire. Just as Unplugged would display some other shades of Nirvana with selections penned by the Meat Puppets and David Bowie, Hormoaning provided other insights to the character of this band, from the melody-laden Vaselines tunes to “Aneurysm,” which some consider Nirvana’s crowning achievement.
The impact wasn’t limited to the import market. Hormoaning’s success led to the Nirvana compilation album Incesticide, released in December 1992. The full-length release featured three of the Peel session covers, along with a different version of “Aneurysm.” Between that collection, the “Teen Spirit” single and the rarities featured on With the Light Out, after 2004, American and European Nirvana fans could assemble their own version of Hormoaning – unless they would rather hunt down a Record Store Day re-release or spend hundreds of dollars on an original Australian vinyl edition.
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