Imagine owning the weapon that kickstarted a pop-music revolution.
Thirty years ago a previously unheralded Seattle band roared out of nowhere with a culture-upending video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Seemingly unwashed and dressed like everything they owned came from either the Salvation Army or a dumpster, Nirvana didn’t look like any other band on MTV at the time. And the kids packed in the dark highschool-gym for the video didn’t exactly look like their major life goals were being named prom queen, high-school football-team quarterback, or downtown corporate lawyer. The cheerleaders sported full ink at a time when only bikers and sailors had tattoos, and the stands were packed with teenage anarchists in gingham dresses and Bad Brains T-shirts.
Before you could say “grunge” the metal hair-farmers of Los Angeles became instant punch lines, and lifetime weirdos like the Butthole Surfers, Jesus Lizard, and Meat Puppets were riding Nirvana’s coattails to major label deals and mainstream acceptance.
No other band did as much to drag punk rock into the living rooms, malls, and high schools of North America.
Think about Kurt Cobain in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video and you’ll remember his thrift-store striped shirt and blue Fender Mustang guitar.
You can pick up a repro of the former on ebay, etsy, or your neighbourhood Hot Topic. As for the latter, if you’ve got lottery winnings burning a hole in your pocket, the Competition Lake Placid blue guitar is about to come for auction in May.
Cobain’s left-handed Mustang, which he used in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video, will be one of the items on the block at Julien’s Auctions’ “Music Icons” auction on May 20-22 at New York’s Hard Rock Cafe. The guitar is expected to fetch between US$600,000 and $800,000, with the caveat that might be on the low side.
Remember that the cardigan Cobain wore for Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged concert went for $437,000 in Canadian currency in 2019.
Cobain’s Fender Mustang has previously been on view at Seattle’s MoPOP Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.
Partial proceeds from the upcoming sale will be earmarked for the “Kicking the Stigma” mental health initiative in honour of Mental Health Awareness Month in May. Cobain, who committed suicide at age 27, had been open about his struggles with depression and anxiety, even as he was one of the biggest rock in the world.
In a 1992 Guitar World interview for a story awesomely headlined “Cool Hand Puke”, Cobain praised the Mustang as follows: ““I’m left-handed, and it’s not very easy to find reasonably priced, high-quality left-handed guitars. But out of all the guitars in the whole world, the Fender Mustang is my favorite. I’ve only owned two of them.”
A second Mustang, used by Cobain on the In Utero tour before his death, sold for US$340,000 in 2019 at auction. Meanwhile, the Martin D-28E used by the singer for Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged concert is one of the most valuable guitars in the world after it sold for US$6,010,000 in 2020.
Other Cobain items at the Julien’s’ “Music Icons” auction will include the singer’s 1965 Dodge Dart sedan, and an all-access Nevermind tour pass, and a personal tour diary. The Mustang will come with an NFT that includes narration from Cobain guitar tech, Ernie Bailey and 360-degree digital representation of the guitar.
To get your bid in, go here.