Sunday, June 21, 2020

Nirvana: Kurt Cobain MTV Unplugged guitar sets auction record

The guitar Kurt Cobain played during Nirvana’s 1993 performance on MTV Unplugged has set a record for musical instruments at auction.

According to Rolling Stone, the 1959 Martin D-18E sold for $6.01 million, beating a previous record of $3.95 million for a black Stratocaster owned by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.

With a starting estimate of $1 million, the guitar could be seen and heard on the Seattle band’s “MTV Unplugged In New York” release, which arrived in late 1994 a year after its taping and just seven months after the rocker took his own life.

The seventh of only 302 D-18Es built by Martin and customized by Cobain, who added a Bartolini pickup to the soundhole, the guitar comes with its original hard-shell case decorated by the rocker with a flyer from the punk rock band Poison Idea’s 1990 album “Feel The Darkness”; three baggage claim ticket stubs are attached to the handle, along with an Alaska Airlines sticker affixed to the case. The storage compartment of the case also contains Cobain’s half-used pack of Martin guitar strings, three guitar picks, and his suede "stash" bag decorated with a miniature silver spoon, fork, and knife.

“When I heard that this iconic guitar was up for auction,” says winning bidder Peter Freedman of Rode Microphones, “I immediately knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure it and use it as a vehicle to spotlight the struggles that those in the performing arts are facing and have always faced.

“Nirvana’s Unplugged is one of my favorite records of all time and easily one of the best live performances ever captured on film. They were a huge influence on me; the early-90s were Rode’s formative years, and Nirvana’s music was very much the soundtrack to that time in my life and that era of the company.”

Freedman added that he planned to display the guitar in a worldwide tour of exhibitions, with all proceeds (including the guitar) going to the performing arts.

Other Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance items featured in the Julien’s Auctions lot included Curt Kirkwood’s handwritten lyric sheet to the Meat Puppets“Oh, Me,” a typed setlist from the legendary gig, typed-out lyrics for David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” and Meat Puppets“Lake Of Fire,” and a letter to Cobain from Nirvana’s management company nine days before the Unplugged performance outlining potential songs for the gig.

“MTV Unplugged In New York” debuted at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 on its way to sales of more than 5 million copies in the country and a 1996 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.

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