Nirvana vinyl albums

nirvana nevermind blue vinyl

Nirvana became a worldwide phenomenon during the age of the CD. It is perhaps a surprise, therefore, that Nirvana vinyl albums are a valuable commodity. But of course, they are. The appeal and allure of vinyl has always held a place in the heart of music enthusiasts and accordingly, record executives never stopped producing vinyl albums.

In fact, because CDs did rule the roost meant that Nirvana vinyl albums and singles are perhaps less common than they may have been had the band existed in the pre-CD era.

About Nirvana

Nirvana was a short-lived blast of grunge rock from the US northwest. They were formed in Aberdeen, WA in 1987 by bassist Krist Novoselic and guitarist Kurt Cobain – a friend of Novoselic’s brother Robert. In their earliest days, it seemed that they would have whoever was available behind the drum kit.

Their first drummer was Aaron Burckhard before, somewhat bizarrely, they lost touch. Next up was Dale Crover of The Melvins, but he moved away to California. The replacement suggested by Crover was Dave Foster. However, Foster was unreliable, so having been reunited with Burckhard, he was invited once again to take up the drum kit.

Alcohol and Burckhard did not mix well together, so he was finally sacked after Cobain’s car was impounded following his arrest for DUI in possession of it. The group’s first reliable drummer was Californian Chad Channing. Indeed, he is the drummer on their first album, Bleach and a number of subsequent tracks, most noticeably, Polly from Nevermind.

Channing’s successor, Dave Grohl has publicly acknowledged Channing’s role in writing some of the band’s better-known drum parts, including In Bloom.

Nirvana’s recording history

The group played their first gig under the name Nirvana, in March 1988. Later that year, they released their first single, a cover of Love Buzz a track by Dutch sixties group by the name of Shocking Blue. Music journalists had spotted something.

For example, in the British Melody Maker, they were described by Everett True as being “beauty incarnate,” with CMJ describing the band as “mix[ing] things up good and choppy,” and “including all the ingredients for primal rock greatness.”

On the website, Love Buzz features a number of times in the list ‘The 50 most valuable Vinyl Records by Nirvana.’ It has sold for as much as $10,000.

Next steps – debut album

Bleach (1989, Sub Pop)

Nirvana began working on their debut album, Bleach in December 1988 at Reciprocal Recording Studios in Seattle, WA. It was completed in January 1989.

Producer Jack Endino, who had worked with the likes of Soundgarden, Mudhoney and Screaming Trees billed the band the princely sum of $606.17. Guitarist Jason Everman paid the bill and, even though he didn’t actually play on the album, received credit as second guitarist.

Cobain felt pressure from Sub Pop Records to produce a grunge sound. To that end, he had to rein in his arty, poppy pretensions in order to comply. Furthermore, the album was heavily influenced by the sludge metal vibe, especially by the Melvins. As a result, it features a raw and heavy sound, showcasing those early punk and grunge influences.

Released on June 15, 1989, Bleach was not an instant commercial success although critics loved it. Despite its slow start in terms of sales, Bleach had sold forty-thousand copies by the time Nevermind was released.

To date, it is Sub Pop’s biggest-selling album, with 1.9 million US sales and a platinum certification by the RIAA. reports that a white vinyl copy of Bleach, complete with a poster sold on eBay for $4,750 in April 2019. The vinyl was unplayed at the point of sale, and the seller reported that the record and poster were one of the first batch of 200.

Heritage Auctions of Dallas, TX reports a similar copy selling for $4,500 in 2023. However, they put the initial run of white vinyl copies as numbering 1,000 with a subsequent 2,000 produced on black.

The introduction of Dave Grohl

After the relative success of Bleach, Chad Channing parted company from Cobain and Novoselic. It was a mutual decision, Channing citing a lack of songwriting opportunities and the two founding members giving a lack of faith in Channing’s abilities as their reasons for the split.

But who, then, would fill the void? Of course, history reveals that one Dave Grohl, from Warren, OH became the band’s new drummer. He auditioned for the part, but Novoselic has since admitted that he and Cobain knew within two minutes that Grohl was the man for the job.

Nevermind (1991, DGC)

The breakthrough album that propelled Nirvana to global fame. Driven by the stunning success of its first single, Smells Like Teen Spirit, it soon outperformed new label DGC’s initial aim of 250,000 copies.

By Christmas 1991, after its release in September 1991, it was shifting 400,000 copies weekly. By January 1992, Nevermind was number one on the Billboard album charts. Move over Michael Jackson! In total, it has sold over 30 million copies worldwide.

Recorded with Butch Vig at Sound City Studios, CA and Smart Studios, WI, it has a much cleaner, polished, and good grief, radio-friendly sound than Bleach. Cobain indicated that the album’s influences range from R.E.M. to the Pixies and on to The Smithereens and, of course, the Melvins.

The themes covered include anti-establishment views, anti-sexism, frustration, alienation, and troubled love. As for tone and style, Nevermind reaches from punk-drenched, hard rock tracks such as Territorial Pissings to ballads like Polly.

Then it has the anthemic, poppy, Smells Like Teen Spirit and Come As You Are – two huge singles – which were followed by two lesser hits, but still epic tracks, Lithium and In Bloom.

According to, a 1991 first pressing of Nevermind sold in February 2023 for a sum of almost $4,000. Considering that at the time of release, CDs were in the ascendancy, the rarity of vinyl pressings has a part to play in the value of such an item.

Heritage Auctions sold a sealed 1996 ‘Original Master Recording’ limited edition reissue of Nevermind sold for $1,187 in 2022.

Regarding singles from the album, a 12” limited edition picture disc pressing of Lithium, signed by all three band members was sold by Heritage Auctions for $2,375 in November 2020.

Incesticide (1992, DGC)

For those with a cynical take, 1992’s Incesticide, a compilation album comprising B-sides, demos, and unreleased tracks, may have looked like an attempt by the band’s previous record label to cash in on the huge success of Nevermind.

However, in practice, although Sub Pop owned the rights, they did not have the distribution network that DGC had. So, they sold the rights to DGC for a six-figure sum provided that the album was released for Christmas 1992.

Factor in the involvement of the band, and the fact that many of the recordings were available as poor-quality bootlegs, the project got off the ground and was completed relatively without rancour.

Incesticide provides a glimpse into Nirvana’s creative process and features a range of styles. This applies to drum techniques as much as anything else. Because the material was recorded over an almost four-year period between January 1988 and early November 1991 the album has drum work from Chad Channing, Dan Peters, Dale Crover, and Dave Grohl.

As far as auction prices are concerned, Incesticide seems to sell for the best prices as part of a package of albums. For example, in 2014, as part of a package of four ORG Test Pressings a copy sold on eBay for $2,500. The other albums were Nevermind, In Utero, and MTV Unplugged.

In Utero (1993, DGC)

The band’s third and final studio album. It reflects a return to a rawer, more abrasive sound, addressing themes of personal struggle and introspection. By now, Cobain’s struggles with heroin, stomach problems caused by scoliosis, and depression were in the public domain.

That such an accomplished album was produced is a testament to the professional attitude taken by the band. Producer Steve Albini, who had an abrasive relationship with them from the start, noted that Cobain was always focused and sober in the studio.

Problems did occur after recording with regard to the mixing of the album. Initially, Albini was asked to remix it, because the band weren’t happy, but he refused. Then he refused to hand over the master tapes to the band’s management company Gold Mountain.

Eventually, he relented, and Bob Ludwig was able to remaster the album, raising the vocals and sharpening the bass guitar sound in the process. Scott Litt of R.E.M. fame was brought in to remix Heart-Shaped Box and All Apologies and on subsequent re-releases of the album, Pennyroyal Tea.

In Utero received a mixed bag of reviews initially. For example, even in one review, in the British NME, John Mulvey complimented it as a triumph for Cobain as he battled with his demons, whilst at the same time comparing it to Nevermind, where he found it came up short.

In terms of sales, In Utero was released in September 1993 with a lowkey approach, much like Nevermind. Alternative markets and press were targeted and as part of this approach, vinyl was a key component. In the UK vinyl copies were released on 13 September and a day later in the US (limited to 25,000 copies). The release on CD followed.

As for auction values, RR Auctions of New Hampshire sold a rare blue pressing in 2019. Signed by all three members of the band (Kurt signed as “Kurdt”), it reached a value of $8,249.

Kurt Cobain’s Death

Cobain’s drug issues came to a head in March 1994, with an overdose of champagne and Rohypnol in a hotel room in Rome. At the end of the month, after pressure from friends, he reluctantly went into detox in a residential facility in LA.

Not long after entering the facility, he left and took a flight to Seattle. He was seen on the flight by Guns n’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan. McKagan was one of the last people to see Cobain before his death. He says that he thought him in a bad way, but no worse than he had been himself. In fact, McKagan himself was soon to be admitted to hospital with acute pancreatitis.

On April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home. He was 27. The coroner deduced that he had died on April 5 from a single self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head.

First posthumous album

Later in 1984, DGC released MTV Unplugged in New York. Featuring Cobain on acoustic guitar, albeit fed through an amplifier, it showcases Nirvana’s acoustic side, with stripped-down versions of their songs and covers of other artists’ tracks.

It was filmed in a single take in November 1993. Previous Unplugged performances had featured artists performing their hits and others of their own compositions. Nirvana performed 14 songs. These included one from Bleach, four from Nevermind, three from In Utero, and six covers.

Of the fourteen, only Come as You Are could have been considered a hit for them at the time of recording. Latterly, All Apologies was the band’s last hit before Cobain’s death.

Vinyl copies of the album do not sell for huge sums of money. Typically, they can reach $300. More lucrative items associated with the MTV broadcast can go for astronomical sums. For example, the guitar he played was sold for $6 million in 2020 following the sale of his cardigan from the same concert for $334,000 the year before.

Subsequent releases

Obviously, all subsequent releases are posthumous. They include 1996’s From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah. This album features recordings from various concerts and captures the band’s raw energy and intensity in a live setting.

In 2002, they released Nirvana. This is often referred to as a greatest hits compilation and brings together some of Nirvana’s most popular songs. Of much more interest, is With the Lights Out from 2004. This box set contains unreleased recordings, demos, and early rehearsals. It offers a comprehensive look into Nirvana’s early years.

In the same theme, 2005 saw the release of Sliver: The Best of the Box. Featuring rare tracks, B-sides, and unreleased recordings, it was curated from the With the Lights Out box set.

And finally, perhaps the daddy of them all, we were treated to Live at Reading. This live album captures Nirvana’s 1992 performance at England’s Reading Festival in England. Thought of as one of their most memorable shows, it was Nirvana’s final appearance in the UK. It features most of Nevermind and several tracks from Bleach along with setlist regulars, Aneurysm, Been a Son and Sliver.

None of these records sell for extremely large amounts although examples can reach around $300 at auction.

My usual disclaimer

Please note that this list is not exhaustive, and Nirvana has other releases on vinyl. For detailed reviews and more in-depth information on these releases, I recommend exploring music websites, magazines, or dedicated Nirvana fan communities.

Nirvana’s most valuable vinyl records tend to be early releases, limited editions, or promotional items. Remember, when they first exploded onto the scene, CDs were the dominant media for music, so vinyl records were produced and released in relatively small numbers.

As well as the rarity of Nirvana vinyl releases, other supply issues such as condition, and the presence of other paraphernalia such as signatures all play a part in driving their value. It’s always a good idea to consult recent auction listings and/or specialized record-collecting websites for the most up-to-date information.

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