Sappy


"Sappy" is a song by the American rock band, Nirvana, written by vocalist and guitarist, Kurt Cobain. It was first released as a hidden track on the AIDS-benefit compilation album, No Alternative, in October 1993.[1] The song was released under the title "Verse Chorus Verse," but since this title is shared by another, abandoned Nirvana song, it is now referred to by its earlier title of "Sappy." The same version that appeared on No Alternative was re-released as "Sappy" on the Nirvana rarities box set, With the Lights Out, in November, 2004, with a note that it had been "retitled 'Verse Chorus Verse' for release" on the track list. A remixed version of the same recording appeared simply as "Sappy" on the 20th anniversary re-issue of In Utero, the album for which it was recorded, in September, 2013. Earlier versions of the song have also been released under the title of "Sappy."

"Sappy"
aka "Verse Chorus Verse"
Song by Nirvana
from the album
No Alternative,
With the Lights Out,
Sliver: The Best of the Box,
Nevermind (deluxe),
and In Utero (deluxe)
ReleasedOctober 26, 1993
RecordedFebruary 1993 at Pachyderm Studios, Cannon Falls, Minnesota
GenreAlternative rock, grunge, punk rock
Length3:24
LabelArista Records
Songwriter(s)Kurt Cobain
Producer(s)Steve Albini

According to the official website of the Red Hot Organization, who released No Alternative as part of their AIDS benefit series, the song was unlisted "for legal reasons."[2] Despite not appearing on the track listing, the song significantly contributed to No Alternative's popularity, with many referring to the compilation as "the one 'with the hidden Nirvana track,'" according to the Red Hot website.[2] "Sappy" reached number 9 on the US Alternative National Airplay chart, published by the Billboard sister publication, Radio & Records.[3]

Origin and recording


Originally recorded under the working title "Sad", "Sappy" dates back to at least 1987. The first known version of the song is a solo home demo recorded by Cobain in the late 1980s.[4] "Sappy" was written by Kurt Cobain as a lament against the expectations of others.[5]

First recording it in the late 1980s, Cobain went on to re-record "Sappy" in almost every major studio session over the remainder of his life, but was never completely satisfied.[5] The song was recorded four times in the studio, with two different drummers.[6] The first studio version, featuring Chad Channing on drums, was recorded by Jack Endino at Reciprocal Recording in Seattle, Washington on January 2 and 3, 1990. The band spent 10 hours working on the song, with much of that time spent trying to achieve a drum sound similar to Steve Albini's, according to Endino.[6] The second version was recorded by Butch Vig at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin during recording sessions from April 2 to 6, 1990, for a planned second album for Sub Pop, their label at the time, that never materialized.[7] The third version, featuring the band's new drummer Dave Grohl, was also recorded by Vig, during the sessions for their second album and first on DGC Records, Nevermind, at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California, in May, 1991.

Almost two years after the Nevermind sessions, the band again recorded the track with Albini. According to Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, "Something just drove Kurt to keep busting it out. Maybe he thought he was going to put that song over the top. He had some kind of unattainable expectations for it, I don’t know."[8]

The song remained unreleased until a fourth version was recorded by Steve Albini at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota in February, 1993, during the recording sessions for the band's third and final album, In Utero. Novoselic explained that the song was again recorded because "we liked to play that song," expressing satisfaction with his original bass line for the song, and saying that the song remained unchanged every time the band attempted it in the studio.[9] As Gillian G. Gaar notes, however, the Albini-recorded version is performed in a different key and at a faster tempo than previous studio versions, features a different guitar solo and is missing the instrumental intro of some of the earlier versions.[9]

Release


The song was not released on the album, and appeared instead as the final, unlisted track on the compilation album, No Alternative, in October, 1993. By this time it had apparently been renamed "Verse Chorus Verse," but since this title is shared by an earlier, abandoned Nirvana song,[10] it is usually called "Sappy" in order to avoid confusion.

Despite being released as a hidden track, the song helped generate interest in No Alternative.[11]

An early track list for what would become In Utero, published in Cobain's Journals in 2002, shows the song "Verse Chorus Verse" as the proposed 12th song on the album, immediately preceding the closing track, "All Apologies."[12] Verse Chorus Verse was also briefly considered as a title for the album.[13] Albini expressed surprise that "Sappy" did not appear on In Utero, remembering it as "a pretty good song," but theorizing that "it wore out its welcome on the band, apparently."[9]

Composition


"Sappy" is an alternative rock song that lasts for a duration of three minutes and twenty-four seconds.[14] According to the sheet music published at Sheet Music Plus by BMG Rights Management, it is written in the time signature of common time, with a moderately fast tempo of 132 beats per minute.[14] The song follows a basic sequence of Dm–B–G–A–B–C in the verses as its chord progression.[14] The musical arrangement is crisp and piercing, featuring rhymthic hooks in addition to a fluctuating guitar solo.[5][15]

In his 1993 biography Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, Michael Azerrad described "Sappy" as "a highly catchy tune about romantic entrapment."[16] With melancholic vocals, Cobain sings an elusive song about an abusive relationship, at times from the perspective of a person keeping a pet turtle.[17][18][16]

Reception


Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic described "Sappy" as one of the several "exceptional" songs that make No Alternative "a worthy purchase".[19] In his Allmusic review of In Utero, Erlewine criticized the decision to omit "such great songs as 'Verse Chorus Verse' and 'I Hate Myself and Want to Die'...when they would have fit, even illuminated" the album's themes.[20] Writing for The Guardian, British journalist Alexis Petridis opined, "'Sappy' was an outtake that deserved better" and offered praise to the song's "melancholy potency."[17] In her review of the single release, Slate's Claire stated, "Versions of this song have been floating around YouTube for years, and even this one starts out a little fuzzy, but by the time Kurt's familiar forlorn vocals come in, you’re ready to forgive the recording any sin—it’s just good to hear his voice again."[18] Sharing similar sentiments, Peter Helman of Stereogum stated, "this is a cleaner, slightly polished up mix, and it sounds both great and heartbreaking."[21] Calling the song "one of the few white whales of Nirvana's catalogue," Rolling Stone writer Grayson Haver Currin described the take as "crisp and cutting, with a guitar solo that dips and climbs and vocals that suggest irritation morphing into emancipation."[5] In a review of the Nirvana greatest hits album in 2002, Will Bryant of Pitchfork said that "Sappy" should have been included on the album, which it was not and that the song had been a huge radio hit in Southern California.[22] In his review of With the Lights Out, Douglas Wolk for The Village Voice remarked, "almost all the original songs on the last two discs are on point rhythmically: The high-impact surf beat of "Sappy" and the Bic-flick feinting of "Oh, the Guilt" are Zep-grade hooks."[15]

In 2013, "Sappy" was voted ninth on Rolling Stone's reader's poll of the top 10 Nirvana songs.[23] In 2015, Rolling Stone listed it at number 32 on their ranking of 102 Nirvana songs.[5] In 2019, The Guardian placed it at number 16 on their list of Nirvana's 20 greatest songs.[24]

Live performance


"Sappy" became a frequently-requested song at concerts during the band's 1994 tour of Europe, which led to it being played live for the first time in nearly four years. The song was performed for the first time live at Fabrik in Hamburg, Germany on November 13, 1989. "Sappy" was performed twice during the 1994 Europe tour, on February 16, 1994 at Salle Omnisports in Rennes, France and the final live performance took place on February 25, 1994 at Palatrussardi in Milan, Italy less than six weeks prior to Cobain's death.[11]

Charts


Chart (1994) Peak
position
US Alternative Top 50 (Radio & Records)[25] 9

Accolades


Year Publication Country Accolade Rank
2013 Rolling Stone United States Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Nirvana Songs[26] 9
2019 The Guardian United Kingdom Nirvana's 20 greatest songs - ranked![27] 16

Recording and release history


Demo and studio versions

Date recorded Studio Producer/recorder Releases Personnel
1986 - 1988 Cobain residence, Olympia, Washington Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings (2015)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
January 2–3, 1990 Reciprocal Recording, Seattle, Washington Jack Endino Sliver: The Best of the Box (2005)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Chad Channing (drums)
April 2–6, 1990 Smart Studios, Madison, Wisconsin Butch Vig Nevermind (deluxe) (2011)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Chad Channing (drums)
May 2–28, 1991 Sound City Studios, Van Nuys, California Butch Vig Unreleased
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums)
February 12–26, 1993 Pachyderm Studio, Cannon Falls, Minnesota Steve Albini No Alternative (1993)
With the Lights Out (2004)
In Utero (deluxe) (2013)[A]
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums)

Live versions

Date recorded Venue Releases Personnel
February 9, 1990 Pine Street Theatre, Portland, Oregon Bleach (20th Anniversary Edition) (2009)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Chad Channing (drums)
February 16, 1990 Bogart's, Long Beach, California With the Lights Out (2004)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Chad Channing (drums)

Notes


  • A ^ The "Deluxe" re-release of In Utero features only a remix of the song done by Albini in 2013. The release does not contain Albini's original mix.

References


  1. All Music Guide - No Alternative allmusic.com. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  2. "No Alternative". Red Hot Organization. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  3. "Alternative - Songs Reaching Top 15 in 1994" (PDF). Radio & Records. Radio & Records. December 16, 1994. p. 36. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  4. Gaar, Gillian G. (2006). In Utero. United States: Continium. p. 5. ISBN 0-8264-1776-0.
  5. Currin, Grayson Haver (8 April 2015). "No Apologies: All 102 Nirvana Songs Ranked". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  6. Gaar, Gillian G. (2006). In Utero. United States: Continium. p. 6. ISBN 0-8264-1776-0.
  7. Gaar, Gillian G. (2006). In Utero. United States: Continium. p. 8. ISBN 0-8264-1776-0.
  8. Gaar, Gillian G. (2006). In Utero. United States: Continium. ISBN 0-8264-1776-0.
  9. Gaar, Gillian G. (2006). In Utero. United States: Continium. pp. 45–46. ISBN 0-8264-1776-0.
  10. The Rough Guide to Nirvana books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  11. Garr, Gillian G (2006). Nirvana's In Utero. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9780826417763. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  12. Cobain, Kurt (2002). Journals. Riverhead Books. p. 118. ISBN 978-1-57322-232-7.
  13. Gaar, Gillian G. (2006). In Utero. United States: Continium. p. 81. ISBN 0-8264-1776-0.
  14. Cobain, Kurt. "Sappy By Kurt Cobain - Digital Sheet Music". Sheet Music Plus. BMG Rights Management. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  15. Wolk, Douglas (2004-11-30). "The Drowned Baby". Village Voice. Retrieved 2007-04-12.
  16. Azerrad, Michael (October 1993). Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. U.S.: Doubleday. p. 137. ISBN 0-385-47199-8.
  17. Petridis, Alexis (20 June 2019). "Nirvana's 20 greatest songs - ranked!". TheGuardian.com. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  18. Landsbaum, Claire (2015-08-06). "Kurt Cobain's First Solo Single, "Sappy," Has Arrived Two Decades After His Death". Slate. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  19. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "No Alternative". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  20. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "In Utero". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  21. Helman, Peter (2015-10-05). "Kurt Cobain – "Sappy"". Stereogum. SpinMedia. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  22. Bryant, Will (November 14, 2002). "Nirvana - Nirvana". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  23. "Readers' Poll: The 10 Best Nirvana Songs". April 10, 2013. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  24. Petridis, Alexis (20 June 2019). "Nirvana's 20 greatest songs - ranked!". TheGuardian.com. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  25. "Alternative - Songs Reaching Top 15 in 1994" (PDF). Radio & Records. Radio & Records. December 16, 1994. p. 36. Retrieved February 21, 2019. 'Sappy' charted under the title of 'Verse, Chorus, Verse' which was the title of the song that was used on the 1993 No Alternative compilation album, as explained in the opening lines of this article
  26. "Readers' Poll: The 10 Best Nirvana Songs". Rolling Stone. 10 April 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  27. Petridis, Alexis (20 June 2019). "Nirvana's 20 greatest songs - ranked!". TheGuardian.com. Retrieved 24 June 2019.