Something in the Way

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"Something in the Way"
Song by Nirvana
from the album Nevermind
ReleasedSeptember 24, 1991 (Nevermind)
RecordedJune 1991
StudioSound City, Van Nuys and Devonshire, North Hollywood
Length3:52 (20:37 with "Endless, Nameless")
LabelDGC
Songwriter(s)Kurt Cobain
Producer(s)Butch Vig
Nevermind track listing
12 tracks
  1. "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
  2. "In Bloom"
  3. "Come as You Are"
  4. "Breed"
  5. "Lithium"
  6. "Polly"
  7. "Territorial Pissings"
  8. "Drain You"
  9. "Lounge Act"
  10. "Stay Away"
  11. "On a Plain"
  12. "Something in the Way"

"Something in the Way" is a song by American rock band Nirvana, written by vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain. It is the 12th song on their second album, Nevermind, released in September 1991. It is the final listed song on the album, although most copies of Nevermind also feature the hidden track "Endless, Nameless," which occupies the same track as "Something in the Way" and begins after approximately 10 minutes of silence.

In August 2020, the song charted for the first time after appearing in the first trailer for the upcoming superhero film The Batman, peaking at number two on Billboard's US Rock Digital Songs Sales chart, and number five on their US Alternative Digital Songs Sales charts.[1][2] It also reached the top 20 in both Amazon Music's and iTunes' digital music charts.[3][4][5]

Origin and recording[edit]

"Something in the Way" was written by Cobain in 1990. The earliest known version is a solo electric demo that appears in a medley, along with the abandoned compositions "You Can't Change Me" and "Burn My Britches," first released on the Cobain compilation Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings in November 2015. The first live performance was on November 25, 1990, at The Off Ramp Café in Seattle.

"Something in the Way" was first recorded in the studio in May 1991 at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California by Butch Vig, for the band's second album, Nevermind. According to Vig, Cobain had originally wanted to record the song's instruments with the full band, but when initial attempts at this were unsuccessful, Cobain sat on a couch in the control room of studio A and played the song for Vig on acoustic guitar, to show him how he thought it should sound.[6] Vig was impressed with the way Cobain's solo rendition sounded, and after turning off the air-conditioning and unplugging the telephone in the control room, set up microphones and recorded the song this way instead, starting with the guitar and the vocals.[6][7]

This became the core of the recording, with the first vocal take being used for the verses.[7] Cobain then recorded vocal harmonies, and drummer Dave Grohl and bassist Krist Novoselic added their parts,[6] though both Grohl and Novoselic had difficulty playing in time with Cobain's performance. Novoselic also had trouble tuning his bass to Cobain's guitar, a 12-string Stella acoustic with five nylon guitar strings that Cobain had never tuned, and Grohl had to play more quietly than he was used to, to match the song's gentle mood. "Kurt and I wanted the drums to be very understated," Vig recalled. "Dave was used to playing much louder; plus, it can be very difficult to go back and lay drums over an acoustic guitar track, as the meter may vary a bit".[7] Cobain's harmonies, the bass and the drums were recorded in studio B, a smaller room down the hall from the larger one they generally worked in. On the final day of the Nevermind sessions, Kirk Canning, a friend of the band's they had met through L7, added cello to the recording,[6] although he too had difficulties tuning to Cobain's guitar.

On November 9, 1991, a version of the song was recorded by Miti Adhikari for the BBC program The Evening Session at Maida Vale Studios in London, England. This electric version, which featured heavy drumming during the choruses, was more reminiscent of the way the song usually sounded when performed in concert.[7]

The song was performed as part of Nirvana's MTV Unplugged concert on November 18, 1993 at Sony Music Studios in New York City. This version featured Pat Smear on second guitar and Lori Goldston on cello. It was the final time "Something in the Way" was performed live.

Composition[edit]

"Something in the Way" was originally believed to be based on a period when Cobain was homeless and slept underneath the Young Street Bridge, close to his childhood home in his native town of Aberdeen, Washington.[6] While Cobain did run away from home as a teenager, the belief that he slept under the bridge was refuted by both Novoselic and Kurt's sister, Kim Cobain, in the 2001 Cobain biography, Heavier Than Heaven.[8] Both confirmed that Cobain "hung out" under the bridge, which was a popular recreation area favored by local teenagers, but Novoselic told author Charles R. Cross that the river's "tides" and "muddy banks" would have made staying there for a prolonged period of time impossible. Cross argued that the much larger Sixth Street Bridge, located about half-a-mile away, would have been more suitable to sleep under, but is unlikely to have been used by Cobain.[9]

According to Cross, the reality of Cobain's situation during his approximately four-month period of homelessness was "more poignant" than the version presented in "Something in the Way." At first, Cobain slept "curled up like a kitten" in a cardboard refrigerator box on the porch of Dale Crover, drummer of local band, the Melvins. After this, he would sleep in the hallways of old apartment buildings with central heating, leaving before the residents of the building left their apartments. Occasionally, he and a friend would watch television and sleep in the waiting room of Grays Harbor Hospital, with Cobain getting food from the cafeteria by charging it to invented room numbers.[10]

Cobain himself suggested that the song wasn't necessarily autobiographical, telling Nirvana biographer Michael Azerrad that the lyrics were "like if I was living under the bridge and I was dying of AIDS, if I was sick and I couldn't move and I was a total street person. That was kind of the fantasy of it".[11]

In Azzerad's 1993 biography Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, Cobain stated that he used to fish from the Wishkah River close to this bridge, which may have inspired the lyric, 'Its okay to eat fish, cos' they don't have any feelings' in the song.[12]

Release and reception[edit]

In 2015, Rolling Stone listed the song at number five on their ranking of 102 Nirvana songs.[13] In 2019, The Guardian placed it at number 12 in their list of Nirvana's 20 greatest songs.[14]

In 2017, to mark what would have been Kurt Cobain's 50th birthday, the Phonographic Performance Limited released a list of the top twenty most played Nirvana songs on the TV and radio in the UK in which "Something in the Way" was ranked at number seventeen.[15]

In August 2020, the song reached number 18 on Amazon Music's Best Sellers in Songs chart, and number 19 on iTunes' top 200 songs chart, after appearing in the first trailer for the film, The Batman.[16][17][18]

MTV Unplugged in New York[edit]

The MTV Unplugged version of "Something in the Way" was one of two songs not included in the original broadcast of the show. However, it appears on the MTV Unplugged in New York album, released in November, 1994. It was also released as the b-side to the "About a Girl" single in 1994, and also appeared on vinyl and Japanese CD copies of the band's best-of compilation, Nirvana, in 2002.

In popular culture[edit]

A brief cover of the song, performed by Jerry O'Connell in the role of Frank "Cush" Cushman, appears in the 1996 romantic comedy Jerry Maguire, directed by Cameron Crowe. The intentionally poor rendition appears during a hotel room scene in which "Cush disrupts football business talk with a nasally, out-of-tune take on Nirvana’s darkest track off Nevermind," according to Ashley Zlatopolsky of Billboard.[19]

The Nevermind version appears in the 2005 war drama Jarhead, directed by Sam Mendes. According to Universal Pictures president of film music Kathy Nelson, Mendes had insisted on the song, but a then-ongoing dispute between Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, and surviving Nirvana members had made the licensing of Nirvana songs difficult at the time. However, Love allowed the song's use due to being a "huge fan" of Mendes and actor Peter Sarsgaard. “That’s why it’s probably the first Nirvana song you’ve heard in a movie,” Nelson said.[20]

On April 24, 2020, American musician Post Malone performed the song during his 15-song Nirvana tribute concert, which was livestreamed on YouTube and raised more than $4 million for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.[21][22]

The version featured in the August 2020 The Batman trailer is a remix of the studio version by the film's composer Michael Giacchino, which integrates additional orchestral elements.[23][24]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2020) Peak
position
Scotland (OCC)[25] 42
UK Download (OCC)[26] 50
UK Singles Sales (OCC)[27] 51
US Digital Song Sales (Billboard)[28] 45
US Rock Digital Songs Sales (Billboard)[29] 2
US Alternative Digital Songs Sales (Billboard)[30] 5

Accolades[edit]

Year Publication Country Accolade Rank
1998 Kerrang! United Kingdom 20 Great Nirvana Songs Picked by the Stars[31] 13
2019 The Guardian Nirvana's 20 greatest songs - ranked![32] 12

Recording and release history[edit]

Demo and studio versions[edit]

Date recorded Studio Producer Releases Personnel
Unknown Cobain residence Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings (2015)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
March 1991 Converted barn, Tacoma, Washington Nirvana Nevermind (deluxe) (2011)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums, backing vocals)
May 2–28, 1991 Sound City Studios, Van Nuys, California Butch Vig Nevermind (1991)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums)
  • Kirk Canning (cello)
November 9, 1991 Maida Vale Studios, London, England Miti Adhikari Nevermind (deluxe) (2011)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums)

Live versions[edit]

Date recorded Venue Releases Personnel
February 14, 1992 Kokusai Koryu Center, Osaka, Japan Live! Tonight! Sold Out!! (1994)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums, backing vocals)
November 18, 1993 Sony Music Studios, New York City, New York About a Girl (1994)
MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)
Nirvana (2002) (European 2002 vinyl and Japanese CD only)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl - (drums, backing vocals)
  • Pat Smear (guitar)
  • Lori Goldston (cello)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Nirvana - Rock Digital Songs Sales". billboard.com. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  2. ^ "Nirvana - Alternative Digital Songs Sales". billboard.com. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  3. ^ Gonzalez, Umberto (August 24, 2020). "'The Batman': Nirvana Song Used in Trailer Becomes Best Seller on Itunes and Amazon". The Wrap. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  4. ^ Burwick, Kevin (August 24, 2020). "Nirvana's Something in the Way Shoots Up Digital Music Charts Following The Batman Trailer Debut". Movieweb. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  5. ^ "iTunes Top 100 Songs Chart". PopVortex. August 2020. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e Crisafulli, Chuck. (1996). Nirvana, The Stories Behind the Songs. pp. 54 – 55. ISBN 0-7119-5809-2.
  7. ^ a b c d Cross, Charles; Berkenstadt, Jim (February 22, 2012). Classic Rock Albums: Nirvana - Nevermind. Schirmer Trade. ISBN 9780857127686.
  8. ^ Cross, Charles R (2001).
  9. ^ Cross, Charles R (2001).
  10. ^ Cross, Charles R (2001).
  11. ^ Epstein, Daniel. "No Apologies: All 102 Nirvana Songs Ranked". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  12. ^ Azerrad, Michael (1993). Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-86369-746-1.
  13. ^ Epstein, Daniel. "No Apologies: All 102 Nirvana Songs Ranked". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 9, 2018.
  14. ^ Petridis, Alexis (July 2, 2019). "Nirvana's 20 greatest songs - ranked!". The Guardian. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
  15. ^ 20 most-played Nirvana songs revealed to mark Kurt Cobain’s 50th birthday planetrock.com. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  16. ^ Gonzalez, Umberto (August 24, 2020). "'The Batman': Nirvana Song Used in Trailer Becomes Best Seller on Itunes and Amazon". The Wrap. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  17. ^ Burwick, Kevin (August 24, 2020). "Nirvana's Something in the Way Shoots Up Digital Music Charts Following The Batman Trailer Debut". Movieweb. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  18. ^ "iTunes Top 100 Songs Chart". PopVortex. August 2020. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  19. ^ Zlatopolsky, Ashley (September 24, 2016). "Nirvana's 10 Greatest TV and Film Moments: 'SNL' Smooching, Muppets & Beyond". Billboard. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  20. ^ Pearson, Ryan (November 12, 2005). "'Jarhead' introduces new era of war tunes". The Spokesman. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  21. ^ Paige, Gawley (April 27, 2020). "Post Malone's Nirvana Tribute Concert Raises More Than $4 Million for Coronavirus Relief". Entertainment Tonight. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  22. ^ "NIRVANA TRIBUTE RAISES OVER $1 MIL". TMZ. April 27, 2020. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  23. ^ Adebowale, Tami (August 24, 2020). "The First Trailer for The Batman Features One of Nirvana's Greatest Deep Cuts". Men's Health. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  24. ^ Nattress, Katrina (August 23, 2020). "Nirvana's 'Something in the Way' Soundtracks Dystopian The Batman Trailer". Spin. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  25. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  26. ^ "Official Singles Downloads Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  27. ^ "Official UK Singles Sales Chart Top 100 - 28 August 2020 - 3 September 2020". officialcharts.com. August 28, 2020. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  28. ^ "Nirvana Chart History (Digital Song Sales)". Billboard. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  29. ^ "Nirvana - Rock Digital Songs Sales". billboard.com. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  30. ^ "Nirvana - Alternative Digital Songs Sales". billboard.com. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  31. ^ "The Hit List: 20 Great Nirvana Songs Picked by the Stars". Kerrang!. No. 709. July 25, 1998. p. 49. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  32. ^ Petridis, Alexis (June 20, 2019). "Nirvana's 20 greatest songs - ranked!". The Guardian. Retrieved July 2, 2019.

External links[edit]