Monday, October 29, 2018

Certain Songs #1354: Nirvana – “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For a Sunbeam (MTV Unplugged)” | Medialoper

Album: MTV Unplugged
Year: 1993

Coming full circle with Nirvana in a way: I opened these posts with one of their obscure covers, and I’m closing it with the greatest cover they ever did.

It goes without saying that even in 1993, the original Vaselines version of “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam” was pretty fucking obscure. Hell, I’d bought The Way of The Vaselines in 1992, and I had totally missed it. So when it popped up as the third song on the MTV Unplugged broadcast, it was a beautiful surprise.

Jesus, don’t want me for a sunbeam
Sunbeams are never made like me

I don’t recall what I expected when I first watched — and I assume, taped — that first broadcast in December of ’93, but I’m sure I didn’t expect Kris Novoselic to pick up a freakin’ accordion as Dave Grohl played the bass while also keeping the beat with his hi-hat. Who even knew Grohl could play another instrument?

On the other hand, cellist Lori Goldston was totally expected, as cello was basically the only outside coloring that Nirvana had yet allowed on their songs, but who — outside of Kurt Cobain, I guess — could have predicted glorious merging of her cello and the accordion on top of the acoustic guitars?

Don’t expect me to cry
For all the reasons you had to die
Don’t ever ask your love of me

It just instantly killed me, as did the softness of Kurt’s vocals. He’d always had contrasting vocals: usually a crooner voice or a ragged voice, depending on whether he was in the quiet part or the loud part. But this was different. This was neither. While both of those involved a bit of performance, a bit of artificiality, his vocal on “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam” is just him singing a song he loves, pure and easy.

And especially on the chorus, it’s a fucking revelation.

Don’t expect me to cry
Don’t expect me to lie
Don’t expect me to die for thee

With Grohl now pulling triple duties by adding soft, supporting harmonies, that chorus is easily the most beautiful, most sublime, most heartbreaking moment in their entire recorded history. And that’s the thing: a guy who could architect both this and the brutality of “On a Plain,” now that was a guy I could follow anywhere.

All he needed to do was get his shit together, you know?

“Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For a Sunbeam (MTV Unplugged)”

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