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7 Nirvana Sidemen That Might Have Been


Thanks to a recent Mojo cover story, we now know that Nirvana considered other candidates for second guitarist before settling on Pat Smear, who joined the band for the last six months or so of its existence. (Fun fact: they also thought of asking the Melvins' Buzz Osbourne, who had actually pointed Grohl toward Nirvana when drummer Chad Channing left the band in 1990.) Smear added some much-needed levity to the mix, as you can see in this SNL taping; still, we can't help but wonder how the band's final chapter might have read with a different sideman. So as In Utero approaches its 20th anniversary, let's put ourselves in Kurt, Krist, and Dave's tattered Chucks and weigh a few other possibilities.


1. Young Jeezy

CV: Atlanta-based rapper, former "Mr. 1.75"

PROS: Fragments of his songs "Soul Survivor" and "Over Here" are featured in the Girl Talk song "Smash Your Head," much of which is anchored to Nirvana's "Scentless Apprentice." It works.

CONS: The former crack dealer might not have been the best bus-mate for Cobain.

eddie_van_halen.jpg2. Eddie Van Halen

CV: Greatest guitarist of all time

PROS: Cobain's solos tended toward the chaotic, and they seldom involved power drills. Just imagine the next-level insanity of a classic EVH solo over "Milk It."

CONS: Might have disqualified himself on Dec. 30, 1993, when he drunkenly approached Cobain backstage, asking to jam. According to Everett True's Nirvana: the Biography, Van Halen gestured toward Smear and said, "Let me use the Mexican's guitar." It got worse from there.


3. Ringo Starr

CV: Actor (see: Son of Dracula, Caveman), occasional drummer

PROS: I'm sure Grohl never imagined the McCartney-fronted "Sir-vana" incarnation of his band that would one day make appearances at the 12-12-12 benefit and on SNL. But it happened, for better or worse. So why not strap a cigar box guitar on Ringo and try out "Starr-vana?"

CONS: Starr might suggest a rockin' rendition of "Act Naturally." 


4. Billy Preston

CV: Legendary keyboardist; title role in the immortal Frampton/Bee Gees vehicle, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

PROS: Already joined the Beatles and the Stones; could add spine-tingling Fender Rhodes parts to "Dumb," "About a Girl," etc.

CONS: Bit of a diva. As recounted in his book, Life, Keith Richards once pulled a knife on him for playing too loud at a Stones show. "If you don't turn that fucking thing down right now, you're going to feel it."


5. Ben Carr

CV: Guy who does nothing but dance and sing backing vocals in the Mighty Mighty Bosstones

PROS: Things had gotten dark for Nirvana by then; a full-time skanker might have done them some good. And lord knows they liked plaid.

CONS: Aside from the inherent terribleness of this idea, 1993 would have been a bad time to leave a ska band; the Great Ska Hangover was a good five years away.


6. Rick Gonzales

CV: Guy who played Pat Smear in the Germs biopic, What We Do is Secret

PROS: If the movie Rockstar taught us anything, its that the people beneath the blinding sheen of celebrity are often interchangeable. That's why Journey came so close to hiring a Steve Perry impersonator to replace Steve Perry, and that's why this talented young actor could easily play the part of "Cobain foil #3."

CONS: Checkered professional past includes small parts in the tragic Christopher Guest misstep For Your Consideration and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles.


7. Jason Everman

CV: Former member of Nirvana and Soundgarden; war hero

PROS: Well, he already knows some of the songs. If you haven't read the incredible New York Times article, Everman was kicked out of Nirvana (and Soundgarden!) at the dawn of the nineties and ended up enlisting in the Army -- about a month before Cobain took his own life -- and becoming a member of the Special Forces just after 9/11.

CONS: No one quite understands how Everman managed to get kicked out of two bands on the brink of megastardom, but the Times article suggests that band life just didn't work for him -- and that military life does. Makes you wonder what might have happened if Cobain had found some other affirming outlet amid the crushing pressures of his last days.

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