Sub Pop Co-Founder Revisits 1989 Rome Trip With Kurt Cobain

From Rolling Stone Magazine:

In the fall of 1989, Sub Pop founders Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman flew to Rome to meet up with two of their bands. Beyond the usual distributor and promoter meet-and-greets, the label heads had another reason to hop on a plane and head east: they had heard rumors that the young, charismatic frontman from one of their bands was struggling, and they wanted to check in on him.

That eight-day trip is documented in the new e-book Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe 1989, which features photos, set lists and recollections by Pavitt, who snapped pictures on the journey with his pocket Olympus camera. The previously unpublished photographs show a young Kurt Cobain, wild-eyed and volatile in some photos, shyly happy in others. The candid shots follow the group as they made their way from Rome to London.

“Initially we were planning on just going to London,” Pavitt told Rolling Stone. “But we had heard that Kurt was suffering from exhaustion and that the bands were really fried, so we thought, why don’t we fly to Rome, which cost a few extra hundred dollars – how scandalous!”

They arrived in time to see Nirvana hit the stage, and they watched as Cobain smashed his guitar and climbed atop a perilously high amp stack, threatening to jump and seemingly having a nervous breakdown in front of the audience. He was coaxed down, only to announce he was breaking up the band.

Nirvana was in the middle of their first European tour in support of their debut album, Bleach. They were on the road with fellow Sub Pop band Tad, and the two bands were supposed to meet up with Mudhoney in London to play Lamefest U.K. at London’s Astoria Theatre. The groups had been zigzagging through Europe for weeks already, in a dizzying maze of tour dates. It was clear that Cobain needed a break.

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