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Verse Chorus Verse: Nirvana – “Sappy”

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We must begin with our alma mater…

The first time I heard "Verse Chorus Verse" was in October 1994. Kurt Cobain had died only five months before and I was mere miles from where his life ended. I had just completed a harrowing cross-country trip from Alabama to Seattle, where I intended to strike it on my own. I had graduated two years early and by this point had completed exactly two semesters of community college. Life was going nowhere. I wanted to return to Seattle and to my friends, so I packed my Brown 1978 Toyota Corolla with all my earthly possessions and drove west.

Along the way, my water pump blew. The first of my travelers' checks were depleted. In the process of getting my water pump fixed, the mechanic disconnected a wire connecting my alternator. I spent the night in a motel in Wamsutter, Wyoming, all alone and fast going broke. Somehow I babied my aging, ailing car just into Idaho where a mechanic took pity on me and reconnected the wire without charging me a dime.

It's been 15 years since that trip. I feel like I was practically a 19th Century pioneer traveling the Oregon Trail looking back on it now. Cell phones existed, but they had yet to become a mainstay of every day existence. I had to find pay phones to call my family collect. They did their best to help me from the distance, but I was isolated, scared, and alone.

What should have been a four-day trip took six. When I finally arrived in Seattle, I called the friend I'd be staying with. I followed her to her storage shed and scanned the radio dial for a new music station and found 107.7 KNDD and what I heard was the unmistakable voice of Kurt Cobain playing a song I'd never heard! Talk about the Seattle experience! I listened to the end when the DJ said, "That was Nirvana with 'Verse Chorus Verse.'

I had no idea where the song came from, and just as cell phones were an idea whose time was yet to come, so was the world wide web. I did the best I could over the coming months to scour for information about this mystery song "Verse Chorus Verse." While still living there, I learned this song was an unlisted track on a charity album called No Alternative. I have listened to that song exhaustively in the years since. My other Nirvana memory from my time in Seattle was standing in line at midnight to buy Unplugged in New York the day it was released. I'd lived in Seattle before Nirvana's revolution and was there the night Kurt's unofficial musical eulogy was released.

Years later, long after I flamed out and went broke living on my own in Seattle, it was learned that "Verse Chorus Verse" was actually a song called "Sappy." It wasn't until just a couple years ago when the box set With The Lights Out was released that I actually heard the song called "Verse Chorus Verse." I like both songs, but "Sappy" is the one that has a history with me.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • Sounds like your Seattle experience was kinda like mine in L.A. I arrived the day of the Rodney King riots and left about a week after the Northridge quake.

    Nice start to the series.


  • Nice article, Josh.

  • Thanks, folks, for stopping by.

    Gordon, as my “battery” light came on and off intermittently and my display and headlights dimmed, I was forced to turn off my radio and wound up singing (badly) to myself for some sort of noise and to take my mind off things. Fortunately by the time I skidded in to Seattle, the car was working as well as it ever would.

  • A few years before your experience I got my oxidated blue Toyota Corolla stranded at 2am in the Arizona desert on my way back to a Phoenix guest dj gig. No power for the radio, but I used the hours of silence between surround-sound rattlesnakes and coyotes to get a playlist together. (Lots of Meat Puppets.)
    Inspired start to a great new series.

  • good start to the next writing journey

  • Mine were never successful but I did come back with some stories. I might have even learned a few things, not that I put any of it to good news.

    Thanks, Brewster.

  • Mat Brewster

    I have made similar pack up everything I own and move somewhere without any kind of real plan journeys a couple of times in my life. They are always hard, and not always successful but they do create interesting and good stories.

    This was a good story, Josh, and a darn good read.

  • JDHathaway

    Thanks, Mark. There is a second verse to the story of this song. “Sappy” (some folks calls it “Verse Chorus Verse,” I calls it “Sappy) was one of a handful of songs I tried learning on guitar during that brief college flirtation with the instrument.

  • Well said. It’s always unfortunate how some music has to be tied to that part of our lives where you were struggling and lived paycheck to paycheck. But it’s redeeming that the thing that shines through is the tunes that got you through it.

    Nice start, Josh.