Cobain and Geils: 2 Late Guitarists, 2 Birthdays

posted by Carter Alan -

Their musical and guitar styles might have been miles apart, but Kurt Cobain and Jay Geils reside together under the multi-dimensional umbrella called Classic Rock.  Both were born on February 20th, Nirvana's front-man in 1967 and his elder blues and jazz-influenced Boston rocker in 1946.  Of course, Cobain's flame burned brighter and much faster, flashing like a magnesium flare before our eyes and then extinguished violently by his own hand in April 1994. 

The six-stringed muscle behind the J. Geils Band had a celebrated career in his group from the dawn of the 70's for more than a decade, and then enjoyed performing his blues and jazz roots in his later years.  Jay Geils passed April 11, 2017 of natural causes.

As a celebration, here is a compendium of six-stringed glory from both! 

Kurt Cobain

#10  "Pennyroyal Tea" - A rich and mysterious "In Utero" track scheduled to be released as a single in the spring of '94, but recalled (tastefully) at the last moment after Cobain's suicide.

#9  "On a Plain" -  The gigantic guitar riffs with Cobain's vocals from the first note of this sonic tour d force off of "Nevermind."  All about being in the zone, and he can't complain.

#8  "About a Girl" - a major airplay item from the "Unplugged in New York" session, but the rocking electric version from the band's 1989 "Bleach" album may satisfy even more. 

#7  "Something in the Way" - the "official" restrained closer (although there was an unmarked 'hidden' track after) to "Nevermind," the monster album of big sounds and booming drums.  The calm power found in Cobain's performance provides all it needs.

#6  "Heart-Shaped Box" - slow and pulsing, a masterpiece of fuzz guitar and distortion.  Released in advance of the band's third studio release "In Utero." 

#5  "Come As You Are" - the mellower followup single to "Teen Spirit," this song went everywhere the previous atomic bomb could not go - to less daring and more commercial radio outlets, landing inside the U.S. Top 40.

#4  "The Man Who Sold the World" - Nirvana was brilliant in its choice of material for their MTV Unplugged session, eschewing many proven band hits to play an eclectic selection of covers.  David Bowie's 1971 gem was restored lovingly.

#3  "In Bloom" - the guitar slams you down from the first note with brutal power and you can just see Dave Grohl grinning from the chance to match that power with his kit.  'Concussion protocol' may be required after listening to this.

#2  "All Apologies" -  how does the band continue to have impact, and what does Cobain write, once everyone begins working in the same artistic area Nirvana staked out.  Well, you write a song about that problem.

#1  "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - the surprise monster hit that changed so much for Nirvana and altered the very course of music in 1991.  It had to be #1.                                        

Jay Geils

#10  "Sanctuary" - the title track to this 1978 J. Geils album is built on a fat guitar riff that swaggers in like a sleazy con artist.  But there's was nothing fake about this song - it returned Geils to Gold status after six lean years.

#9  "Pontiac Blues" - from the 1994 Magic Dick/Jay Geils "Bluestime" album, this cover of the Sonny Boy Williamson standard sounds like it was played in the 30's - a solid Depression-era-sounding jam! 

#8  "Surrender" - this opening track to the 1977 album "Monkey Island" by J. Geils Band did not become the hit single the band wanted, but what a guitar riff!  Go find a copy of this 1977 release.

#7  "First I Look at the Purse" - another trademark guitar line opens this early FM radio favorite.  The live version from "Full House" trumps the studio original from the band's first album.

#6  "Freeze-Frame" - title track from the band's 1981 #1 album.  Sure, Seth Justman's keyboards were dominating by this point, but this track has a great rock and roll bite, mostly due to Jay's aggressive shredding.  

#5  "Serves You Right to Suffer" - a nine-minute live cover of the John Lee Hooker song, this slow-burner from "Live - Full House" features one of Jay Geils longest and most blistering solos. 

#4  "Ain't Nothin' But a Houseparty" - we'll take the live version off of the 1976 live album "Blow your Face Out."  A call to attention that inevitably brought audiences to their feet!

#3  "Love-itis" - Jay Geils descending guitar riff sets the stage for an appealing melody of a hit that wasn't.  In 1975, the world had turned away from the J. Geils Band for a time.  They shouldn't have; the airwaves would have been better off for this tune.

#2  "Must of Got Lost" - the live version of this classic is the most requested, but both that and the studio original from 1974 are instantly recognizable from Woofuh-Goof-uh's vocals and that great guitar line.

#1  "Love Stinks" -  the drums announce the song, but the guitar riff sells it, and Peter Wolf's vocals nail it.  The #1 anti-love song and another J. Geils classic!    

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