Nevermind fused Nirvana’s cool reputation with widespread critical acclaim. The 1991 album was instantly popular, bumping Michael Jackson‘s Dangerous from the top of the Billboard charts and selling more than 30 million copies worldwide.
With the resounding success of Nevermind, a new direction for rock was clear: alt was in. So why, then, was the band’s 1992 EP Hormoaning issued only in Japan and Australia?
Much to the dismay of American fans, Nirvana set off for a chaotic Australian tour at the height of the Nevermind phenomenon. The seven-date cycle, which marked their only shows down under, included a wild appearance at the spectacularly crowded inaugural Big Day Out music festival that would go down in Australian rock history.
Then Hormoaning quietly appeared on local store shelves.
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Released on Jan. 27, 1992, via DGC Records and Geffen Records, this EP marked the first official Nirvana release since Nevermind. But Hormoaning boasted just six songs, with a run time of less than 20 minutes.
Four of the tracks were covers: “Turnaround,” originally by Devo; “Son of a Gun” and “Molly’s Lips” by the Vaselines; and “D-7” by the Wipers. The remaining two originals previously appeared as B-sides on the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” single. Nirvana recorded the covers during BBC Radio’s Peel Sessions in 1990, grunge-fying them all despite the various source material. They bleed naturally into the originals, “Aneurysm” and “Even in His Youth.”
Distribution of Hormoaning differed by market. In Australia, just 15,000 total copies were released: 4,000 on vinyl, 10,000 CDs and 1,000 cassettes. In Japan, the EP appeared strictly on CD. Unsurprisingly, Hormoaning received little attention in the U.S. – although Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau gave the EP an A- rating, arguing that it “smokes” Nirvana’s debut album Bleach.
The cover art differed, too. Hormoaning featured a more abstract rendering in Japan, compared to Australia’s straightforward band photo. Artwork inside the Japanese CDs was lifted directly from Nevermind, likely indicating a rush job by the label. It’s no wonder why: DGC was itching for new Nirvana material.
Listen to Nirvana’s Full ‘Hormoaning’ EP
Unfortunately, turmoil and interpersonal conflict reigned in 1992: Kurt Cobain’s health declined as his addictions worsened. Decades later, Australian rocker Tex Perkins revealed to ABC Radio that Nirvana had nearly missed their set at Big Day Out: “[Cobain] was literally crouched in a ball at the side of the stage.”
Cobain was also pushing for retroactive songwriting royalties on Nevermind, heightening tensions within the group. He eventually received a whopping 75% share. Meanwhile, touring was kept to a minimum and, unsurprisingly, it was not Nirvana’s most productive era.
As 1992 came to a close, DGC Records was left to release the stop-gap compilation Insecticide, rather than a full studio album. Three tracks from Nirvana’s lost 1992 EP finally saw wide release on the 15-song set, their covers of “Turnaround,” “Molly’s Lips” and “Son of a Gun.” (The version of “Aneurysm” on Insecticide, however, was also recorded for the BBC.)
Hormoaning saw a 2011 re-issue for Record Store Day but remains a key collector’s item. Only 6,000 unnumbered vinyl 12-inch copies were issued.
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