Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 243
Thurs. Oct. 24, 2013

“You Know You’re Right”

1994; 2002

“♫ Pain ♫”

I had the unlucky misfortune of having another root canal, my second straight week; and as I was in the chair at the dentist office with the throbbing and numbing in my mouth, all I could think of was Nirvana’s very last recorded song, “You Know, You’re Right” and Kurt’s howl through primal screaming refrain of “Pain!”

While I was in the middle of my procedure, I wondered about the recording genesis of Kurt’s swan song of pain. In Kurt St. Thomas’ book Nirvana: The Chosen Rejects, drummer Dave Grohl talked about how Nirvana’s final song came to life when he explained, “Kurt came in on the third day and we did [“You Know You’re Right”] in one take. He sang three vocal tracks [and] that was it. With Nevermind we wanted to capture the raw energy of the band with optimum performance. In Utero was all about capturing the vibe on tape. [“You Know You’re Right”] is somewhere between the two—but stranger.” Kurt’s final primal screaming refrain of pain does that a very disturbing aura. In the midst of my root canal, I actually wondered because of the tension felt within the outside influences and pressures within the band, somehow could Grohl, bassist Krist Novoselic and Cobain all have known that “You Know You’re Right” would be the final thrashing remnants as the collective trio better known as Nirvana?

In his book Nirvana: The Biography, Everett True described the behind the scenes story of the recording of Cobain’s last song like this, “On Sunday, [Kurt] materialized and started playing around with a few ideas—the first time Nirvana had been in a formal recording setting for almost a year, since In Utero. Basics for 11 songs were recorded in 10 hours, but only one was finished, the stunning ‘You Know You’re Right’. It was a deeply sarcastic and mesmerizing summation of Kurt’s situation; pointed lyrics sniped sharply at Courtney in a passive/aggressive manner, whole a bell-like guitar chimed and feedback and drums swirled around in a maddening eddy of emotion and frustration. It followed the quiet/loud Nirvana template, but weirdly so: caught in a middle ground between In Utero and something even more disturbing.” Kurt’s song was a passive aggression anthem filled with loud/quiet dynamics that Nirvana made its career on. Like a lyrical canon warning shot, “You Know You’re Right” began as sign of things to come, unfortunately, that sign reflected the final lyrical mantra of pain of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain.

While going through my painful procedure at the dentist’s office, all I wanted this root canal to be over; When I got home, as I put “You Know” on repeat and became reconnected to the last song Nirvana ever created together, I truly didn’t want “You’re Right’ to end. Unbeknownst to most Nirvana fans, Gillian G. Garr pointed out in her book The Rough Guide to Nirvana that, “ “You Know You’re Right” was not only the last Nirvana song recorded, it was also one of the last songs Cobain wrote.” Although, “You Know” on Kurt’s swan song of pain, it finally sounds like Kurt, Krist and Dave mastered the loud-quiet-loud technique that Nirvana had been perfecting since Bleach.

No matter what I felt today, it paled in comparison to Cobain’s actually true pain that Kurt brought to life on Nirvana’s “You Know.” Speaking of, “You’re Right” reflects the inner agony that Kurt must have been experiencing before he died. Very unapologetic and rightly so, Nirvana’s last song captured the primal scream anger of one of the most misunderstood songwriter masters of the late twentieth century. Author of The Rough Guide to Nirvana, Gillian G. Gaar said it best when she wrote about “You Know You’re Right,” “[…] and bringing Nirvana’s recording career to a close not with a bang but with a whisper.” Haunting us from beyond, if you’re feeling a sense of agony, spin Nirvana final cut and sing along to Kurt’s immortal primal scream refrain, “You Know, You’re Right” is Cobain’s last word passive aggression anthem of pain.