Behind the Nasty Feud Between Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana

Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana are two bands that have made an indelible impact on the history of music.

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Guns N’ Roses dominated the rock and roll scene in the 1980s and ’90s with hits like “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Paradise City” and “November Rain,” while Nirvana helped trailblaze the grunge and alternative music movement in the early ’90s with classic hits including “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” turning frontman Kurt Cobain and drummer Dave Grohl into superstars. Despite their impact on music culture, the two bands were also known for the nasty public feud between their respective frontmen, Cobain and Axl Rose.

Interestingly enough, there wasn’t always bad blood between them. In fact, Rose was a big fan of Cobain and Nirvana, particularly after hearing their 1991 sophomore album, Nevermind, a fact he stated publicly on numerous occasions.

“I’d like to hear Nirvana do ‘Welcome To The Jungle”… I’d like to hear Nirvana do ‘Jungle’ their way,” Rose allegedly said in an interview with Metallix in 1991 (quote via Rock and Roll True Stories).

Despite Rose pledging himself as a fan of the iconic grunge band, the feeling was not mutual on Cobain’s end. “We’re not your typical Guns N’ Roses type of band that has absolutely nothing to say,” he allegedly said in a 1991 interview with Seconds magazine (quote via Rolling Stone).

But Cobain’s comments didn’t deter Guns N’ Roses from trying to win over his approval. The band went so far as to invite Nirvana to be the opening act on their co-headlining stadium tour with Metallica in 1992.

“I had to make the phone call to Kurt [Cobain] to talk to him about the possibility of joining our tour and he just went on and on about how he just didn’t like what Guns N’ Roses stood for and I said to him, ‘Just go out there and represent Nirvana – just play the show and then that’s it,'” Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett told NME in 2022. “I pleaded with him, but he just wasn’t having it.”

The two went back and forth for about a year making digs at one another in the press when tensions came to a head at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. In an archived audio interview, Cobain explains how he and his then-wife Courtney Love were at the show with their newborn daughter, Frances, when they encountered Rose backstage. “Apparently Axl was in a really bad mood, something set him off probably just minutes before our encounter with him,” Cobain recalled.

The couple and their daughter were in the food tent when Rose came in flanked by bodyguards when Love jokingly yelled, “Axl, will you be the godfather of our child?” in response to comments Rose made during a show in Orlando, Florida, where he allegedly referred to Cobain and Love as “junkies” amidst rumors that Love was using drugs while pregnant, according to a 1992 article in Vanity Fair.

“After the Vanity Fair article came out, Rose said something very rude, like Courtney should be in jail or something like that,” Nirvana’s former manager, Danny Goldberg, told Yahoo! “It was pretty gross.”

“And he just stopped dead in his tracks and started screaming at us, all these abusive words,” Cobain continued of the altercation backstage. “He told me I should, ‘Shut my bitch up’ and so I looked over at Courtney and said, ‘Shut up, bitch,’ and everyone started howling in laughter and Axl just kind of blushed and ran away.”

But the drama didn’t stop there. After Nirvana’s performance of “Lithium” at the VMA‘s, Grohl got in on the action by shouting “Hi Axl!”

The feud came to an end when Cobain died tragically on April 5, 1994, at the age of 27.

Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

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