- 23 May 22
The electric guitar from the music video which shaped grunge history just sold for millions to a billionaire.
Nirvana figurehead Kurt Cobain’s 1969 sky blue Fender Mustang from the band’s 1991 music video for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was sold this weekend for a bid at €3.5 million. Originally estimated at a value of roughly €562k, the historical instrument was auctioned off to the highest bidder as part of this weekend’s three-day Julien’s Auction Music Icons Event in New York. It now lies in the hands of Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay, who previously displayed the guitar and now owns it entirely.
Leading up to the auction, Cobain’s guitar was displayed for a week in London’s Hard Rock Cafe for public viewing. A portion of the proceeds from this weekend’s sale will be donated by the Cobain family to the Colts’ Kicking the Stigma campaign, promoting mental health awareness.
CEO of the auction, Darren Julien, stated during a press conference, “To have this legendary guitar, one of the most culturally significant and historically important guitars of Kurt Cobain and in all of rock music history return to my home state of Indiana to be part of Jim Irsay’s renowned memorabilia collection is a great honour and personal highlight of my life…I’m duly pleased that the proceeds will also bring much needed attention to mental health awareness.”
The blue Mustang is not the only fragment of Cobain’s valuable ephemera handed off at Julien’s Auctions. In years past, the rock icon’s list of auctioned items is rather lengthy and extortionate: Cobain’s MTV Unplugged cardigan sold for €313k, another of his Fender Mustangs, used throughout their In Utero tour, went for €318k, while his acoustic-electric 1959 Martin D-18E was auctioned for over €5.5 Million – making history as the most expensive guitar ever sold at an auction.
Fender Mustangs were the left-handed Cobain’s favourite guitar “out of all the guitars in the whole world,” as the singer revealed during his final interview with Guitar World. The same ‘69 electric guitar was used while recording In Utero and Nevermind, along with many live performances. It was previously displayed at Seattle’s MoPOP Museum of Pop Culture as part of the institute’s “prestigious guitar collection.”
It’s not an uncommon opinion that Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ changed the world.
Looking at its influence, it’s impossible to deny such a statement as fact. Nirvana’s 1991 single chart topper sent the band, seemingly overnight, into a universe they could not have imagined. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ set the alternative grunge ‘90s music scene in motion, laying the foundation for Seattle contemporaries such as Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and more now-iconic sounds from around the globe.
The accompanying music video debuted on MTV in September of 1991 as Nevermind went gold within five weeks of its release. Enacting a high school rally quickly taking the shape of a mosh pit, the video became a genesis for rebellious, teenage rage-fueled pop culture history. It lit a fire within young people around the country who found relativity within Cobain’s indifferent agitation, a flame propelled by his urging hand, pushing his fans toward mayhem and destruction – and release.
If you somehow have yet to watch the music video for Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ or crave a nostalgic return to teenage angst, check out the video below.