Kurt Cobain $500,000 Guitar Photo Revealed

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Kurt Cobain’s 1973 Fender Mustang has sold for $486,400. The Julien’s Live auction stated:

A circa 1973 Fender Mustang electric guitar with tobacco sunburst finish that was owned, stage-played, smashed, and signed by Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.

Following the release of Nirvana’s debut album Bleach (Sub Pop, 1989) the band embarked on their first U.S. tour where they played hole-in-the-wall venues across the south and mid-west. According to the book Nirvana: The Chosen Rejects by Kurt St. Thomas (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004):

Nirvana was having so much fun on the tour that Kurt began to express his joy by smashing a new guitar at every show. On July 9, 1989, at Sonic Temple Hall in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, Kurt destroyed an old Mustang in his own unique way in front of a very small crowd.

“Why do I do it?” Kurt asked in a confrontational manner. “Why not? It feels good. Somebody already cut down a nice old tree to make that fucking guitar. Smash it! We only ever do it if the feeling’s right.”

This Fender Mustang was stage-played by Kurt Cobain during two U.S. performances in 1989, the first was at Club Dreamerz in Chicago, Illinois on July 8th, and the second was at the Sonic Temple in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania on July 9th – where Cobain smashed the guitar to pieces across the stage during the finale performance of “Blew.”

A few days later on July 15, Sluggo Cawley of the band Hullabaloo became acquainted with Cobain when Nirvana played at Green Street Station in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Due to having smashed his sunburst Univox electric guitar two nights earlier (which Julien’s Auctions later sold in 2016) Kurt had no guitar that evening and was only able to perform the vocals. Following that performance the band stayed at Sluggo Cawley’s apartment, where Kurt noticed a smashed Gibson SG hanging on Sluggo’s wall. Kurt offered to trade it for the Fender Mustang he had smashed on July 9th because he thought he could repair the Gibson SG well enough to smash it again later on. Sluggo agreed to the trade and had Cobain inscribe the Mustang, signing as Nirvana, before the band moved on to their next show.

In a February 2020 article published in Innocent Words magazine, Cawley states:

“Kurt asked me if he could have the smashed Gibson SG I had hanging on my wall. So I said, Sure, but now I won’t have one for my wall. Kurt replied, I’ll be right back. He went out to their van and presented me a 1973 Fender Mustang that he deemed beyond repair.” He continues, “In sort of mock guitar hero worship, I asked him to sign it for me.”

Along the lower portion of the body, Cobain inscribed in black marker, “Yo Sluggo / Thank for the trade/ If its illegal to Rock and Roll, then throw my ass in jail/ Nirvana.” Kurt additionally drew two flowers along the upper right portion of the pickguard.

This guitar has been previously exhibited at Experience Music Project, Seattle, Washington between 2007 and 2008. Accompanied by several photos of Cobain playing the guitar on-stage.

YEAR
1975 (according to Fender database)

BRAND
Fender

MODEL
Mustang

ITEM
Electric Guitar

SERIAL NO
4900 1853 (neck)

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES
Three-tone antique sunburst solid body guitar with bolt on maple neck and dot inlaid rosewood fretboard. Smashed on stage the body was split in two, so missing some fragments. Two partial pieces of the pearloid pickguard remain and the guitar is held together with grey gaffer’s tape. Five of the six white button tuners remain.

OPERATION
Not playable.

CONDITION NOTES:
Smashed, so technically in rather poor shape, but all of the elements are stable as they are and the long-term preservation of the guitar will not be an issue.