Hello again from the Duke University Union records! When last we met, I told you about a mysterious memorandum concerning CORE and the fact that it was not known to suffer from any communist infiltration. Now, I have an equally interesting tale, involving an unlikely cast of characters: President Keith Brodie, Coach K, and Nirvana.
This undated paper was in a folder titled simply “Concerts Lost.” It details the negotiations that apparently took place before it was decided not to book the willing-to-play Nirvana at Duke.
While the document more or less speaks for itself, I will highlight two of my favorite excerpts:
“Even [President] Brodie is unable to make Krzyzewski move practice.”
“If we could talk them into one of the other dates, Brodie would buy tix for senior class.”
Buried deep within the record is a notation that helps us to date the document as being from 1991: “talked to Brodie today; he’s excited about Nirvana because that’s one of the bands they tried for last year.” This is a key clue in dating the record for the following reasons:
- In May, 1990, Nirvana played both in Chapel Hill (at Cat’s Cradle) and Charlotte. Because of the proximity, it would be reasonable that Duke would have also tried to get a date on their first major headliner tour.
- Nevermind, Nirvana’s first major label success album was released in the fall of 1991. Based on the fact that Durham is not located in suburban Seattle, it seems like a safe bet that they were relatively unknown in the area until they started to play the college circuit in 1990, and then they were catapulted into the spotlight with the release of the international hit album Nevermind.
Nirvana, of course was a band that was riddled with both controversy and tragedy. Frontman Kurt Cobain famously battled a heroin addiction and, in 1994, committed suicide. However, Nirvana is also largely credited with expanding the grunge—and later, alternative—rock genre beyond the Pacific Northwest.
Unfortunately, the story of Nirvana at Duke is found only in records of the Duke University Union, in a folder entitled “Concerts Lost.” A final note about this record: Duke won the 1991-1992 seasons National Championship for men’s basketball. Apparently those unmoveable practices paid off that year.
Post contributed by Maureen McCormick Harlow, Drill Intern for the Duke University Archives.
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