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Before Nirvana: Kurt Cobain Forms 'Fecal Matter'

Kurt Cobain Fecal Matter t-shirt

Long before Nirvana took over the grunge scene, a teenage Kurt Cobain formed a band with a rather unusual and somewhat crude name - Fecal Matter. Cobain's bandmates included members of the Melvins and although the band was short lived, they did record a demo called "Illiteracy Will Prevail," which shares a connection with a unique piece of Cobain clothing.

One of the newer acquisitions in the Nirvana gallery after it reopened in 2018 is a bright green shirt emblazoned with FECAL MATTER on the back along with an interesting image of its namesake. At first sight one might wonder, 'What on earth is this?' or 'Who wore such a thing?' Well, this little gem is a shirt that was hand designed by Cobain himself. He intended to wear it on stage when Fecal Matter toured to support "Illiteracy Will Prevail," but the band fizzled and never toured.

The shirt's fate was to lay low, eventually ending up in storage until 2018. It was at that time Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic unveiled the artistic masterpiece that his buddy Cobain had created, and the one of a kind item became part of the newly-reopened Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibition. Cobain never had the fun of wearing it on tour like he had hoped, but it is finally seeing the light of day now at MoPOP and getting the recognition it deserves.

Thousands of visitors each year stroll through the Nirvana exhibition and are awestruck when they see this particular artifact. Everyone usually cracks a smile when they look at the artwork on the back. I imagine Cobain would be pleased to know that his artistic efforts ultimately received a deserving audience, even if he didn't get to wear the shirt on stage as originally intended. At any rate, it's a rare artifact that could have only come from Cobain's creative mind.

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About the author

Jenn is a former MoPOP volunteer and Nirvana superfan.

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