Kurt Cobain heals his spirit on tour with Nirvana in 1989. "He had a nervous breakdown onstage," says Bruce Pavitt, former Sub Pop exec and author of Experiencing Nirvana. "So we took him on a 24-hour tour of Rome." The cross resurfaced in Cobain's Dante-haunted "Heart Shaped Box" video.
Cobain Goes Mad Onstage, Threatens Suicide
This picture captures the 1989 moment when Cobain, enraged by a malfunctioning guitar, destroyed it, then climbed a PA stack, threatened to jump, and then quit Nirvana. He rejoined by morning.
Nirvana Misses the Boat to Its Most Important Show Ever
Sub Pop's crew boards the Hovercraft from France to England. "Tad and Nirvana missed their ferry," says Pavitt, so they arrived 40 minutes before their London showcase, "the biggest night yet of their careers."
Mudhoney Shows Nirvana How Grunge Is Done
Mudhoney goes hog-wild onstage on the Europe '89 tour, closely watched by Nirvana. "Mudhoney taught them stage presence, the moves and energy and physicality -- Nirvana started to jump around," says Pavitt.
Cobain and Krist Novoselic Rock the Continent
Cobain and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic rock out, driving the crowd wild. "When Kurt broke a string, Krist and Chad Channing (Nirvana's pre-Dave Grohl drummer) jammed on the Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' while Kurt scrambled to restring his guitar."
Mudhoney's Mark Arm Defies Gravity
Mark Arm, friend and mentor to Kurt Cobain and lifelong Sub Pop employee, demonstrates a defiant attitude to gravity onstage.
Cobain Deep in Thought After Freakout
Still horribly upset by his near-suicidal experience onstage the night before, Cobain took some time alone to sort out his feelings.
Cobain Greets His Sub Pop Executives
Kurt Cobain waves to Sub Pop's founders Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman the day they arrived in Europe to boost his spirits and keep the show on the road.
Tad Doyle Tests His Guitar's Strength
Tad Doyle, the third member of Sub Pop's holy trinity along with Mudhoney and Nirvana, demonstrates the vigor that went into his album "God's Balls."
Proof That Grunge Was Exhilarating, Not Depressing
The audience exults during a Sub Pop band's set. "The music that became known as grunge," says Pavitt, "was a fount of joy."
Cobain Takes a Break
In a rarely seen backstage photo, Cobain takes a breather with Krist Novoselic's soon-to-be-wife Shelli and Tad Doyle.
Two Music Geniuses Who Met at a Tiny Washington High School
Matt Lukin met Kurt Cobain at Montesano High School in Southwest Washington. Lukin was in The Melvins and Mudhoney, two huge Nirvana influences, but Lukin preferred the poppier sound Nirvana perfected after it absorbed and outgrew The Melvins' heavier-than-hell influence.
Novoselic Prepares to Destroy Cobain's Guitar
Sub Pop's Pavitt looks on as Krist Novoselic prepares to smash his bass against Cobain's brand-new guitar, which Pavitt just bought him.
Cobain Bonds With a Fan
Cobain, who loathed crowds but loved a true music fan, told this fan about how great The Vaselines were. Later, Cobain gave his home address to a fan and became his pen pal.
Cobain Studies Mark Arm's Onstage Choreography
Cobain, holding a beer can, watches Mudhoney's Mark Arm in the foreground, performing like an ambitious maniac.
Nirvana Peaks on Dec. 3, 1989
Nirvana conquers England with the newfangled style called grunge -- "showcased in its purest form in London on Dec. 3, 1989," says Pavitt.
Cobain and Poneman Take a Coke Break
Kurt Cobain strikes a typical mugging pose for the camera as Sub Pop cofounder Jonathan Poneman opens a Coca-Cola backstage on tour in Europe, 1989.
An exhausted Novoselic, Cobain, and Tad Doyle pause backstage in Europe. On the wall behind Cobain, someone scrawled, "I love money -- Eric Idle."
Right Hair, Right Now
Mark Arm of Mudhoney -- whose band's sales saved Sub Pop Records from going broke before Nirvana did the same -- demonstrates the careful coiffure grunge popularized.
Taking the Grunge Plunge
A fan on Nirvana's 1989 Europe tour demonstrates the unwise but popular art of stage diving.
Rare Private Photos of Nirvana's Breakthrough (and Cobain's Breakdown)