MTV Video Music Awards Rewind: Kurt Cobain Makes Rare Appearance in 1993
On Aug. 28, Katy Perry headlines MTV's VMAs; 18 years ago, it was all about Nirvana and Seattle grunge.
When MTV held its 10th annual Video Music Awards on Sept. 2, 1993, at the Universal Amphitheatre, The Hollywood Reporter said the night "turned into an unabashed valentine to the Seattle music scene."
Two bands from there won big: Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" took video of the year, and Nirvana's "In Bloom" was named best alternative video.
Although it didn't win the top prize, Nirvana got most of the attention for three reasons: While accepting his Moonman trophy, frontman Kurt Cobain unbuttoned his pants (the camera quickly turned away); he was with wife Courtney Love of the Seattle band Hole and their baby daughter, Frances Bean; and it was rare for the singer to appear at an awards show.
"There was a lot of pressure from MTV for him to attend," says former Nirvana manager Danny Goldberg. "He wasn't crazy about the idea of awards shows, but he liked having his videos played on MTV and he didn't want to piss them off." Cobain was found dead seven months later.
Network group president Van Toffler says what he remembers about the year is "flannel shirts and grunge music." From his point of view, the pressure was all on the network. Cobain might not have wanted to be there, but the record labels desperately wanted their bands on the show.
"We only had about a dozen slots," says Toffler, "and if you had to tell a manager their act wasn't going to perform, I think they sent snakes to your office."