The Late Movies: MTV Unplugged

Chris Higgins

MTV Unplugged premiered in 1989, showcasing musicians playing acoustic versions of their songs. It has spawned a series of memorable performances, most notably (to my generation, anyway), Nirvana's excellent set -- likely the first time a Leadbelly song was performed on MTV. So tonight, I bring you some of my favorite Unplugged moments. Share yours in the comments!

Oasis - "Don't Look Back in Anger" - 1996

Apparently lead singer Liam Gallagher bailed at the last minute, so his brother Noel went ahead and sang lead in brother's place. According to Wikipedia, "Liam watched the performance and heckled the group from a balcony." In this clip, Noel sounds great:

REM - "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" - 1991

"And this was a request of MTV, and we had to get the words on a computer, and I'm not sure they're right. But we're gonna give it a go, and here -- we -- go." One of many excellent performances from REM's Unplugged gig -- pick up the bootleg if you can find it. (Another standout is "Love is all Around", a Troggs cover.)

Nirvana - "The Man Who Sold the World" - 1994

Nirvana does Bowie. One of many remarkable covers in this Nirvana set. Look how young they all are.

Pearl Jam - "Black" - 1992

Sorry about the burned-in VTR playback timecode. I remember thinking Jeff Ament's hat was ridiculous, even way back then. I think my judgment holds up.

Chris Isaak - "Wicked Game" - 1995

Beautiful, and perfectly suited to the acoustic format.

Paul Simon - "Mrs. Robinson" - 1992

A little funky, and missing Garfunkel, of course. Compare to this 1970 live performance.

Sheryl Crow - "Leaving Las Vegas" - 1995

"I spent the best part of my losing streak in an Army Jeep, from what I can't recall." Catchy, a little sad around the edges, and smart -- I always loved this song, though this version is a little messy -- there are some tuning problems with Crow's guitar. It's still a gem.

LL Cool J - "Mama Said Knock You Out" - 1991

Unlike the Pearl Jam bassist, LL's hat is completely appropriate. Because he hasn't got a shirt on, and he's kicking ass.

The Corrs - "Everybody Hurts" (REM Cover) - 1999

I bet they didn't have to get the lyrics to this "on a computer." (Also check out their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams."

Post Your Favorites!

Got a favorite Unplugged performance I've left out? Post a link in the comments! See also: our MTV Unplugged: Revisited quiz.