Kurt Cobain's MTV Unplugged Guitar Is Headed to Auction

How much would you pay even just to touch the guitar that Kurt Cobain played during MTV Unplugged in New York?
How much would you pay even just to touch the guitar that Kurt Cobain played during MTV Unplugged in New York?
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

On November 18, 1993, the members of Nirvana assembled beneath a chandelier on a flower-strewn stage and performed an acoustic set in front of a small, captivated audience at Sony Music Studios in New York.

MTV Unplugged in New York was the Seattle band’s most intimate, stripped-down concert on record. In addition to “About a Girl,” “Come As You Are,” and other Nirvana originals, Kurt Cobain and the rest of the crew performed some unexpected covers, like David Bowie's “The Man Who Sold the World,” and The Vaselines’ “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam.” It was a chance for established fans to see a softer side of Cobain, and a chance for skeptics to realize there was much more to Nirvana (and other grunge bands) than the unbridled angst of youth. The concert album was released several months after Cobain’s death in April 1994, and quickly went on to become one of the most acclaimed live albums of all time.

Now, Nirvana superfans have the opportunity to take home the most important prop from the concert—Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic-electric guitar. Julien’s Auctions is selling the instrument as part of its “Music Icons” auction in Beverly Hills from June 19 to June 20, 2020. The guitar also comes with a few other items: Cobain’s hard-shell guitar case, decorated with a flyer from Poison Idea’s 1990 album Feel the Darkness, baggage claim stubs, and an Alaska Airlines sticker; a partially-used pack of Martin guitar strings; three guitar picks; and a marijuana stash bag. The starting bid for the items is estimated at $1 million.

The right-handed Martin D-18E, which Kurt Cobain played left-handed.Julien's Auctions

If you’re eager to own a piece of Cobain’s legacy but not able to shell out such a high sum, there are some alternate options available in the auction, including a button-down shirt he wore in the 1993 music video for “Heart-Shaped Box,” valued somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000; a set list from the MTV Unplugged in New York performance that could cost you around $4000, and a Bleach CD cover signed “Kurdt” and scrawled with drawings by Cobain himself.

You can bid on the items at the in-person auction or online through Julien’s Live—find out more here.

Wednesday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Computer Monitors, Plant-Based Protein Powder, and Blu-ray Sets

As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 2. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

7 Fascinating Facts About Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe performs at the State Theatre in Minneapolis in 2018.
Janelle Monáe performs at the State Theatre in Minneapolis in 2018.

In music, there are artists, original artists, and then there’s Janelle Monáe. Since breaking out a decade ago with her first album, 2010's The ArchAndroid, Monáe—who was born on December 1, 1985—has seemed unstoppable, pushing the envelope with her astonishing blend of different musical styles, daring fashion sense, and serious acting chops. Bottom line: If Janelle Monáe has a new project, it’s going to be worth checking out. Here are some fascinating facts about the talent behind The Electric Lady.

1. Responding to a fan got Janelle Monáe fired from her job at Office Depot.

Before hitting it big, Monáe paid the bills by working at Office Depot while she was attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. She received an email from a fan and sent a response—on a company computer. She was let go, but the experience inspired her to write the song “Lettin’ Go.”

2. Janelle Monáe is still annoyed about losing the lead in a high school production of The Wiz.

Monaé's talent was clear at a young age. Growing up in Kansas City, Kansas, she won three consecutive Juneteenth talents shows by covering songs from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill each year. However, while Monáe headlined many of her high school's musicals, she lost one major part—Dorothy in The Wiz—because family duty called. Monaé's mom needed to be picked up from work, which meant that the aspiring actress had to leave her audition early. As a result, a fellow classmate got the part; according to Rolling Stone, it's something that still bothers Monáe to this day.

3. Janelle Monáe’s acting career had an animated start.

Janelle Monáe stars in Antebellum (2020).Lionsgate

As if Monáe's music career wasn't impressive enough, she's also shown some serious acting talent in the last several years. Monáe has been a powerful presence in films like Moonlight and Hidden Figures, along with her starring role in the second season of Homecoming. However, her first film appearance was a voice acting role. In the animated sequel Rio 2, Monáe played the aptly named Dr. Monáe, a veterinarian. Her song "What Is Love" was also featured on the film's soundtrack.

4. Janelle Monáe had a close friendship with Prince.

There are countless musicians and artists who can claim the late Prince as an inspiration. Few of them can actually call him a friend. The Purple Rain mastermind championed Monáe and helped guide her creative process. According to Rolling Stone, he was the first person to receive a copy of Monáe's debut studio album, The ArchAndroid, which was delivered with flowers and a handwritten tracklist.

5. Janelle Monáe’s albums have had a narrative thread.

Monáe’s love for science-fiction is quite apparent, based on her discography and expressed fondness for films like Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking silent film Metropolis, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her debut EP, Metropolis: The Chase Suite, and first two studio albums, The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady, each centered around an alter-ego: Cindi Mayweather. This titular "archandroid" was meant to serve as a bridge between humans and robots. During The Electric Lady tour, fans were given pamphlets labeled "The Ten Droid Commandments." The Afrofuturism and sci-fi elements of Monáe's earlier music aren't emphasized as much on her most recent album, Dirty Computer, but the excellent quality is.

6. Janelle Monáe has been honored by Harvard.

Monáe has racked up numerous awards, including an MTV Video Music Award, a Satellite Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, two Soul Train Music Awards, and even more nominations. She also has some serious Ivy League endorsements. In 2014, after headlining Harvard’s annual Yardfest event, Monáe was the first recipient of the award for Achievement in Arts and Media by the Harvard College Women’s Center. That same year, the Harvard Black Men’s Forum named Monáe Woman of the Year.

7. Janelle Monáe pays tribute to her parents through her outfits.

Janelle Monáe performing at the 2016 Boston Calling Music Festival.digboston via Flickr // CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to her fashion sense, Monáe is known for her daring styles. One of her most iconic looks is a black and white tuxedo. Discussing this on Fresh Air, Monáe said she did this to honor her parents, who had to wear uniforms throughout their work lives. Her mother even worked a catering job with a tuxedo uniform dress code. "So that was one reason why I was constantly wearing the black-and-white tuxedo," she said. "And then I wanted to rebel against the gender norms and what it meant to dress like a woman or what it meant to dress like a man."