KURT COBAIN's 'Nevermind'-Era Smashed Guitar Sells For $595,900

May 21, 2023

Julien's Auctions, the acclaimed auction house to the stars, held on Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20 the industry's premiere music auction event "Music Icons", featuring a spectacular line-up of over 1,200 pieces of music history from rock royalty owned and used by the likes of Kurt Cobain, NIRVANA, Elvis Presley, THE BEATLES, Michael Jackson, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Lifeson, Freddie Mercury, LED ZEPPELIN, EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER, KISS, MÖTLEY CRÜE, Tom Petty, Lenny Kravitz and more, with special collections from Amy Winehouse, Bill Wyman, Bette Midler and Julian Lennon, sold in front of a live audience at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City and online with thousands of bidders, fans and collectors from around the world participating at julienslive.com The three-day auction event will close on Sunday, May 21 with the grand finale, "Property From The Special Collection Of Global Icon Janet Jackson".

The headlining item at the auction was a lefty black Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, smashed by one of the most influential artists of all time, Kurt Cobain, during NIRVANA's seminal "Nevermind" era which sold for an astounding $595,000 nearly ten times its original estimate of $60,000. The reassembled but unplayable guitar signed by all three members of NIRVANA, Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, with additional inscriptions to Mark Lanegan (of SCREAMING TREES) by Cobain that read: "Hell-o Mark! Love, Your Pal, Kurdt Kobain / Washed up rockstar" as well as the inscription Boddah Lives engraved to the neck plate (referring to Cobain's childhood imaginary friend) is housed in a black hard case with "Abort Christ" written on the top in white block letters and includes a white Ernie Ball guitar strap. Another NIRVANA highlight was a setlist for their April 17, 1991 performance at OK Hotel in Seattle, Washington which sold for $50,800, twelves times its original estimate of $4,000. Believed to be handwritten by Dave Grohl, the set list marked the band's debut performance of their breakthrough hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit" before its release. The list was written in pink marker on the back of a printed "Guitar Lessons With Tommy Rose" flyer advertisement and included songs such as "Big Cheese", "D-7", "Love Buzz", "About A Girl", "Immoodiuum", "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "In Bloom". NIRVANA headlined this benefit concert with FITS OF DEPRESSION and BIKINI KILL, just five months before their seminal breakthrough album "Nevermind" was released. An oversized NIRVANA promotional poster for the 1991 "Nevermind" album, signed by all three NIRVANA band members additionally sold for $10,400.

Another sensational highlight was a circa 2002 Gretsch Irish Falcon electric guitar, stage-played by U2's Bono which sold for $238,125. The guitar signed by all four members of U2 was donated by Bono when he was honored as the MusiCares Person Of The Year in 2003. A devotee of the Gretsch 6196 Country Club, Bono commissioned ten Irish Falcon electric guitars from Gretsch in 2000.

Another guitar hero and his signature axe rocked the auction stage this weekend — Eddie Van Halen and his Charvel EVH Art Series 78 electric guitar, which sold for $114,300. The 2004 red, black and white striped instrument was stage-played by Eddie Van Halen during the final concert of VAN HALEN's 2007 and 2008 tour featuring David Lee Roth who was back in the lineup for the first time since 1985. The performance where this guitar was used on stage was part of Quebec City's Summer Festival on July 3, 2008.

Michael Jackson's one-of-a-kind, custom-made ensembles representing why he was not only The King of Pop but also The King of Style took center stage with the appearance of his custom made black-military-style-jacket with gold hardware embellishments, stage-worn by Jackson during the 1992-93 "Dangerous" world tour which sold for $117,000. Renowned designers Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins designed Michael's looks for the tour, using leather and metal hardware for the costume's embellishments and surface design. Other notable MJ pieces included a military-style jacket worn by Michael Jackson to a 1992 media event ($53,975) and a custom-made space jumpsuit worn by Michael Jackson in his role as Commander Jackson, a space police officer in the 1993 Sega simulator ride film "AS-1 Scramble Training" ($35,750).

An arsenal of guitars from a behemoth of rock icons roared back onto the auction stage such as a circa 1987 candy apple red signature Aurora electric guitar from the personal collection of RUSH legend Alex Lifeson ($82,550); a 1973 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe electric guitar used by Lenny Kravitz in the early '90s during his "Let Love Rule" period and 1990 John Lennon memorial concert ($52,000); a right-handed Melody 500 acoustic guitar belonging to LED ZEPPELIN's Jimmy Page circa 1960s-1970s ($63,500); a 1971 Zemaitis resonator acoustic guitar, custom-made for Ronnie Lane ($50,800); a vintage 1959 Olympic white Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, owned and used by MÖTLEY CRÜE's Mick Mars from his early days with the band through 2002 ($45,500); a 2003 candy apple red custom Hamer K.K. Downing Vector electric guitar, used extensively by Downing live on stage with JUDAS PRIEST ($25,400); a circa 2015-2018 "cracked mirror" Ibanez Paul Stanley PS1CM electric guitar, stage-played by Stanley during KISS's 2017-2018 "Kissworld" tour ($11,700); and more.

The inimitable style and larger than life persona of The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, reigned once again this weekend with his oversized 18K Gold fire opal and diamond ring owned and stage-worn circa 1970s during his Las Vegas residency dazzling the auction stage at $45,000. Other items from the legendary icon included: Elvis Presley's black Ray Ban reading glasses ($11,700); a14K Gold "TCB" pendant necklace given by Presley to the singer's close friend Cliff Gleaves, circa 1970s ($13,000); his Stetson western hat worn in his role as "Joe Lightcloud" in the 1968 film "Stay Away Joe" ($22,225); a custom-made corduroy waist-jacket worn by Presley in his role as "Guy Lambert" in the 1967 film "Double Trouble" ($25,400) and more.

Beatlemania swept across the auction stage with items related to the Fab Four's most popular songs and iconic eras topping the charts such as: a music lyrics sheet of THE BEATLES' song "Baby You're A Rich Man" handwritten by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Mal Evans, which sold for an astounding $65,000 thirteen times its original estimate of $5,000; an original limited-edition brick from Abbey Road Studio Two in London, England ($11,700); an RIAA certified sales gold record award presented to THE BEATLES for the sale of more than one million copies of the iconic pop single "Help!" ($22,750),a gold record award presented to the THE BEATLES for selling more than one million copies of "Can't Buy Me Love" ($19,500) and more.

Another top moment of the auction included the presentation of Julian Lennon's private collection of BEATLES treasures and historic personal items from his father John Lennon. Highlights included several RIAA certified sales gold record awards presented to the THE BEATLES such as the gold record award for selling more than one million copies of their album "Hey Jude" realizing $91,000, eighteen times its original estimate of $5,000; the gold record award for selling more than one million copies of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" ($65,000 thirteen times its original estimate of $5,000); the gold record award for selling more than one million copies of their seventh studio album, "Revolver" ($39,000),the gold record award for selling more than one million copies of their album "Yesterday And Today" ($22,750) and more. Items related to THE BEATLES' landmark 1969 film "Yellow Submarine" made an exuberant appearance at the podium including a group of original mounted animation cels such as two images from the "Nowhere Man" sequence (one sold for $22,750 and another for $19,500, twenty-four times its original estimate of $800) and the gold record award presented to the THE BEATLES for selling more than one million copies of "Yellow Submarine" ($35,750). Other items from Julian Lennon included: his vintage Honda Z50AE Monkey Bike ($16,250); a gold record award presented to the THE BEATLES for selling more than one million copies of their ninth studio album "The Beatles" (referred to as The White Album) ($39,000); a gold record award presented to John Ono Lennon for selling more than one million copies of "Imagine" ($29,250) and more.

A remarkable collection of MTV Video Music Awards through the different eras and continents of the iconic awards show telecasts included the 1993 MTV Viewers Choice Award VMA given to AEROSMITH for "Livin' On The Edge" ($11,700); MTV "VMAJ" Moonman from Japan ("Sumo award") given to THE BEASTIE BOYS for "Best Hip Hop Video" for their hit single "Ch-Check It Out" in 2005 at the MTV Video Music Awards Japan ($12,700) and the 2001 MTV "Moonman" Video Music Award for Best Male Video, for Moby's hit single "South Side" ($11,700).

Additional stellar highlights included (winning bids with buyer's premium):

* A New York Yankee's bomber jacket, stage-worn by Freddie Mercury during QUEEN's "News Of The World" tour stop in 1977 at Madison Square Garden ($57,150) and a pair of futuristic virtual reality sunglasses worn by the QUEEN frontman as the title character in the 1989 music video for QUEEN's single "The Invisible Man" ($32,500);
* A two-piece gold lurex suit, designed by costume designer Ret Turner, worn by David Bowie on the cover of Filter magazine in 2003 ($25,400);
* A Takamine acoustic guitar, used by Tom Petty while on tour circa 1981-1986 ($35,750);
* A small Basildon Bond brand "Handy Jotter" sketch book used by John Lennon that includes 18 sketches and drawings by John Lennon ($35,750);
* A Yamaha CP10 electric piano ($31,750) and a JVC RC-M70 hi-fi system with tape recorder ($10,400) used by John Lennon and Yoko Ono during the production of their final album, "Double Fantasy";
* A shell patterned D&G dress, worn by Amy Winehouse in the music video for "F*ck Me Pumps" off of her 2003 debut album, "Frank" ($26,000);
* A pair of wooden drumsticks, custom-made for and used by Ringo Starr ($22,100);
* An original MCI JH-16 prototype tape recorder machine studio used during the production of the sole DEREK AND THE DOMINOS 1970 studio album "Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs" ($57,150);
* Niall Horan's very first guitar, a Yamaha acoustic that played a significant role in his journey to becoming a founding member of ONE DIRECTION ($12,700);
* A black Gibson SG electric guitar donated by Gibson Gives with a colorful monster face hand-painted and signed by Robby Krieger of THE DOORS covering the entire front of the body $13,000);
* A 2010 Epiphone Lucille electric guitar signed by B.B. King ($10,400);A 1978 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz personally owned and driven by Neil Young ($13,000);
* A limited-edition 2015 Moog EMMS synthesizer commemorating the original version used by Keith Emerson of the progressive rock band EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER ($78,000);
* A framed display featuring a cymbal and two pairs of drumsticks used by Neil Peart with RUSH ($13,000) and more.

Photo courtesy of Homage PR for Julien's Auctions

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