"All Apologies" is a song by American rock band Nirvana, written by vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain. It is the 12th and final song on the band's third and final studio album, In Utero, released in September 1993. On December 6, 1993, it was released as the second single as a double A-side with the song, "Rape Me".
|Single by Nirvana|
|from the album In Utero|
|A-side||"Rape Me" (double A-side)|
|Released||6 December 1993|
|Format||CD, 7" single, 12" single, cassette|
|Recorded||February 1993 at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota|
|Genre||Grunge, alternative rock|
|Nirvana singles chronology|
|In Utero track listing|
|"All Apologies" on YouTube|
"All Apologies" was Nirvana's third number-one Modern Rock hit and reached number 32 on the UK Singles Chart. It was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 1995, and was included on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of "The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll".
Origin and recording
"All Apologies" was written by Cobain in 1990. In 2005, drummer Dave Grohl recalled that the song was "something that Kurt wrote on [a] 4-track in our apartment in Olympia. I remember hearing it and thinking, 'God, this guy has such a beautiful sense of melody, I can’t believe he’s screaming all the time.'"
The song was first recorded in the studio by Craig Montgomery at Music Source Studios in Seattle, Washington on January 1, 1991. This version, described by music journalist Gillian G. Gaar as "having a more upbeat pop-folk sound" than later versions, featured bassist Krist Novoselic accompanying Cobain on guitar, playing seventh chords behind the guitar riff, and Grohl's drumming accented by a tambourine. "All Apologies" was first performed live at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England on November 6, 1991.
Nirvana recorded the song for their third album, In Utero, in February 1993 with Steve Albini at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. The song, at that point tentatively titled "La La La," was recorded on February 14. The recording featured Kera Schaley on cello, who also played on "Dumb," and was the only musician to appear on the album other than the band members. Albini recalled "really liking the sound of that song as a contrast to the more aggressive ones" on the album, saying that "it sounded really good in that it sounded lighter, but it didn't sound conventional. It was sort of a crude light sound that suited the band." In 1993, Cobain said songs such as "All Apologies" and "Dumb" represented "the lighter, more dynamic" sound that he wished had been more prominent on previous Nirvana albums.
"All Apologies" was remixed, along with "Heart-Shaped Box" and later "Pennyroyal Tea", by Scott Litt at Bad Animals in Seattle, Washington. As Cobain explained in a 1993 interview with Jon Savage, the songs were remixed "because the vocals weren't loud enough ... In every Albini mix I've ever heard, the vocals are always too quiet. That's just the way he likes things, and he's a real difficult person to persuade otherwise." Cobain and Novoselic also expressed dissatisfaction with the album's bass sound, which they believed was "too mushy." "All Apologies" and "Heart-Shaped Box" were remixed in May 1993. Novoselic defended the band's decision to remix the two songs by calling them "gateways" to the more abrasive sound of the rest of the album, and that once listeners played the record they would discover "this aggressive wild sound, a true alternative record".
"All Apologies," which still featured unfinished lyrics during its final pre-In Utero performance on October 30, 1992 at Estadio José Amalfitani in Buenos Aires, Argentina, became a regular part of the band's set list in 1993. It was performed for the final time live at Nirvana's last concert, at Terminal Einz in Munich, Germany on March 1, 1994.
Composition and lyrics
Cobain dedicated "All Apologies" to his wife, Courtney Love, and their daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, during the band's appearance at the Reading Festival in Reading, England on August 30, 1992. "I like to think the song is for them," he told Michael Azerrad in the 1993 biography, Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, "but the words don't really fit in relation to us...the feeling does, but not the lyrics." Cobain summarized the song's mood as "peaceful, happy, comfort – just happy happiness."
Release and reception
"All Apologies" was released as a double A-side single with "Rape Me" on December 6, 1993, on CD, cassette tape, and 7″ and 12″ vinyl record formats. The only instruction Cobain gave the single's art director, Robert Fisher, regarding the packaging was that he wanted "something with seahorses". Like its predecessor "Heart-Shaped Box", the single was not released commercially in the United States. However, the song did peak at number one on the US Modern Rock Tracks Chart, remaining on the chart for 21 weeks and boosting sales of In Utero nationwide. In February 1994, "All Apologies" was voted in as the number one most wanted song by listeners of the Hawaii Free Radio.
Everett True of Melody Maker made "All Apologies" the magazine's "Single Of The Week," calling it "the most supremely resigned, supremely weary fuck you to the outside world I've heard this year," with "the most gorgeous, aching tune, an emotionally draining ennui." In his review of In Utero for Rolling Stone, David Fricke called the song a "stunning trump card, the fluid twining of cello and guitar hinting at a little fireside R.E.M. while the full-blaze pop glow of the chorus shows the debt of inspiration Cobain has always owed to Paul Westerberg and the vintage Replacements."
"All Apologies" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Rock Song in 1995. "All Apologies" is also a BMI Award-winning song, for being the most played song on American college radio during the eligible period from 1994 to 1995. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has included "All Apologies" on its list of "The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll".
In 2004, Q ranked "All Apologies" first on their list of the 10 Greatest Nirvana Songs Ever. In 2005, Blender ranked it at number 99 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born. In 2011, it was ranked at number 462 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and first on the NME's list of the Nirvana's 10 Best Tracks. Rolling Stone placed it at number 13 on their ranking of 102 Nirvana songs in 2015. In 2019, The Guardian ranked it second on their list of Nirvana's 20 greatest songs.
On April 10, 2014, the song was performed by surviving Nirvana members Grohl, Novoselic and Pat Smear, with lead vocals by New Zealand musician Lorde, at Nirvana's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York. The performance also featured Annie Clark, Kim Gordon and Joan Jett.
On February 4, 2018, an instrumental version of the song appeared in a Super Bowl commercial for T-mobile. This version originally appeared on the 2006 album Lullaby Renditions of Nirvana, part of the Rockabye Baby! series of albums which reinterpreted songs by popular artists as lullabies, aimed towards infants. It also appeared in the 2015 Cobain documentary Montage of Heck, directed by Brett Morgen.
According to comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, who opened for Nirvana at some shows during the band's In Utero tour, Cobain had wanted to make a music video for "All Apologies" that involved him being drunk at a party. Goldthwait suggested that Cobain perform the song dressed as Lee Harvey Oswald, singing into the camera while putting his rifle together in the Texas School Book Depository from which he assassinated American president John F. Kennedy. Cobain told Goldthwait that MTV didn't allow guns in music videos, so Goldthwait suggested he use a pie instead of a gun, with Novoselic or Grohl playing Kennedy and being hit by the pie in the back of their head. Cobain liked the idea, but no official music video for the song was ever made. The MTV Unplugged performance of the song began airing as a music video on MTV in December 1993 instead.
MTV Unplugged version
|Promotional single by Nirvana|
|from the album MTV Unplugged in New York|
|Recorded||18 November 1993 at Sony Music Studios in New York City|
|Genre||Alternative rock, acoustic rock|
|Producer(s)||Alex Coletti, Scott Litt, Nirvana|
|MTV Unplugged in New York track listing|
An acoustic version of the song, featuring Lori Goldston on cello, was recorded during Nirvana's MTV Unplugged performance at Sony Music Studios in New York City on November 18, 1993. MTV began airing this version of the song as a music video shortly after, which coincided with the release of the song as the second single from In Utero in December 1993. When asked in a 1993 MTV interview about the use of this version as the song's music video, Cobain revealed, "I don't think ["All Apologies"] was the best performance off the Unplugged thing," and said that he believed the band had "played that song a lot better before," but admitted he had been too busy with touring to come up with a music video for the studio version.
The Unplugged version of "All Apologies" was released as a promotional single in early 1994, and on the album MTV Unplugged in New York in November 1994. In a February 1994 review of the song, Billboard wrote that "stripped to its basic elements, the song stands quite tall, and Kurt Cobain's rough-hewn vocal has many more shades and colors to enjoy. Already flooding rock radio, the task will be bringing this one to pop programmers—which seems like a distinct possibility". According to a Cashbox article published the same month, the Unplugged version was "enjoying ultra-heavy rotation, stoking radio interest in the song". The Unplugged version was ranked at number seven on MTV's "Top 100 Video Countdown of 1994", and has gone on to receive more radio airplay than the studio version. It appears on both of the band's greatest hits albums, Nirvana (2002) and Icon (2010).
In 2014, Kyle McGovern of Spin called the Unplugged version "the definitive rendition" of the song, writing that "its power lies in those chilling cello lines; the candle-lit intimacy that can be felt even without watching the iconic performance footage; and that final mantra, gently sung by Cobain and Dave Grohl: 'All in all is all we are,' an epitaph equal parts puzzling, comforting, and devastating." In the magazine's 1995 review of MTV Unplugged in New York, Rob Sheffield wrote that the song "begins hesitantly, fingers tapping on strings in a brittle staccato, until Dave Grohl's elegantly brushed drums push Cobain into a terse valentine to a lover who has married him and buried him, a lover from whom he can't escape because after he'd tasted the joy of being easily amused, it hurts too much to go back to jaded detachment."
Formats and track listing
CD single and 12" vinyl
Cassette and 7" vinyl
US promo CD (version 1)
US promo CD (version 2) (includes lyrics)
MTV Unplugged in New York version.
European promotional CD single
Charts and awards
|1998||Kerrang!||United Kingdom||20 Great Nirvana Songs Picked by the Stars||4|
|2004||Q||High Spirits: 10 Greatest Nirvana Songs Ever||1|
|2005||Blender||United States||The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born||99|
|2011||Rolling Stone||Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time||462|
|NME||United Kingdom||Nirvana: Their 10 Best Tracks||1|
|2019||The Guardian||Nirvana's 20 greatest songs – ranked!||2|
- Kurt Cobain – vocals, guitars
- Krist Novoselic – bass
- Dave Grohl – drums
- Kera Schaley – cello
Recording and release history
Demo and studio versions
|January 1, 1991||Studio A, the Music Source, Seattle, Washington||Craig Montgomery||In Utero (deluxe) (2013)||
|Unknown||Cobain residence||Kurt Cobain||With the Lights Out (2004)
Sliver: The Best of the Box (2005)
|February 1993||Pachyderm Studios, Cannon Falls, Minnesota||Steve Albini||In Utero (1993)||
|August 30, 1992||Reading Festival, Reading, England||Live at Reading (2009)||
|November 18, 1993||Sony Music Studios, New York City, New York||MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)
|December 13, 1993||Pier 48, Seattle, Washington||Live and Loud (2013)||
|1994||Sinéad O'Connor||Universal Mother|
|1996||Herbie Hancock||The New Standard|
|2011||Little Roy||Battle for Seattle|
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