Portions of the last recorded Nirvana track surfaced online this week, bringing a new twist to the legal debate between Courtney Love and Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic.
Live bootlegs of "You Know You're Right" have circulated for years, but until now the studio version has gone mostly unheard. (Love spun the song at a London club in March and provided part of it to "Access Hollywood.")
Although she claims to possess more than 100 tapes of unheard material from the late Kurt Cobain, "You Know You're Right" has been singled out as a huge potential hit by Love and the former members of Nirvana.
Grohl and Novoselic planned to include the song on a Nirvana box set last year, but Love, claiming ownership of it, filed a lawsuit to keep it off and ultimately stopped the collection from being released.
Should the song be widely circulated and its mystique eroded, it may not be as central in the lawsuit since whatever release contains it box set or otherwise could be met with less demand. Before the leak, Love's manager has suggested that a release featuring the track could sell 15 million copies worldwide.
How the snippets of "You Know You're Right" made it to the Internet is unknown. Several Nirvana fan sites claim it was found on an advance CD from Grohl's Probot side project, though Grohl issued a statement Friday (May 17) saying otherwise.
"I have never copied any version of 'You Know You're Right' for anyone," the Foo Fighters frontman said. "It has been rumored on the Internet that the song appeared on a CD that had songs from my side project, Probot. A guy from Spain said he got an advance CD. No such CD exists. It was not on any CD that I put out or compiled for anyone. I am perplexed by this and have no idea how or why anyone would leak this song."
The portions of the song have not been posted long on any one site, as Love's manager, James Barber, has circulated a warning noting that posting the unpublished material is a major violation of the International Copyright Law, which protects an author's right of first publication.
"There's a copy that got out somehow," Barber said earlier this week. "I can't confirm yet that it's real, but I've convinced the source not to circulate the entire track while we sort this out. This is an invaluable copyright that needs to be protected before its proper release."
Love filed the lawsuit against Grohl and Novoselic last May to dissolve Nirvana LLC, the business partnership the three formed in 1997 (see "Courtney Love Sues Grohl And Novoselic, Blocks Nirvana Rarity"). The partnership requires a unanimous vote on major decisions regarding the Nirvana estate and legacy.
Grohl and Novoselic filed counterclaims in December, noting that the limited liability company functioned effectively in releasing 1994's MTV Unplugged in New York and 1996's From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah (see "Who Speaks For Nirvana? Grohl, Novoselic Lash Out At Courtney Love"). They also claimed that Love, "faced with a waning recording and acting career," is using her suit "to further her own career goals, not to protect Cobain's legacy as she claims."
The trial is scheduled to begin September 30, though a spokesperson for Novoselic said there is still a chance the three will settle out of court.
In the latest issue of Rolling Stone Love claims to have 109 tapes of unheard Cobain material, a number Novoselic's spokesperson called "highly exaggerated."
Love said some of the material was recorded with Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson and drummer Patty Schemel, while other tracks were logged with a friend and a drug dealer. She compared some of the music to Radiohead's Kid A and the Breeders and said there are between five and eight good acoustic songs.
In the same article, Novoselic shares what they planned to release on the Nirvana box set, including In Utero outtakes and a raw mix of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" "that's really different."