The 2010 VMA Countdown: Nirvana Melt Faces, Then Bassist Breaks His

The 2010 MTV Video Music Awards less than a month away. The biggest party of the year features nominated clips by Lady Gaga, Drake, Eminem, Jay-Z, Ke$ha and Katy Perry and will feature performances by Kanye West, Drake and Florence and the Machine (with many more to be announced). In order to properly prepare yourself for what’s to come, every day the MTV Newsroom Blog will deliver a classic moment in the history of the MTV Video Music Awards. Today’s installment: Nirvana leave a path of destruction on stage and off.

The 1992 MTV Video Music Awards represented a sea change in the music world, as different parts of the music world collided in explosive fashion. In the year prior, the dominant rock trend had shifted from metal to grunge, giving rise to bands like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Nirvana. The latter were one of the featured performers during a broadcast that featured what is perhaps the most eclectic VMA lineup in history: U2, Bobby Brown, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Michael Jackson, Bryan Adams, En Vogue, Elton John and a show-closing performance of “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses.

The Nirvana performance was particularly engrossing, as the band opened with the first few bars of “Rape Me,” a then-new tune that the producers had forbidden. Cobain stopped it and launched into “Lithium.” at the close of the performance, bassist Krist Novoselic tossed his guitar into the air and attempted to catch it, but the instrument hit him in the face instead. As the rest of the band trashed the stage, drummer Dave Grohl shouted “Hi Axl!” repeatedly, a reference to a confrontation backstage between Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose and Cobain. The 1992 show saw sparks fly both on stage and backstage, and that sense of unpredictability and chaos is part of what makes the VMAs great.

The 27th annual MTV Video Music Awards will be broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on September 12 at 9 p.m. ET.