#nirvana,#kurt cobain,#pennyroyal tea single full,#pennyroyal tea,#1993,#90’s,#grunge,#i hate myself and want to die,#where did you sleep last night,
Single Name: Pennyroyal Tea
Studio Release: In Utero (1993)
B-side: I Hate Myself and Want to Die / Where Did You Sleep Last Night
Released: April 1994 (only on Scandinavia and Germany)
According to Michael Azerrad’s 1993 Nirvana biography, Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, “Pennyroyal Tea” was written by Cobain in 1990 in an Olympia, Washington, apartment he shared with drummer Dave Grohl. “Dave and I were screwing around on a 4-track,” said Cobain, “and I wrote that song in about thirty seconds. And I sat down for like half-an-hour and wrote the lyrics and then we recorded it.”
The band played the song live many times in 1991 and 1992. However, it didn’t receive studio treatment until 1993, when it was recorded by Steve Albini for In Utero. A remix by Scott Litt appears on the censored Wal-Mart and Kmart versions of In Utero; this remix is also available on the band’s 2002 best-of compilation, Nirvana, and is, incidentally, the same mix that was to appear on the single.
The herb pennyroyal is sometimes used as an abortifacient. In Cobain’s Journals, which was published posthumously in 2002, there is an entry where he explains the tracks on In Utero. The explanation given for “Pennyroyal Tea” simply reads: “herbal abortive… it doesn’t work, you hippie.”
In an interview in the October 1993 issue of Impact, Cobain gave greater insight into the song, saying that it was about a person suffering from severe depression: “When I ask Cobain if ‘Penny Royal Tea’ is about indigestion, he half-laughs. ‘Penny royal tea is a herbal abortive,’ he says. ‘I threw that in because I have so many friends who have tried to use that, and it never worked. The song is about a person who’s beyond depressed; they’re in their death bed, pretty much.’ Cobain’s own bout with serious stomach pain was well documented last year. ‘Yeah, it did rub off on the song,’ he admits. And I couldn’t help noticing the ‘Canadian’ reference to a Leonard Cohen afterworld. ‘That was my therapy, when I was depressed and sick. I’d read things like Malloy Dies [sic] by Beckett, or listen to Leonard Cohen, which would actually make it worse,’ he laughs.”
Though most copies of the “Pennyroyal Tea” CD single were withdrawn from the market and destroyed following Cobain’s death (probably because of the B-side “I Hate Myself and Want to Die”), original copies have become collectors items and can sell for thousands of dollars.
The book In Utero by Gillian G. Gaar states that Cobain had no input into the artwork for “Pennyroyal Tea”, which was scheduled for release in April 1994; the track had been remixed by Scott Litt at Bad Animals on November 22, 1993. Playing off the song’s title, the sleeve pictures a cup of tea on a table, next to an ashtray filled with cigarette butts and a rooster-shaped cream pitcher, with a few animal crackers scattered around. “We got it done and I don’t know that Kurt was around to approve it or not,” says designer Robert Fisher. “I think it might just have been shot to management to approve or something.”
(0:00) 1. Pennyroyal Tea
(3:38) 2. I Hate Myself and Want to Die
(6:13) 3. Where Did You Sleep Last Night (In the Pines)