Nirvana Borrowed ‘Come As You Are’ Riff From Another Band, Claims Frontman

There has been quite a bit of talk over the years that the guitar riff of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” bears some resemblance to an earlier tune by Killing Joke, “Eighties.” While recently interviewing JK singer Jaz Coleman for the Songfacts site, the subject of the lyrical inspiration behind “Eighties” came up, for which he responded:

We wrote that song in Geneva and it’s kind of an interesting story about it, because we played in a squat – we did two nights in this fallout shelter in Geneva that became sort of a legend in Switzerland. It’s funny, because in 1983, we were going through Switzerland, and the promoter said, “Do you want to stay at a Hilton Hotel or would you want to stay in this seven-bedroom farmhouse, where this couple will cook for you?”

So we took the latter option, and had such a good time there. What transpired is the next morning, I said to this couple, “Can I come back to this house again, to do some writing? I’ve had such a good time here.” And they were very kind and said, “You could.” After the tour, I got a flight back to Geneva, and went to this wonderful house again, and of course, Raven [Paul Raven, Killing Joke bass player at the time] was there – he’d done the same thing! [Laughs] So a new chapter started in Switzerland.

That song I remember was written in the house, and I still live in that house. I’ve still got a room in that house. That song was written upstairs.

That song, of course, became “Come As You Are” for Nirvana. I think of the repercussions of that song and how I went upstairs to the little room where Geordie had his amp. I remember when he knocked that riff out, it was so memorable, it kind of embodied everything that was happening at that time.

And at that time, I was reading Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race, and that line is in the song: “I’m in love with the coming race.” So it was looking forward to the trans-human future that is upon us now.

Killing Joke recently issued their 16th studio effort overall, Pylon, and will be launching a U.S. tour early next year.

After having his articles posted from other outlets on Alternative Nation (and before that, Grunge Report) for years - heck, he was even interviewed by GR back in 2009! - Greg Prato finally began contributing articles to the site in 2014. He has written for various sites/mags over the years (Rollling Stone, All Music Guide, etc.), and is the author of quite a few books. And as evidenced by such titles as Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon, and Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets, he also has a deep fondness for alternative rock n' roll music. You can check out info on all of Greg's books here, see what he's up to on his Twitter page here, and shoot the shit with him at
  • Ben Dawson-Punshon

    This isn’t really news, any Nirvana fan who has looked into their history probably already know this.

    • Hwang Sunghyeop

      I heard some of similar other tunes from another old punk group before. Sadly I forgot the name.

  • Nick Freno

    Killing Joke took the riff from another UK band called The Damned and a song called ” Life Goes On “.

  • John Smith

    As has been said the Damned wrote the original rift.

  • Raj

    Very similar but who cares, Come As You Are didn’t make or break Nirvana. Tons of other artists have similar issues. Jet’s ‘Are You Gonna BeMy Girl’ is as similar as Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’, or Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and Taurus’ ‘Spirit’, there are countless other examples.

    • Hwang Sunghyeop

      You are absolutely right. Just a bubble gum for haters.

  • Felonious Punk

    New Killing Joke record is fucking gooood

  • Boom

    The every band borrow music every time they be playing instruments.

  • Jimmy Intense

    This has been widely known for years. More click bait.

  • Hwang Sunghyeop

    It is just like a bubble gum gossip. Between the line of Given to fly and Going to california.

  • asddd

    Add Jeff Buckley – Nightmares By the Sea, even better than nirvana :)