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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.