Why Nirvana Turned Down Metallica Tour With Guns N’ Roses
The 1992 stadium co-headline tour featuring Metallica and Guns N' Roses went down as one of the more famous (and yes ill-fated) tours of all time, but the tour could have been even more star-studded had Nirvana accepted the opening slot on the run. During an interview with NME, guitarist Kirk Hammett revealed that he had personally reached out to Kurt Cobain to ask if they'd join the run, only to have the Nirvana singer turn down the opportunity.
As fans know, Nirvana's Nevermind was released in September 1991, catching fire and eventually claiming the No. 1 position on Billboard Top 200 Album Chart in early 1992, largely based off the success of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The arrival of that album was so impactful that a shift in heavy music took place over the next several years, with a slew of grunge acts finding popularity. So the addition of the hottest band in music at the time, joining two of rock and metal's biggest act, could arguably have been the considered the top concert billing of all-time.
So why did Nirvana turn down the Metallica-Guns N' Roses tour? Hammett recalled, “I had to make the phone call to Kurt [Cobain] to talk to him about the possibility of joining our tour and he just went on and on about how he just didn’t like what Guns N’ Roses stood for."
The guitarist added, "I said to him: ‘Just go out there and represent Nirvana – just play the show and then that’s it.' I pleaded with him, but he just wasn’t having it. So there you have it. It would have been great if Nirvana was part of that tour – but you know [the actual opening act] Faith No More were great as well.”
While Nirvana skipped the tour, Faith No More, who eventually claimed the opening slot, had their own issues with Guns N' Roses, as singer Mike Patton revealed in a 2021 interview that he peed on the GN'R teleprompter in retaliation to Guns' treatment of his band.
The beef between Nirvana and Guns N' Roses would come to a head at the 1992 Music Video Awards, where according to Krist Novoselic, when Axl Rose crossed paths with Courtney Love she yelled out while carrying her daughter, "Axl, Axl, you're the godfather." That prompted a confrontation with Cobain in which Rose is alleged to have told the Nirvana singer to keep his woman in line. Later, after the band's performance of "Lithium," Nirvana's Dave Grohl appeared to taunt Rose by shouting "Where's Axl? Hi, Axl."
Grohl and Rose are now on good terms, with the Foo Fighters frontman loaning Rose his guitar throne after Rose broke his foot at the start of GN'R's "Not in This Lifetime" tour. Grohl later revealed that Rose had Slash pick out a guitar for Grohl as a form of thanks. "he picked me an early-’60s Gibson ES 335 Dot, which to this day is the nicest fucking guitar I have ever played in my life," says Grohl. "It was an incredibly kind and classy gesture, and I was very appreciative.”
As for Metallica's relationship with Nirvana, it was more friendly. Hammett recalled, “When we played Seattle on the ‘The Black Album’ tour, I remember calling Kurt to invite him to the show and he said to me: ‘Are you guys going to play ‘Whiplash? That’s my favorite Metallica song!’. When he came to the show, he was in the snakepit with Courtney Love and every time he walked by, he tried to get my attention but my head was somewhere else."
The guitarist recalls, "He was great. I became friends with him right when the first Nirvana album [1989’s Bleach] came out before people were even calling it grunge, and it’s so sad when I think back to all the guy wanted to do was play guitar and write songs and sing and somehow that all got destroyed for him.”