NIRVANA’S ‘LITHIUM’ Reimagined: A Vision of What Might’ve Been…

As a lifelong Nirvana fan, it has always stuck out like a sore thumb to me that the single ‘Lithium’ never had a proper music video.

It was in fact the only single from Nevermind that didn’t have a proper video: ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, ‘Come As You Are’ and ‘In Bloom’ all had what are now pretty iconic videos to accompany them.

For so iconic a song as ‘Lithium’ to not get a video always felt a little incongruous. Not that music videos are important necessarily: but if there had been no videos for Nevermind, it wouldn’t have felt like an issue.

It’s the fact that ‘Lithium’ was the odd one out. That song was one of the defining pop/rock songs of its generation; and the single came out at the height of ‘Nirvana mania’ in the middle of 1992.

There was a video for MTV play, of course: but it was a cheap promo video, consisting purely of live footage. In my mind, I remember inventing various vague ideas for a ‘Lithium’ video as a teenager.

I wasn’t aware that it had bothered anyone but me.

But, as it happens, I’ve not been alone. And a friend of mine recently took the step of creating a whole music video for the Nirvana classic.

She uploaded it to her YouTube channel (‘Rebellious-jukebox-on-film’), where the video has gotten a lot of attention and has proven popular. I absolutely love it. It’s not the imagined ‘Lithium’ video from my teenage mind, but it’s probably better than whatever I had thought of.

What’s stunning, for something being put together decades after the original, is how quickly and immediately her video strikes you as being totally legitimate: as if it’s always been that video.

Her edit takes footage from the film Street of Crocodiles by the Brothers Quay.

Kurt, as she explains, was obsessed with dolls, particularly old dolls made from clay; which he described at one time as being replicas of old 18th century Yugoslavian dolls. Kurt had in fact wanted the Brothers Quay to do the video, but the duo had declined.

As she explains, ‘Kurt Cobain was influenced by the Brothers Quay, a puppeteer duo who have made many films, music videos and art pieces over the decades. My favorite Brothers Quay film is called ‘Street of Crocodiles’. I edited the film together with ‘Lithium’ in an attempt to create something like the music video that might’ve been had those weird and creative people collaborated’.

I asked her about where her inspiration first came from. She says, ‘I first heard about the Brothers Quay in an interview I watched years ago that Kurt gave for the MTV Live and Loud concert they did with the Breeders. Knowing that Kurt had wanted the Quays to do a video for ‘Lithium’ and seeing so much of the shared aesthetic between the three artists, I decided to try to make that collaboration happen.’

It definitely feels… right.

Nirvana Lithium CD artwork

It just works. And I get the sense Kurt would’ve been really happy with this. What also struck me immediately is that this video does bear some relationship to the cover artwork for the ‘Lithium’ single: so it does indicate that this is the kind of imagery Kurt might’ve very much had in mind back in 1992.

What’s kind of stunning is that she did the whole thing on her phone: not even on a laptop or a PC.

She explains, ‘I went to see which parts of the ‘Streets of Crocodiles’ video would fit with the mood of the song. Through tedious trial and error of editing, I found the key moments of the movie that synched up with ‘Lithium’ almost as if they were meant to go together. Those moments served as anchors around which I could edit the other parts’.

Well, she’s done a great job.

I also put to her that another iconic Nirvana single that never got a music video was the band’s final release before Cobain’s death: the ‘All Apologies’ single. Does she have any ideas what a hypothetical or parallel universe ‘All Apologies’ video would look like?

Given her creative mind and her passion for Nirvana, we might get to find out sooner or later.

Read more:Auschwitz & the Holocaust Through Off-Beat Art‘, ‘Nirvana’s PENNYROYAL TEA: The Single That Never Was‘, ‘Kurt Cobain and 1994: Remembering All of That‘, ‘Did Blondie Release the Best Pop Single Ever…?‘, ‘My Ode to Babes in Toyland: Past, Present & Future‘, ‘Triumph, Tragedy, Elation & Despair: Hole’s ‘Miss World‘…

S. Awan

Independent journalist. Pariah. Believer in human rights, human dignity and liberty. Musician. Substandard Jedi. All-round failure. And future ghost.


  1. Thank you for featuring my video on your blog! I made it with a lot of passion. I appreciate your adding of the backstory of how I came to put The Quay Brothers together with Kurt’s vision for Lithium as it’s not widely known and it wasn’t just my random whim combining the artists. It was really nice talking about Nirvana’s “what might’ve been” with you.

    • You’re welcome, I love the video. And it’s always great discussing Kurt and Nirvana with you.

  2. “…so happy coz today found my friends”. Wow.. a one-er. Quite the slashing headbanger. Post-woman me so not on such banging and play the jukebox baby. Made her six mixtapes, like some kind of holy offering. So no, listen to nout and not gonna but happy to rewind this a good few times. Shrugging thrash without being cynical while dark goin’ yet capturing the celebration. This short early 90’s burst carried an authentic past into something fresh. Did much else later-on and since matter? Cracking syncopate video hoping on the movement and dance. Brilliant. “Yeah yeah yeahhh… yeah” Dirty clean wonder. Thanks. Honest BBB, about all we got nearest these days and here the NME. And — again — pre-84 had some journos to aspire to but you be the nearest these days. Add truth and matter talk. What?

    • Yeah, she did a great job. And this is one of my all-time favorite songs. Pre 84? What’s your take on Joy Division? Are you a fan?

      • What always comes to mind was the lot on the other side of the pub. Memories of my thoughtless and narrow style-reckoning purity. Their somewhat disregard and one-step removed from us-lot, the other, young punks. We didn’t do, say… Crass and the like, all seemed a bit too low-key, downbeat and moody. Ones, all-into, had a certain geeky look. While holding an exclusive attitude and interest in the few bands they liked. Not so many, or so much, ones we did. When Curtis died they cried bad and didn’t appreciate the significance of his output. Although must say, suicide was a shock. Almost too fitting and a warning. Confirming impressions over the atmosphere carried. As you know, there was a lot going on those days, Joy Division, one more among such a crazy hot explosion. Didn’t take many days or weeks to re-appraise and yes, Got It. Since then had them bursting on loud, yet can’t shake off that initial stupid-prejudice. Makes me think of deeper and wider issues. And why and what says. As you can see. So, a personal and long-winded answer but it’s quite a revealing consideration. Recently put on ‘Twenty Four Hours’ when scratching for sounds. Don’t find it easy, if ever in that rare music-playing mode. Somehow though, Joy Division can cut through and make the most sense. Deep and striking, not least some of the live stuff. All in all a surprise they hold-up so well and come over contemporary more than most and not so dated. Thanks for asking.

        • I actually find Joy Division too depressing to listen to. I mean, I love that band’s music: but some of that stuff really lowers my psychological state. Kind of a paradox – to love a band and also not be able to listen to them.

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