How Jawbreaker Spent a Week with Nirvana & Lost All Their Punk Rock Credibility


My Letter to the World #8, with Blake Schwarzenbach’s floppy disk

In February 1993, Lookout Record darlings Green Day caused an uproar among punk circles when they confirmed that they’d be signing to a major label. For some, the 1994 release of Dookie on Reprise Records meant the beginning of the end of punk rock, and likely helped groups like the Offspring and Rancid find mainstream success despite their indie status at the time.

The same year that Green Day contended with accusations of selling out, San Francisco band Jawbreaker agreed to join Nirvana for six shows during their In Utero tour. Twenty years later, it seems like no big deal, but this embittered a huge clutch of their fans. As I mentioned in a post I wrote last year, I asked singer/guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach to keep a tour diary and let me publish it in my zine My Letter to the World. He handed it over to me on a floppy disk (remember those?) a few weeks after Jawbreaker returned and that issue came out on December 16, 1993. Less than four months later, Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home.

My world was microscopic in the 1990s so I actually remember where I was when Kurt’s death (and Joey Ramone’s on April 15, 2001, for that matter) was officially announced in the media: at KALX. I had finished up the 9:30am-12pm slot (playlist below) and was putting away my records when a listener called in with the news. (This was before the ubiquity of the World Wide Web, and still a time when breaking news was attained only via TV or radio.) DJ Mickey took the call and informed the KALX listeners.

It’s always sad when someone passes away, especially when it’s believed to be by his own hand. However, I can’t say I was devastated by his death, even though both Bleach and Nevermind were integral parts of my mid-to-late teenhood. Hearing songs from either album still reminds me of the bleakest, most miserable points of my life to date (which I realize is absolutely fitting and the reason to this day I can’t bear to listen to Nirvana), so perhaps I appreciate the relief he achieved through death.

Getting back to Jawbreaker, Blake stated in his piece, “It has been my official platform since last year (when major labels began expressing an interest in usoh, those foolish magnates!) to never sign to a major label. I stand firmer in this belief today than ever….” As it turns out, they’d sign to DGC Records in 1995 and release Dear You before breaking up in 1996. Here’s the tour diary in its entirety (click images for a larger view) as well as my playlist from that fateful day in April.


How Jawbreaker Spent a Week with Nirvana & Lost All Their Punk Rock Credibility (part 1 of 3) | My Letter to the World #8


How Jawbreaker Spent a Week with Nirvana & Lost All Their Punk Rock Credibility (part 2 of 3) | My Letter to the World #8


How Jawbreaker Spent a Week with Nirvana & Lost All Their Punk Rock Credibility (part 3 of 3) | My Letter to the World #8

* = feature play
$ = request

4/8/94: FRIDAY 9:30am-noon

THE WHO – Pictures of Lily
* LUNA – Tiger Lily
JOHNNY COPELAND – Rock ‘n’ Roll Lily
*$ WANKIN’ TEENS – Salt Lake City Airport
ANGRY SAMOANS – Inside My Brain
EX – Jake’s Cake

*$ TOTAL CHAOS – Systems Downfall
COCKPIT – I Wanna a Man in a Skirt
3-D INVISIBLES – Wolfman on Your Tail
* GOLDENTONES – Miserlou

MEAT WHIPLASH – Losing Your Grip
JESUS & MARY CHAIN – Boyfriend’s Dead
* NILS – Scratches & Needles

* THE JAM – Heatwave
THE DICKS – Rich Daddy
ZANTEES – Please Give Me Something
* YOUTH BRIGADE – Punk Rock Mom

SHANGRI-LAS – Leader of the Pack
TOY DOLLS – I’ll Get Even with Steven
* THE TRASHWOMEN – Space Needle

NAKED RAYGUN – Backlash Jack
THE HELLBILLYS – Bucket of Blood
BILLY NAYER SHOW – Bouncy Bouncy
D.I. – Richard Hung Himself

ADAM & THE ANTS – Jolly Roger
RUTH BROWN – This Little Girl’s Gone Rockin’
THE REVILLOS – Do the Mutilation

THE CRESTONES – She’s a Bad Motorcycle
THE FASTBACKS – You Can’t Be Happy
TOMMY MARTIN & THE XLs – Hoochie Coochie
* WEDDING PRESENT – Happy Birthday

THE RAMONES – Danny Says
BLITZ – Nation on Fire
INFA RIOT – Riot Riot
THE BUSINESS – Suburban Rebels

DEAD MILKMEN – Watching Scotty Die
THE 4-SKINS – Sorry
AFI – High School Football Hero

* AGRESSION – Rat Race
RIOT SQUAD – Friday Night Hero


Filed under culture, music, nostalgia

14 responses to “How Jawbreaker Spent a Week with Nirvana & Lost All Their Punk Rock Credibility

  1. Pingback: You’re Not Punk and I’m Telling Everyone: Jawbreaker January | MESSIN AROUND

  2. I don’t know why any of that seemed important at all. I was mad at Bad Religion & Green Day, but never truly cared if Nirvana or Jawbreaker signed to a major. Nirvana always seemed a little too big, like they were destined along the path of Soundgarden or Jane’s Addiction. In retrospect, who fucking cares about any of it. I learned that years later, as the tour manager of Against Me!. About 2% of their fans, at any time, were truly going to remain “punk” and the rest were going on to grad school, or live their lives however they wanted – i.e. “sell out”. Funny that I or anyone else really thought we had any right to tell these bands what to do. A bunch of judgmental pricks.

    • I think a lot of the anger had to do with the fact that some folks, esp. when they’re younger, consider their musical choices an extension of themselves. They expect their favorite artists to share their ideals, so when they don’t, they feel betrayed. In addition, it took more effort to learn about non-mainstream music back then, so if you were into punk, you had to dig to find those bands, which made them more precious.

  3. John

    I found this thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. Jawbreaker had punk credibility? and it’s somehow important that they lost it? I guess I thought they were more emo …

    I’m not a fan of emo or of Jawbreaker, but I am a fan of listening to whatever the fuck you want.

    • Bjarne Bjarney

      Back then, everybody was just punk. I mean, we called certain bands “emo” (Gray Matter, Rites of Springs….even Husker Du, And yeah, Jawvreaker…but they were still punk), but the late 80s punk scenes were small, everybody was just punk…even Nirvana and the SubPop bands, prior to their “fame”. Nowadays their is a label to define every band that we would’ve just labeled punk. I knew the owners of Very Small Records….I remember Martin (Isocracy, when he was a part of Very Small), was very excited that they worked out a deal to reprint Whack & Blite…. and Jawbreaker did a few split 7″s with other punk bands. They were very much punk….to me and other older fogies.

  5. Justin

    Really cool, thanks for sharing this.

  6. I was a huge fan of Nirvana growing up. Even though Kurt’s lyrics were the ramblings of a heroin addict and really made no sense, which he admitted himself long long ago, people still tried to find meaning in them. i believe that all music has a purpose. all though Cobain says there was no ulterior motive behind his verses, there obviously was. will we every understand him? No. But that’s music. people interpret music the way they want to. usually to relate to what’s going on in their lives at that time. so many times in my life i have gone back and listened to songs that just a few years earlier i related to my life, but now i see the song in a whole other light. it’s just about where you’re at in you’re life and trying to find something to get by. Music is magic. it can be your best friend or your worst enemy, but one thing’s for sure, it will always be there for you.

  7. Sean

    This was really, really awesome. Blake is a great writer. Thanks for sharing this!

  8. martin radcliffe

    I remember being devastated when I first heard Jawbreaker had signed to Geffen. They were MY band, and I guess I did’nt want to share them. Turns out I need’nt really have worried…

  9. Pingback: Survival Knife - Let The Universe Write The Set-List -

  10. Maximum emo and roll

    Was a regular at Gilman from the beginning..86. I never considered green day or jawbreaker punk but they still warranted a place on stage there. The hypocrisy of the Gilman tribe back then was ridiculous. They would rip on uniform choice for selling out but when they hit the stage with that “sell out” new sound they were still 100 x faster and “punk” then green day and jawbreaker ever were.

  11. Johnny Johnsonrod

    A couple things to add about why fans may have rightly felt betrayed. First and foremost, Blake blatantly preached the band’s intention to never “sell out” during their live performances. Even late in the game, during their tour in support of 24 hour revenge therapy. This I think was the whole point of the song Indictment (in Blake’s words, a “scathing indictment of the pop industry.”) I questioned him about this during the Dear You years and he wrote off signing to a major as a “change in artistic direction.”

    Second, and this is just my own feeling on the subject: there was a time when Unfun was vinyl only, and when I heard a few years later they put it on CD my initial thought was “oh uh, now everyone is gonna catch on. was hoping they’d stay small sort of like Crimpshrine” Good for the band, but selfishly I knew it was the beginning of the end. I always wondered whether the back of the Unfun CD suggested this too (ie. John Yates had no fun assembling all of this)

    Bands don’t generally get better as they get older. And as much as kids point to Dear You as Jawbreaker’s finest work, I can say that my friends and I thought it was almost unrecognizable at the time. To me, Unfun will always be their best album. Not because they hadn’t yet “sold out,” but because the guitar tone was better than when Blake switched to the Les Paul, the vocals sounded better pre-surgery, and the music was much more aggressive with equal parts melody and dissonance. They also hadn’t yet been donned with the unfortunate “emo” label, which even Adam said he hated. Unfun and Bivouac are true classics for me, but sadly the last two albums are almost throw aways.

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