Looking Back On The Feud Between Axl Rose And Kurt Cobain Backstage At The VMAs 30 Years Ago

The MTV Video Music Awards are often a violent place. Rivalries tend to simmer when volatile stars are in one place. In 1992, there were perhaps no bigger rockstars than Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose. They did not get along. Let’s take a look back on the drama.

The 1992 MTV VMAs

The 1992 lineup for the VMAs was about as loaded as it could possibly get. Dana Carvey, still a megastar on Saturday Night Live, hosted the show. It was a who’s who of male artists from that era: Bobby Brown, U2, Def Leppard, and Pearl Jam all performed. The list only gets more impressive: Michael Jackson performed from London, and Elton John and Guns N’ Roses performed “November Rain.” We’re glossing over Eric Clapton and Bryan Adams here as well. Even the list of presenters was loaded: Eddie Murphy, Halle Berry, and Mick Jagger to only name a few.

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Nowadays, if even one of these acts performed at an awards show, it would be the marquee moment of the night. On September 9, 1992, that’s just how it was. The big winners on the night were Van Halen for “Right Now,” which beat Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Metallica, Arrested Development, and Prince all won awards as well.

Nirvana Gets Angry

Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose have a complicated backstory. Both were heavy rock bands that came up at the same time and made absurd money. They also didn’t like each other. Notably, Cobain said of Rose, “Ever since the beginning of rock and roll, there’s been an Axl Rose. And it’s just boring. It’s totally boring to me.” Courtney Love once said that Rose said to Cobain, “You’re everything I could’ve been.”

Their Fight That Night

On the night of the show, Rose got into a spat with Love. She jokingly asked Rose and his girlfriend Stephanie Seymour if Rose would be the godfather to Frances Bean Cobain. Rose took exception and barked at Cobain to shut his wife up. Cobain sarcastically did so, and that only caused Love and Seymour to bicker.

The snarky sniping didn’t end hostilities. Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan had to be pulled off Nirvana guitarist Krist Novoselic. On the show itself, drummer Dave Grohl taunted Rose during a performance of “Lithium.” Nirvana continued to discuss the dispute with the press after the show.

The whole spat really paints the two into their public personas: Rose, a hothead with a habit for walking off, and Cobain, the smarmy artist. Of course, there would be beef.

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