"On a Plain" is a song by American rock band Nirvana. It is the eleventh track on their major label debut, Nevermind (1991), and also saw limited release as a promo-only single.
"On a Plain" was written by Kurt Cobain in 1990. It was first recorded in the studio on January 1, 1991 by Craig Montgomery in Seattle, Washington. It was debuted live on May 29, 1991 in Los Angeles, California.
"On a Plain" was recorded for Nevermind in May or June 1991 by Butch Vig in North Hollywood. It was released as a promo single in the summer of 1992, and became a moderate hit.
An acoustic version was recorded during Nirvana's MTV Unplugged set on November 18, 1993. This version appears on the band's MTV Unplugged in New York album, released in November 1994. It features Lori Goldston on cello.
A live performance appears on the band's 1994 home video, Live! Tonight! Sold Out!! It was recorded at the Roskilde Festival on June 26, 1992 in Roskilde, Denmark. Another live performance of "On a Plain" from Nirvana's show at the Paradiso Club in Amsterdam on November 25, 1991 appears on the 2006 DVD re-release of Live! Tonight! Sold Out!!. An early 1991 rehearsal of "On a Plain" can be found after the credits have ended on the DVD version of Live! Tonight! Sold Out!!.
A live performance can be found on the 2009 live DVD/CD Live at Reading. Another live performance from 1991 at the Paramount Theatre is included on the video Live at the Paramount, released in 2011.
In 2017, to mark what would have been Kurt Cobain's 50th birthday, the Phonographic Performance Limited released a list of the top twenty most played Nirvana songs on the TV and radio in the UK in which "On a Plain" was ranked at number ten.
"On a Plain" was recorded in the key of D Major with Cobain tuning his guitar down to drop D. The song starts with a noise intro played by Cobain with audible handfart. After a short pause the main riff comes in with the power chords D5-G5-F5-E5-F5-E5-D5 played twice then followed by the power chords D5-C5-B5-A5 followed by the first progression again. The chord progressions are played twice for all verses followed by the power chords D5-G5-Bbmaj7sus2 for all choruses. After the second chorus a bridge is played with the power chords F5-E5-A5-G5. The song then goes onto the third verse followed by a final chorus which is treated as the outro with the words, "I'm on a plain/I can't complain" being repeated multiple times until all instruments and main vocals start fading out until the last thing that's heard is the repeating, wordless vocal harmony from the chorus.
The song was covered by Agent Orange for the album Smells Like Bleach: A Punk Tribute to Nirvana, and by Animal Collective. A reggae version of the song was released on the Little Roy album Battle for Seattle in 2011.
In September 2011, Frank Turner covered the song for Kerrang! magazine's tribute to Nevermind for its 20th anniversary, entitled Nevermind Forever.
Ambient acoustic band The Album Leaf also covered the song on the Nirvana tribute album Come as You Are: A 20th Anniversary Tribute.