The version of this song that ended up on Nevermind
was recorded in Madison, Wisconsin at the studio owned by their producer, Butch Vig. These sessions took place in April, 1990, and while pieces of these recordings made it on to the album, the recording of "Polly" was the only one that made it on in its entirety (most of what ended up on the album was recorded with Vig at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California in April, 1991).
The drummer on this song is not Dave Grohl, but Chad Channing, who was with the band from 1988-1990. When we spoke with Chad in 2013
, he explained: "I never even realized that 'Polly,' that version, was from the Madison sessions that made it on Nevermind
. I mean, it was, I don't know, almost ten years down the road before someone mentioned that to me. I was like, 'Really?' And I listened to it, I said, 'Okay, that makes sense.'
They put me in this smaller room that normally has guitars and stuff like that. I sat there with my ride cymbal, and there were these certain parts where I was just going to hit it. And I thought, 'Well, I'll just accent these things.' Because they talked about having something really sparse in it. And I'm like, 'Well, how sparse? I mean, are we just talking maybe a cymbal hit here or there?' And the consensus was, 'Yeah, something like that. Really mellow.'
I went in there and just rolled it. And they said, 'Just put an accent here on this certain part each time it comes around.' So I did. And it was like, 'Okay, that totally works.' So we left it that way."