Dating back to at least 1988, "Polly" stands alongside "About A Girl" as one of singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain's earliest forays into unfiltered pop songwriting. It was originally titled "Hitchhiker", and later "Cracker", but was renamed "Polly" sometime in 1989. It was left off Nirvana's 1989 debut album, Bleach, because Cobain believed it was not consistent with the band's heavy grunge sound of the time. However, it found its way onto the band's second album, Nevermind, two years later, and remained a part of the band's regular setlist until Cobain's death (and Nirvana's dissolution) in April 1994. It was on Incesticide titled, "(New Wave) Polly". This versioin is much faster and heavier than Nevermind's version. It was also a part of the MTV Unplugged set.
It also stands as drummer Chad Channing's only contribution to Nevermind, having been asked to leave the band before the recording of the album in Los Angeles. Channing's cymbal crashes remained on the final Nevermind version of the song as it was recorded at producer Butch Vig's Wisconsin studios before Channing was replaced by Dave Grohl. The tracks from those Wisconsin sessions, which included soon to be Nirvana classics "In Bloom" and "Lithium", would be used by the band as a demo in effort to attract major label attention. Those sessions also served to make the band comfortable enough with Vig's production style that they would select him to produce Nevermind. "Polly" is a distinct song in that it is entirely acoustic (as originally recorded for Nevermind), which contrasts the more "clean-guitar-for-verses, distorted-guitar-for-choruses, quiet-loud-quiet" pattern Nirvana is famous for employing. The song has the least significant drum part of all of Nirvana's catalogue of songs; Featuring cymbal crashes at the begining of the chorus.
In the VH1 Classic Albums documentary about Nevermind, bass player Krist Novoselic remembers Kurt Cobain writing "Polly" after reading a newspaper article about the abduction, rape, and torture of a 14-year-old girl who had just finished attending a punk rock show in Tacoma, Washington. In June 1987 Gerald Arthur Friend picked up a 14-year-old female friend after leaving a concert at the Tacoma Dome. Upon trying to exit the car the girl was handcuffed and held hostage at knife point. The girl was taken to a mobile home where she was tortured, raped with various objects, and treatened with a blowtorch for two days before escaping.[|]]