From Rolling Stone:
Written in the L.A. apartment Cobain shared with Courtney Love, this haunting meditation on remorse was originally produced by punk malcontent [Steve] Albini, but then R.E.M. producer Scott Litt was brought in to smooth it out. Cobain’s shredded vocals maintain the punk edge in the hushed MTV Unplugged in New York rendition.
“All Apologies” had been around since 1990. Nirvana first recorded the song during a January 1, 1991 demo session with Craig Montgomery in Seattle, Washington. This version of the song had more a folk music aspect than later versions. Bassist Krist Novoselic accompanied Kurt Cobain on a second guitar instead of his standard instrument, utilizing several seventh chords as he played. Drummer Dave Grohl‘s drumming was accented by a tambourine.
Nirvana recorded the song for its third album In Utero in February 1993 with Steve Albini in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. The song, at that point tentatively titled “La La La”, was recorded on February 14. The recording featured Kera Schaley on cello, who was the only other musician to play on the album besides the band members It was remixed…by Scott Litt prior to the album’s release, with Cobain asserting that the vocals and bass sounded “mushy” in the unmastered Albini recording. Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic viewed “All Apologies” and “Heart-Shaped Box“, the other single released from In Utero, as “gateways” to the more abrasive sound of the rest of the album, telling journalist Jim DeRogatis that once listeners played the record they would discover “this aggressive wild sound, a true alternative record, one of the best songs of the nineties”
Cobain dedicated “All Apologies” to his wife Courtney Love and their daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. The songwriter told biographer Michael Azerrad that while the lyrics had nothing to do with his family, the song’s mood (which Cobain summarized in the words “Peaceful, happy, comfort”) was intended for them.