TURN on, tune in, and unplug is the mantra being chanted by the music industry. It seems everyone is taking a stab at going acoustic, thanks to MTV. When producer Alex Cox came up with his Unplugged programme almost four years ago, he was taking a shot in the dark. Little did Cox know he was starting the trend of the '90s, providing the tired music industry with a shot in the arm. Unplugged was first broadcast on January 1, 1990, with Squeeze taking the plunge. Since then the programme has played host to big names as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, The Alarm, The Allman Brothers and Paul McCartney. McCartney became the first to release a recording of his performance, but the real turning point came in March 1992, when Eric Clapton released Unplugged. It sold millions and swept the Grammy Awards. Since then other artists - Rod Stewart is the latest - have released albums of their performances on the show. But the leap from electric to acoustic is not always graceful. Watching and listening to Poison or 10,000 Maniacs struggle through an acoustic show is painful. Springsteen made it through just two songs before plugging himself back in. Some musicians, like Indigo Girls and The Allman Brothers, seem happier in the medium than others. Performers like Elton John and Elvis Costello can also straddle the line successfully. But when Duran Duran, Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots were set to tape their shows in New York last month some critics wondered if enough was enough. The concerts were performed over two days at Sony Music Studios. An audience of about 200 sat in a makeshift theatre-in-the-round. When Duran Duran took to the MTV stage, the audience was a strange mix of trendy New Yorkers and keen teeny-boppers. Duran Duran band members were the mega pop stars of the '80s, and have made a comeback. They were decked out in true glam fashion: neon-coloured velvet suits and frilly shirts. While the show was well-executed and professional to the end, the music did not work. Pop songs like Rio, Hungry Like the Wolf, Girls on Film and Planet Earth, do not translate into acoustic versions. Duran Duran's trademark hi-energy electric riffs always carried the tunes. Without the plug, they fall flat. The only song that really worked was the new hit Ordinary World. Grunge groups Stone Temple Pilots and Nirvana fared better in an acoustic setting. Stone Temple Pilots managed to make the transition smoothly, but was a bit lacklustre. Lead singer Scott Weiland sat comfortably in a rocking chair, drinking endless cups of tea. Highlights of the show included a husky version of David Bowie's Andy Warhol and the hit song Plush. A quaint touch was added when a couple of old friends from their hometown, San Diego, joined them for a few songs. The piece de resistance was Nirvana. Lead singer Kurt Cobain, decked out in a mohair cardigan, a Fright TV T-shirt, jeans, hi-tops and a gleaming wedding ring, was in good form. He took exception to the no-smoking decree and puffed away on cigarettes between numbers. He chatted with band members, exchanged banter with the audience and spun around in his office-style chair, trying not to look bored. One fan yelled out a request for Freebird, which prompted the band into strumming a few chords jokingly. When another requested the song Rape Me, Cobain replied simply: ''I don't think MTV would let me play that.'' Nirvana performed 13 songs, including Come As You Are, Dumb and Polly. Special guests from The Meat Puppets joined them on Plateau, Oh Me, and Lake Of Fire. Cobain's lack of range was more noticeable than usual, but at least the lyrics were clear. The band's final song, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? was the best of the evening. Cobain's voice is perfect for the blues number; he reached for emotion and found it. The Duran Duran, Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots performances are destined to become classics for grunge-lovers, but the hot question is - will the bands join Clapton and the others and release them on album? Unplugged Duran Duran airs on MTV Asia on Wednesday, Unplugged Nirvana on December 29, and Stone Temple Pilots on January 26.