Sunday, September 25, 2016

Nirvana's Nevermind hits 25 Years

I still remember the moment I first heard those guitar chords. I can vividly see the grainy video on my TV in a dark college apartment sometime past midnight. I can still feel that inkling that the song, the album, the band represented some kind of special moment. Roughly a quarter-century ago, the world was introduced to a rock trio from the Seattle scene, and the alternative rock genre that became grunge took root. On September 24, 1991, Nirvana's album Nevermind was released.

I'd heard of this band from a cousin whose sister was living in Seattle at the time of the early rumblings of grunge, and I'd even managed a bootleg copy of some early Nirvana. At that time, we were hearing about bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden. The hard rock edge had more punk in it than the rock bands of the late 80s, and the lyrics contained that existential angst that had taken root in the early days of the twentieth century's last decade. 1991 represented the true birth of what became Generation X with the release of Coupland's novel in the early spring and the arrival of Nirvana with the beginning of fall.

Then suddenly “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was on the radio and there were waiting lists (waiting lists!) of people at indie stores who had reserved the album. I wasn’t sure how to digest this, so I asked Mark Kates, the head of alternative promotion at Geffen, if this was normal for big cult bands, and he replied with his eyes popping out, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.” The next day, my partner told me that a friend of his had been at a Guns N’ Roses show in New York when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was played over the PA, and the huge macho crowd cheered. That was when we realized that it was going to be bigger than anything that anyone involved had dreamed of.

"Here we are now. Entertain us."

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