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Twenty years ago Nirvana released their sophomore album Nevermind. Little did they know that it was going to change the world – musically at least. Three years later, Kurt Cobain took his own life. Earlier this week was the 17th anniversary of his death. I haven’t listened to Nirvana much in the past few years, but after reading the stories of the anniversary of his death I sat down and listened to Nevermind and was reminded why this record was such a game changer.
I first heard Nirvana when I saw the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on 120 Minutes. Needless to say I was blown away and ran right out to buy the tape. I was a junior in high school at the time and had been listening to a steady diet of R.E.M., The Smiths, The Charlatans UK, Concrete Blonde, Jesus Jones, and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. There was an anger in Nirvana’s music that spoke to me. It spoke to my frustration with high school and the way that my friends and I were treated (anyone who listened to and dressed like they listened to what would become known as alternative music—even through we called it progressive at the time—was a second class citizen in my high school in Lakeland, FL). One memory that stands out from that time – I’m walking down the hall at the end of the day when someone I’d known since 6th grade comes up next to me and makes a comment about the cover of the Nevermind tape that I was carrying (he said it was gross). A few months later he and all of his friends (he was a jock) we’re into Nirvana. It made me sick. Here were these kids that treated us like crap listening to our music. Little did I know how much worse it would get…
After Nevermind, the mainstream musical landscape changed dramatically. All sorts of bands were getting signed to major labels (or for the ones that were already on majors, finally getting some descent promotion). I didn’t take too long though for the majors to start creating their own “alternative” bands to spoon feed to the masses (see Stone Temple Pilots). Nirvana always rejected that aspect of the music industry and I’ve respected that about them for years. Sadly though things didn’t last very long for Kurt. The last single that was released prior to his death was for the song “All Apologies” and in many ways it was fitting that it would be they last single the band released prior to the end.
While I’m not a huge fan of Nirvana, probably due to burn out, I do admire their music and cannot deny that Nevermind was an album that defined my generation and an entire decade.