A lot of noise has been made about the fact that, round about 20 years ago, an album was released by some greasy kids representing a budding genre of rock music defined by distorted power chords, shouted lyrics, and anger.
I was nine, a newly-baptized Southern Baptist Jesushead–and I was oblivious to grunge.
Don’t misunderstand me — I was not sheltered from [what I then called] secular music. In the car, we had two radio stations — Sunny 100 (mom in the car) and Rock 103, neither of which were Jesus music stations. I’m not sure one even existed in the hooch valley back in the early 90s. If one did, we didn’t listen to it.
So basically, I grew up to a mix of oldies and pop from mom, and classic rock from dad. Though Rock 103 was not a classic rock station, my dad would only turn up the volume when he heard music made by bands that were in their prime when he was in his prime — late 60s to early 80s. Zeppelin, Jimi, Cream, The Who, Queen, Santana, CCR, Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Allman Brothers, Wet Willie, Grand Funk, Rush, Yes, Kansas (how prophetic…), Journey, and a host of others. These bands were the rock royalty against which I judged anything else I heard.
Nirvana wasn’t really even on my radar until much, much later in life. I’d left behind the Praise Jesus Bible thumpin’, but never the classic rock. Though the old gods remain strongest, I’ve found a few newer rock deities at whose altars I’d offer thanks, though my focus tends toward individual musicians rather than bands — Jack White, David Grohl, Flea, Vic Wooten, and Robert Randolph to name a few, and some leftovers from my dad’s era, like John Paul Jones, Eddie Van Halen, Dickey Betts, Carlos Santana, and Geddy Lee.
Nirvana, speaking primarily through power chords, was an affront to everything I knew to be worthy in rock. Complex melodies, impossibly fast and technical solos — those are supposed to be the hallmarks of a great guitar band. Seeing that Nirvana was a three-piece group, I understood why their music was simple — the lead singer was also the only guitar player. Instead of doing one thing and doing it incredibly well, he was trying to do two things at once while performing.
I am no stranger to live music performance. Long before those fakemusic games came out, I was playing bass guitar with church bands and rock bands. Being only a mediocre player at best, I never tried to do more than play my four or five strings.
So Nirvana sort of offended me on a fundamental level. They seemed to be choosing to be half-ass.
Then along comes Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and music turned into a game that anyone could play. In Bloom featured the best bass riff on the album and there it was for me to play. I even dabbled in drums for the first time. Simple rock turned out to be a lot more fun to fakeplay than to listen to.[youtube:http://youtu.be/PbgKEjNBHqM%5D
But I still cannot understand a word they’re saying.
- HFL Celebrates 20 Years of Nevermind (hifilives.com)
- Seattle museum showcase is a rock fan’s nirvana (travelnews.britishairways.com)
- INTERVIEW: Nirvana’s Nevermind album turns 20 (cbc.ca)
- Reaching the Nirvana of contextualisation (seevl.net)
- Spirit of the times (theage.com.au)
- Remembering Nirvana’s Nevermind (cbc.ca)
- Rock Band Weekly: Nirvana 4-pack, 10 pro guitar upgrades (joystiq.com)
- You: Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ turns 20 (france24.com)
- Between the Grooves of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ (Feature) (popmatters.com)
- The Enduring 20-Year Legacy of Nirvana’s Nevermind (blogcritics.org)
This week we asked, “What does Nirvana’s Nevermind mean to you?”
Here’s what was said.
From the HFL panel:
Nevermind, for me, was not too dissimilar to Star Wars. I wasn’t alive for the original Star Wars film, but Return of the Jedi was one of the first films I saw in a theater. I was 11 when Nevermind came out. I knew it was cool, different, and somehow important, but too young to understand exactly why it was so. In Utero was the first record I was old enough to really “get”, but I diligently went back for Nirvana’s earlier records and became a fan for life. To this day, if I am to go back and revisit Nirvana, I reach for In Utero or Incesticide the same way I would prefer watching Jedi or Empire. Both Nirvana and Star Wars are special to me, personally, but the importance of Nevermind to Nirvana’s legacy holds the same place as A New Hope does for the Star Wars faithful. Cheers… –IronJ146
My favorite band when I was twelve was Poison, and for some reason I thought they were the toughest and coolest guys in the world, and somehow that I was cool by extension. Then I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the first time. These three grimy dweebs from Seattle scared the shit out of me and I didn’t know why, buy I knew I liked it. Looking back, I think Nirvana tapped into a part of me that was angst ridden and disillusioned, and at the time it was comforting to know that I was not alone in those feelings. Nirvana helped me through my teenage years and cured me of that shameful Poison phase. –HI-FI Andrew
I can’t think about Nevermind without thinking of Kurt himself. As much as I love that music and as instrumental as I know it was (and is) to the direction that rock music has taken in the last twenty years, that album is as much a painful reminder of loss. I was 14 when he died. I had all the Nirvana albums. His blue eyes consumed me—as did the way he forced us all to look in the mirror and observe our own shallowness.
As sad as it makes me to think of Kurt’s suicide, when I go back and explore his music and social commentary, I can’t help but fall deeper in love with him. Um hello, a guitar player in ripped jeans and a cardigan? Who is also clearly enlightened and abhors the patriarchal system our society subscribes to? Are you kidding me? That’s hotness on a whole new level! *sigh*
In the end, I guess, his empathy for those who suffer overcame him. Or the drugs. Or both. That sucks and I do not believe that it is “better to burn out than fade away.” Besides, he could never have faded…not to me.
And, of course, he hasn’t. His influence remains because we can channel at least some of his spirit any time we hear Nevermind. For that, I’m grateful. –HI-FI Janna
I had not yet turned 9 when Nevermind was released, and at that point in my life, my parents still made my music choices for me. My mother would never have bought an album with a baby penis on the cover, and I had no one in my life who would introduce me to such music. My exposure to rock was what my dad listened to, what we today call “classic” — anything made before the early 1980’s. As an adult, my appreciation for Nevermind is limited to how much fun it is to play any of the first five album cuts on Rockband or Guitar Hero.
Sorry to be a bummer, but it’s the truth. –I Think Not
Nirvana… where do you start?
When I was in middle school we were known as the “alties” (altie = alternative). Every dance we would all huddle together in a corner of the gym and make fun of all of the poppy music. We would even talk to the DJs who happened to be in a punk band themselves. They would always play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as the last song for us. We would have our own little mosh pit together. It was awesome. I still listen to that album to this day. –BmoreVegan
I don’t really care about Nirvana’s Nevermind. I can’t understand half the words Cobain sings and I never owned any albums of his. Yes, I’m a Nirvana party pooper. I was too busy listening to the Shirelles and the Carpenters.
I also hate Bob Dylan, so there! I’ve said it! –Starr
Nevermind is possibly the most important album of our generation. One could argue otherwise because it may lack the artistic punch of OK Computer, Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness or any number of beautiful albums from that time but if we are simply talking about iconic status, then it stands alone. Nevermind is credited for killing hair metal, which I think we can all agree were some dark days. It opened the door for what I think may be the best period of music. – Just Tony
From HFL fans (via Facebook & Twitter):
To me, Nevermind is an escape from whatever else is happening around me. It applied to the adolescent social pressures I experienced, and continues to apply to my everyday stress (in both a nostalgic and a present manner). As in, “nevermind your troubles, here’s an answer”. -Chad
When I think of Nevermind, the first thing that pops into my head is where I was when I bought it. It was the old record store in Columbus, Georgia’s Peachtree Mall down by Macys – where a shoe store is now located. I just started 11th grade and that was pretty much the record of my school year. Purchasing it was definitely a defining moment in my musical life as well. Even Timm, my younger brother, will tell you that he learned about them from me. It stands out because it was and still is great. -Erin
Seeing Nevermind is 20 years old makes me feel really old but also proud to have been a part of the grunge movement. In my opinion, it has been the best music scene in my lifetime that lasted for years. I am still mad at my Mom for not letting me go with my older brother to see Nirvana and The Breeders in concert – I was in 8th grade at the time. The mosh pit was on ice in the arena!! Also, I still have a good friend who makes fun of me for crying when Kurt killed himself. Growing up in Columbus, Georgia, you were either into grunge or rap. I am proud to have been on what I consider to have been the hippie side of things! -Casey
Nevermind means a lot because that album changed me. The lyrics are passionate. There’s a Nirvana song for any moment in my life. I love that record ❤ Nevermind is amazing! @AnOldEnemy
Clearly an album that broke new musical ground and continues to do so 20 years later. My kids will listen to this. @FakePlasticTune
Nevermind means being free from corruption. @Naveed4am
Nevermind means everything to me. Absolutely genius- it’s the peak of good music. Kurt Cobain won’t be forgotten. @PennyroyalFee
So hard to answer in 140 characters… @OurVinyl
Just takes me back to my teen years. Lucky enough to see them live right before KC passed. Incredible show. @cyuskoff
Nevermind doesn’t do it for me but I appreciate that without the impact that album had, many artists might not have emerged. @myrandomjukebox
‘Drain you’ was always my favorite song off of Nevermind. Kurt’s too. Apparently I have good taste. @LeadingUsAbsurd
Nevermind means Kurt Cobain, the ’80s, REAL GRUNGE and the cult songs. @cobainismine
Nevermind to me is the culmination of over a decade of great NW music, to an audience looking for something authentic. @nwpassage1
Other Nevermind reflections:
Communication Breakdown: http://chrisslater.blogspot.com/2011/09/nevermind-20-years-later.html
Leading Us Absurd: http://leadingusabsurd.com/?p=1597
Physical Graffiti: http://physicalgraffiti1975.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/nevermind-20-2/
The Audio Perv: http://theaudioperv.com/?s=jon+stewart
Musical Mashup: http://kazekitty.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/nevermind/
The Wall Street Journal: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2011/09/19/teen-spirit-redux-20th-anniversary-of-nirvanas-nevermind/
And let us not forget Rolling Stone’s 1991 review of Nevermind: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/nevermind-19911128
Happy 20th, Nevermind!
Please feel free to share your experiences with this game-changing music in the comments.
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