Boy, am I gonna age myself talking about this, but Nirvana held such a featured place in my teen to adult transition I’d be remiss in not discussing them. Much ink has already been dispensed analyzing the band’s impact, how well they got along, the influence of Courtney Love and how much the music industry has changed.
We’re not gonna rehash it here!
I will say that in my post-Michael Alig/Club Kid but pre-Candy Raver concurrent Shoe-gazer days I had two albums (still hadn’t given up on vinyl completely) on constant rotation: Nevermind and Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes. Both spoke to me in completely opposite ways that nonetheless deeply resonated. Cobain’s death had as much impact as if I’d known him personally – my reaction surprised me.
Achieving such heightened states of bliss and enlightenment as the band’s name would elude him. I felt completely torn up that someone with such promise couldn’t imagine coming out of such despair when his music alleviated it for so many. You have to remember this was the era when The Cure (Disintegration) and Depeche Mode (Violator) had released their best work to date. Considering Nevermind was Nirvana’s second release it goes to show you why bands need time to develop.
New bands like the Smashing Pumpkins and Curve were causing a stir. One of my favorite movies ever (My Own Private Idaho) with the best actor of his generation (River Phoenix) would find its way to the multi-plex before he too, succumbed to his demons.
Yes, there was angst, but it went deeper.
People were trying to have an impact while either acting out or self-imploding. The difference with today’s crop of “entertainers” and reality hacks is that it was real with those people. Their joy or pain was not marketed (perhaps as much – if at all) nor was it manufactured.
Millions of teens and young adults didn’t rush out to buy something created by a focus group. MTV still played music – and videos back then. While I know we didn’t know Kurt, you still felt a connection. The fact he could be so enigmatic made him all the more appealing. It was a vibe many of us felt tangibly. I devoured every lyric, hungry for more.
Oddly enough, I had been listening to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit‘ for six months before its official release because a dj played what my friends and I thought was a white label single from some random band. It was the song we unknowingly slam-danced to as a tension release every Tuesday. When I heard it on the radio for the first time I knew it was going to be huge. It was a game-changer.
On another note, their next release ‘Come As You Are’ gave me chills and made me squirm, but I wasn’t looking for clues of instability and hopelessness back then.
Kurt may not have liked her cover, but plenty of people did!