Can You Believe Nevermind Is 20? Me Either!

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!

12 Replies to “Can You Believe Nevermind Is 20? Me Either!”

  1. I LOVED that cd (though I got into it a little late). I was just laughing to myself recently at the thought that alot of kids today would probably consider bands like Creed and Staind to be "old" groups. It's amazing how time flies!

      1. No, but if they were good, I'd like to check them out. What did you think of them? Who would you compare them to? I learned about these bands at random and through other people, as I mainly listened to the radio and did not watch music videos.

      2. I JUST saw HELMET play at the Bowery ballroom two weeks ago! They were/are one of my faves from the 90s. I got to hug Page Hamilton twice at the show!!!!! OMG!!!! And took a photo with his guitar god arms wrapped around me like we’ve been friends 20yrs,lol. Such a great show, and they were still pumping out the chunky, funky, riff heavy metal like it was 1995, lol. Not everything Page does is gold, but nothing rocks my their first 4 albums, with Unsung being a genius standout piece.

  2. I can't believe Nevermind is 20 years old now either. But to be honest even though the Nirvana and Smashing Pumkins' genre and era of music was better than quite a lot of the newer sounds coming out today, grunge the soound and fashion of it never used to resonate with me at all. That's mostly because I didn't care for the 90s at all for my own reasons and I found the 90s ugly to look at and boring to listen to so I didn't care who was feeling angst at all, which is really sad as that was my generation (But hey I didn't get to pick it!).

    I used to spend most of that time listening to the oldies station playing mostly 60s and 70s music! Mostly in my Mom's car but sometimes at home too.

    1. The difference comes into play with whether a group is writing their own music and what they're trying to convey. I didn't mention Pearl Jam for example (because I kinda hated them, lol — too much hype) BUT they were spot on with Jeremy. It was very eerie to see that play out in real life.

  3. Pt 2
    And Tori was like the yin to Nirvana's yang for me. She spoke to that feminine yearning for expression on a whole other level. She was like the 90s Kate Bush. And I can't remember any other singer at the time having such an interesting voice and melodic style. It's funny though, now I just can't listen to her because it reminds me to much of all the pain I was in at the time. Something about her voice and lyrics just says everything I was feeling at the time and I just can't relive it again. And yet, I can listen to Nirvana and not feel the stab as deeply, well except for Come as You Are, Polly, Lithium, and Rape Me. As long as those are off the playlist, I'm good.

    Me too. I reacted to Kurt's death as if I lost my best friend. It's still really painful every April.

    What about Alice in Chains?

      1. They had a lot of good songs and there was something about Layne's voice…Rooster is still one of my favorite songs.

    1. Tori has always rejected the Kate comparison and while their musicality is quite different, their support of female expression set them apart. But….yeah I've recognized a familiarity of themes. Tori is her own artist though. Kate hates flying and wasn't so into promoting her career. Tori is a true road dog -- which I can attest to having seen her perform about 20 times in the past decade. I even got to meet with her privately when I lived in London and she was very gracious.

  4. Pt 1
    OMG Faith! Smells Like Teen Spirit changed my life! I remember where I was when I first heard it. It was before school when I was living in hell….I mean, Augusta Georgia. For a 13 yr old from Los Angeles, this was about as far from civilization you could get. I was still listening to a lot of the hair and metal bands of the 80s, but hadn't heard anything new that I was into. One of the rocker guys I was bonding with at school ran up to me all excited and was like, Shermayne, you have GOT to hear this. It's from this band called Nirvana from Seattle. (Seattle, where? LOL) So he put in the CASSETTE TAPE in his WALKMAN, and let me listen. WOW, WTF?! Few songs had ever quite captured what I felt as a teenager the way SLTS did. When I gratefully returned to LA this was the first album I bought with my little allowance, lol.

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