Wow. 20 years ago. Doesn't time fly? Today (April 5 2014) marks twenty years since the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. I was nine years old at the time and clearly remember my parents talking about the news while we were at a pub called The Three Magpies in Seend, Wiltshire. Cobain's suicide marked the end of the American grunge boom and during that same month of April '94, the tides were beginning to change and the focus was shifting onto Britpop. Were Nirvana overrated? To a certain extent yes, and I do think that Kurt's suicide and subsequent status as a rock n roll martyr has led the band's music to be held in a higher respect. But there's no denying his influence and impact. Posthumously, he has sold more records than any other artist. There was a period in the early 2000's where things were once shifting back to American rock, and I became briefly obsessed with Nirvana for a while. Their music also led to me investigate the group's influences, which then led to me discovering the Pixies, who I now consider to be the superior band.
So to mark twenty years since Cobain's death and to reflect on his contribution towards musical history, here are ten of my personal favourite Nirvana moments. A Spotify playlist featuring these tracks is available near the bottom of this post.
'Bleach' was their debut studio album, released in June 1989 through Sub Pop Records. The main recording sessions took place between December 1988 and January 1989. It failed to chart in the U.S. upon its original release but made both UK and US charts after it was re-released by Geffen Records in 1992 following the success of Nirvana's second album, Nevermind. It is Sub Pop's best-selling release to date. The thirty hours of recording time that it took to record 'Bleach' cost the band just $606.17.
The following tracks can be found on the 1992 compilation 'Incesticide', which consists of their 1990 single "Sliver", demos, outtakes, covers, and radio broadcast recordings.In the book 'Cobain Unseen' (which I own a copy of), Charles R. Cross writes that Cobain agreed to the release of this compilation because he was allowed complete control over the album's artwork...
Produced by Butch Vig and released in Spetember 1991, the seminal 'Nevermind' was the group's biggest moment. Despite low commercial expectations by the band and its record label, the album became a surprise success in late 1991, largely due to the popularity of its classic first single, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'.
The album has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. According to Wikipedia: "'Nevermind' not only popularized the Seattle grunge movement, but also brought alternative rock as a whole into the mainstream, establishing its commercial and cultural viability."
My personal favourite Nirvana album, the heavily tortured 'In Utero' was their third and final studio album, and was issued in 1993.
Wishing to make a drastic departure from the polished production of the previous album, to capture a more abrasive sound, they hired producer Steve Albini to record In Utero quickly with few studio embellishments. Upon release, In Utero entered the Billboard 200 chart at number one and has since has sold 15 million copies worldwide.