This is the first of an ongoing feature for Platform music as the writers look back at their favourite record. A piece of music that has defined, shaped and made them who they are today. First to undergo the music lobotomy is music editor Mark Linsdell (me). It’s the album that got me into playing music, being a mardy ass and wearing patches on my bag. I’m talking about Nirvana’s classic Nevermind.
In 1990, Nirvana’s drummer Chad Canning left the group on after being bored at the ‘lack of success’ they had achieved. It is safe to say, a year later, Chad was kicking himself. Rocks nicest guy Dave Grohl was employed on drums following his services to hardcore band ‘Scream’ and as the cliché goes ‘the rest is history.’
Nirvana released their most critically and commercially acclaimed album of their career, Nevermind, the following year and its influence is still felt today. Endless bands in the past 20 years proclaim Nevermind as the reason they got interested in music and Nirvana also bought grunge into the mainstream, which put down a dire hair metal era on its last legs.
Opening track ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ features one of the most recognisable, easiest and best riffs of all time. A song that was well noted as being hated by Kurt Cobain – who admitted he was trying to write a Pixies song – nearly didn’t make it on the album. The first single on the album is arguably the main driving force behind the album’s success and quickly became the anthem for disheartened youths throughout the states and in the UK.
Despite the song and the album’s heavy sound, it was a departure from Nirvana’s previous records. Their debut album ‘Bleach’ was a lo-fi grunge record which sounded chaotic and constantly on the brink of destruction. Butch Vig – who later became the drummer in Shirley Manson’s band Garbage – was employed as producer after being recommended by Nirvana’s previous record label Sub Pop. He brought around many changes to Nirvana’s sound. The most notable being over dubbing the vocals and guitars which was considered a taboo in grunge and was an idea that Kurt despised, however, Butch won him round with 4 simple words, “The Beatles did it”.
Second single ‘Come as You Are’ showed Nirvana’s pop credentials with a hypnotic riff that sounded almost new wave. The classic ambiguity in the lyrics showed why many consider Kurt amongst one of the best lyricists of our time. The video featured Kurt swaying on a chandelier and having his face distorted by a constant stream of water. Rumour has it that Kurt was so doped out of his mind on the day of the shoot that the water ‘screen’ had to be employed to cover his face as otherwise MTV wouldn’t touch it a ten foot bargepole.
The album features a great range of emotions and dynamics. For example, the obituary to a horrifically raped girl in the sombre acoustic number, Polly is followed by the balls to the wall hardcore punk (which made for a memorable performance on Jonathan Ross) of Territorial Pissings.
Lithium was Nirvana’s third single off Nevermind and it featured a chorus that repeated the word “yeah”
throughout. The chorus came about due to a competition between him and REM vocalist Michael Stipe on who could say “yeah” most in a song. Unfortunately for Nirvana, REM’s ‘Man on the Moon’ edged their effort.
The album ends on Something in the Way which demonstrated Nirvana’s new found ability to produce stripped back heart wrenching acoustic numbers. But most hauntingly, it is a stark reminder of the downward spiral that Kurt’s life took following the mainstream success of this magnificent album.
Nirvana disbanded tragically in 1994 following Kurt Cobain’s suicide and rock fans throughout the world were left thinking what might have been. Dave Grohl went on to form Foo Fighters – who have now outsold Nirvana- and bassist Chris is now a politician. However, their greatest influence is undoubtedly the amount of teenagers that have heard Nevermind and started bands in their garages to try and emulate one of rocks greatest martyrs.
Mark Linsdell- Music Editor