– That’s a line from Nirvana’s “Stay Away”
Later this year, Nirvana’s Nevermind will have been out for 20 years. Considered by many as a sell-out record due to its large budget, and stellar production by Butch Vig, it nonetheless changed the landscape of popular music. It was a record that cannot be replicated, and in today’s age of YouTube, iTunes and Autotune, it’s impact probably also can never be repeated. These guys had sold a million records so quickly that they were still touring in a van and hadn’t had a chance to upgrade to a bus. For me personally, this is not my favorite record of all time, and truth-be-told, if I listened to the whole thing straight through twice a year, that would be surprising. Currently it is, but at times, Nevermind is not even my favorite Nirvana record.
Back to Nevermind. Like everyone my age, I watched as much MTV as I could in the early 90s. When Nevermind came out, I was only 10, but my parents are awesome and allowed me to immerse in music when I was 8. I had a variety of Black Sabbath records, a secret copy of GNR’s Appetite for Destruction (secret because I wasn’t allowed to have explicit lyrics albums back then), and Alice Cooper’s Trash. I was no newcomer to the rock game. One day, I was watching MTV, hoping to catch some hot Metal video chicks when Smells Like Teen Spirit came on. The smoky brown gym, the black-clad cheerleaders, the dirty musicians…they didn’t excite me.
I bet you didn’t think that was coming.
Dude, I was only 10. I didn’t even have arm pit hair let alone “teen spirit” or angst. I didn’t relate, and the grunginess of it just didn’t rock like Welcome to the Jungle did. In fact, my poorly developed understanding of music led me to enjoy Weird Al’s “Smells Like Nirvana” more than Nirvana’s original (I WAS TEN!). Not that Weird Al’s song is bad, it’s not; it’s genius, but it’s not as valuable as Teen Spirit. It would be like loving The Monkees more than The Beatles. They are both valuable, but one is more valuable.
Eventually, I heard In Bloom, and saw the video, which for a young person was both funny and somehow angry (it remains one of my favorite all time videos). Maybe this was the awakening to angst I don’t think I’ve ever quite lost. After seeing the In Bloom video, I got the album and immediately fell in love with Breed, Polly, Territorial Pissings and Something in the Way. Suddently, I could FEEL the music, and oh-my-goodness, it was overwhelming in the best kind of way.
Breed is possibly my favorite Nirvana song…that or Lounge Act…
Nevermind was critically important in my life because it is what made me want to play music. I had just started playing trombone in the school band, but trombone didn’t rock (I hadn’t heard ska yet). I wanted to play guitar. Unfortunately for me, my friend Jimmy already played guitar and my brother already played drums, and my friend Zig was already a keyboardist and passable guitarist. Which left me with bass.
I’d be lying if I said I learned how to play the songs off Nevermind. Truth is that I know how to play a few, but for the most part, by the time I was actually learning bass (starting in 1995), I was learning Silverchair, Filter, 311 and Rage Against the Machine.
There is no doubt that Nevermind was the catalyst that led me to playing bass. Here’s to 20 years of listening to an absolutely awesome album and 20 years of knowing that rocking out is what I want to do.