If the '90s were a movie, the soundtrack would be 100 % Nirvana. Back in the days when Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl stepped on the scene with ripped jeans, raw sound, and screaming vocals, their grungy revolution completely changed the face of popular culture.
The music they popularized, far from being the apathy anthem it is often referred to as, was like a heavy kick in the face of corporate greed. It was new.
It was nervous. He was ahead of his time. Even now, years later, where alternative rock is hitting the airwaves and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is played without irony at billion dollar events, the punk philosophy of Nirvana continues to gain new fans.
However, while the place of Nirvana in the story is assured, the struggles they faced as a group are also well documented.
Between drug addiction, depression, tension and self-doubt, things often got complicated behind the scenes, all building on the infamous tragedy that ultimately ended the group.
POVERTY, HOMELESSNESS AND TWO CHILDREN WHO LOVED MUSIC
Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic first became vaguely aware of each other as other bullied outcasts at High School in Aberdeen, Wash., According to Nirvana: The Biography. Novoselic, the son of Yugoslav refugees, skillfully sabotaged school assemblies. Cobain left his mother's house when he was only 17, dropped out of school and quickly became homeless.
Some of the places he slept at night included a cardboard box, the hospital waiting room and under a bridge, according to the Aberdeen History Museum, that's when he didn't was not arrested for putting graffiti on the walls of the alleys. In a sadly ironic twist, teenage Cobain's job search landed him a janitor job at the same high school he had abandoned.
It was around this time, according to the NME, that Novoselic - who was still a student - first noticed how Cobain still expressed himself artistically, even when he was at work. Cobain had already put together a DIY album, as the NME describes it, and he gave a copy to Novoselic… who ignored it for months. Ouch.
Once Novoselic listened, however, he realized the guy had serious talent and accepted his offer to start a band. The two children started playing together in a hairdressing salon run by Novoselic's aunt, probably having no idea that their punk mentality, unique sound, and working-class origins were about to change popular music, forever. .
A GROUP WITH MANY NAMES AND IDENTITIES
Cobain and Novoselic have been slow to find their niche. At first, no one was too excited about the music they were making, according to NME, Cobain describing their first concerts like playing in front of an audience of "locals who hated our guts and thought it was terrible music."
Certainly, the Nirvana that performed these shows was not the Nirvana that you know today. They hadn't gotten into their groove yet, and nowhere was this more evident than in the band's quest for a proper name. “Fecal Matter” was a name Cobain liked, according to Yahoo, which is certainly hard to imagine playing well on MTV.
Smell Fish, Man Bug, Ted Ed Fred, Labido, Skid Row, and the Reaganites are other band names he came up with. Eventually, LounderSound writes that Cobain shifted gears, realized he wanted a nicer, more meaningful band name instead of a cranky name, and went with " Nirvana ”, Based on the Buddhist concept of enlightenment. Much better.
Now what about that smiley face Nirvana with X eyes that you have on your T-shirt? This emblem came much later, but it is believed to have been simply a sketch Cobain drew for a flyer in 1991.
NIRVANA'S DRUMMERS COME AND COME, OFTEN IN A CHAOTIC MANNER
Now, if you're a Nirvana fan, you've probably noticed the lack of a key name from the band's formation (other than Pat Smear, who joined much later), and that's Dave Grohl.
It's because Nirvana passed through a cargo of drummers en route to the winner, according to Mental Floss, many of whom left the group on criminal grounds. Their first guy, Aaron Buckhard, was abandoned after getting into a fight with a police officer and impounding Cobain's car. Not cool.
Next drummer Dale Crover made a brief stint before moving to San Francisco. His replacement, Dave Foster, assaulted a mayor's son and was arrested. Several others followed, most notably Chad Channing, until Cobain and Novoselic finally met Grohl.
Grohl and Nirvana were, luckily, a perfect marriage (or Nirvana, if you prefer). As Cobain later said, according to NME, “The band is finally complete because all the other drummers we had were pretty much sucks. "
As this constant drummer reshuffle unfolded, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Nirvana had hit small rooms across the northwest, making waves. One of the demos of Nirvana fell into the lap of a Seattle indie label named Sub Pop, which signed the band. In 1988, they released their first single - a cover of the Shocking Blue song "Love Buzz" - and their debut album, Bleach, was released the following year.
THE GUY WHO PAID THE BILL FOR NIRVANA
Have you ever heard of Jason Everman? It's a name you have to know, as the New York Times explains. Everman is the guy who funded the debut album of Nirvana, Bleach, for a total of 606.17 $ - which may not sound like a lot, but it's a big dough for a team of disheveled teens like the start of Nirvana.
Everman was also Nirvana's second guitarist for a good part of the time… but today he tries to avoid talking about the whole shebang. Why? Because it didn't go well. While Nirvana was on the road, Everman's vibe just didn't match the other guys in the van.
He was calm, withdrawn, and seemed to have for the most part stopped talking to everyone in the group, which ultimately led Cobain to consider him a "lunatic metalhead." The tension increased and Nirvana - being a bunch of punks who had yet to learn how to deal with weird emotional conflicts - actually canceled their tour and returned home for 50 hours, in dead silence, just to throw Everman to the curb. Damn it.
With Nirvana in his taillights, Everman joined Soundgarden. It makes sense, but then Everman took a left turn and joined… uh, US Army Special Forces. Even more surprisingly, Everman followed his military stint by earning a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Columbia University. A hell of a unique career path, that's for sure.
THE FAME, THE SUCCESS ... AND THE DOUBT OF NIRVANA
As the Encyclopedia Britannica points out, the moment when Nirvana went from underground success to global phenomenon was, without a doubt, the 1991 release of their first major album, Nevermind.
This included their single "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which aired almost 24/7 on MTV, quickly turning it into one of those songs anyone can hum, even if they don't understand. the clever sarcasm of the words.
After the initial thrill of success, however, Nirvana - and Cobain in particular - quickly felt uncomfortable with all the attention they were receiving. Cobain's new reputation as a spokesperson for his generation was not something he embraced: at one point, he said emphatically to Rolling Stone, "I am a spokesperson for myself." , arguing that he was as confused as everyone else, and didn't have the answers people were looking for.
Either way, Cobain quickly became a cult hero. His dirty, edgy, down-to-earth reputation was only bolstered by his aversion to celebrity deity, refusal to accept offers of limousine rides, etc.
As Nirvana became an icon, rumors circulated that Cobain could use heroin. At the time, he rejected these claims, but time would prove them infamously correct.
HEALTH PROBLEMS AND HEROIN ABUSE
Throughout an interview with Rolling Stone in 1992, Cobain publicly discussed the mysterious undiagnosed stomach pains that had plagued him for much of his life - and denied the allegations of heroin use. .
He went so far as to denounce drug use completely, calling it a "waste of time," and also argued that his poor health had reached a point where he could no longer even drink alcohol, let alone use alcohol. hard drugs.
It was… not true, to say the least. In fact, according to Newsweek, Cobain's chronic stomach disease and his heroin use were deeply linked: he started using the drug intermittently in the late 1980s, especially to relieve his gastrointestinal symptoms. .
Fairly easy to understand - if not wise - but Cobain's lifetime struggle with depression caused a toxic crisis with heroin abuse, and he became addicted.
Although casual observers have often speculated that Cobain's drug problems may have been caused by either Nirvana's sudden fame or her turbulent relationship with Courtney Love, the facts show that her struggles predated both of those things.
ANYTHING FROM NEVERMIND MATTERS
Everyone loved Nevermind… except, ironically, Kurt Cobain himself.
There's no question that Nevermind was the album that made Nirvana a cultural force to be reckoned with, but according to Slate, Cobain came to hate the record's bright, studio sound.
In one of his characteristically outspoken interviews, he once described Nevermind as a 'candy', saying that in hindsight he was embarrassed. This dislike had nothing to do with the band's work itself - in fact, he liked the original, unimproved version of the album, which has since been re-released - but rather, he despised the way the engineer The Andy Wallace sound cut the noise, smoothed out flaws and evened it all out in a radio-friendly finish.
According to Cobain, these changes may have looked more professional, but they were a lot less grunge. Fair enough.
Following this, Nirvana hired Steve Albini for their upcoming album, In Utero. This latest version, according to PSN Europe, was recorded and mixed in less than two weeks, fitting in much more naturally to Nirvana's chaotic and improvised style.
DRUG OVERDOSE BEFORE NIRVANA PLAYS SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
By 1992, there was no doubt that Nirvana had grown into the biggest band in the world, and that same year they made a notable appearance on Saturday Night Live. As Dave Grohl says he, the surprisingly small size of the entire SNL was mind-blowing, talking nothing of manic energy or the fact that they immediately got called by Weird Al Yankovic, who asks permission to spoof "Smells". Like Teen Esprit. "
Sadly, the group's SNL appearance was clouded by the deepening chasm of drug abuse that Cobain was sinking into. During a photoshoot the day before the debut, according to the Nirvana Club, Cobain kept falling asleep. He overdosed on heroin later that night and was only revived by an illegal dose of the drug administered by Courtney Love.
Nonetheless, Nirvana was fully ready for SNL the next day. The band erased the stage in a frenzied performance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Territorial Pissings,” breaking gear everywhere. Fortunately for the network, they had prepared for this by replacing their usual sound equipment with cheap stuff.
NIRVANA'S CONFLICTS WITH OTHER GROUPS
Nirvana did not hold her tongue.
When they had a problem with other groups, they spoke up. For example, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Cobain criticized Pearl Jam as corporate shills that had jumped on the grunge bandwagon. Ouch. Cobain's greatest anger, however, was reserved for Axl Rose of Guns' N Roses.
Cobain has often accused Rose's music of being meaningless junk, according to Rolling Stone, which ultimately led Rose to view Cobain as an "F-in 'junkie with a drugged woman."
However, the deepest reason Cobain hated Rose so much - the music spat aside - was his belief that Rose was a racist and sexist homophobe. You see, even though people still paint Nirvana as a symbol of Gen X apathy, the real Kurt Cobain was a tireless advocate for LGBTQ + rights, women's rights, and more, who was way ahead of his time. time: according to Mashable, he spoke frequently.
Against Homophobia, publicly told fanatics to stay away from her shows and spoke openly about how women are oppressed by popular culture. He sometimes wore dresses on stage, according to the BBC, to protest sexism, and he once said that even though he was not gay he would have liked to be, because that would make homophobes angry.
Was he right about Axl Rose? Decide for yourself, but remember that in 2018, as the Guardian points out, Guns N 'Roses had to remove one of their 1988 songs from an album reissue because the lyrics had racist and homophobic insults.
AS NIRVANA GROWED, COBAIN'S HEALTH PROBLEMS ALSO GROWED
In 1994, Nirvana was bigger than ever. However, at this point there was no way to hide the issues that were going on behind the scenes. In March, news broke that Cobain had been hospitalized in Rome following a brief coma, caused by a terrible combination of champagne and prescription tranquilizers.
Neither Cobain nor Love commented on the matter, but the following month the Los Angeles Times reported that Nirvana was forced to quit an impending appearance at Chicago's famous Lollapalooza '94 music festival, citing Cobain's health concerns. . Rumors were circulating that the largest group in the world was on the verge of collapse.
Sources close to the group said the theories were absurd, pointing out that Nirvana had often been on the verge of breaking up, and the members always ended up making things right.
Sadly, as you probably know by now, the perceived threat of Nirvana's disbandment was minor compared to the tragic circumstances that quickly unfolded ...
THE SUICIDE OF KURT COBAIN
On April 8, 1994, as described by Biography, Kurt Cobain's body was found in the greenhouse above his Seattle garage, with a shotgun fallen to his chest.
He had been missing for days after a brief stint in rehab: the previous month, his fellow Nirvana group, his friends and his wife had organized an intervention, begging him for treatment. A suicide note was found and the autopsy found traces of heroin and Valium in his body.
Cobain had struggled with depression his entire life. He is believed to have considered suicide as a teenager (according to NME) and that the stresses of adulthood, health issues and heroin addiction weighed heavily on him.
However, Newsweek points out that he certainly did not kill himself because of Nirvana's success, as is so often theorized, and while he has often been accused of not caring about his young daughter - IE, " If he did, why would he kill himself? - it's important to recognize that not only did he desperately try to get sober, for the sake of his daughter, but his own suicide note contained the mistaken claim that she would be happier with him dead.
Basically, Cobain has spent much of his life struggling with self-loathing, financial instability, drug addiction, and undiagnosed health issues. His depression was deep and it is not fair to judge him for it.
Nirvana ended with the death of Kurt Cobain. He was the voice of the group, the heart and the center of their message. However, as the dust settles and the years go by, his band mates go back to making music.
Among the remaining members of Nirvana, Krist Novoselic has kept the lowest profile. He has performed in a number of small groups, according to the Seattle Times, with his most recent venture being a local Wahkiakum County band called Giants in the Trees.
As for Dave Grohl, well you know what he did: he founded the Foo Fighters in 1995, according to Biography, a group that produced iconic hits like "Everlong," earning their own place in history. music. There's also Pat Smear, Nirvana's last second guitarist, who joined Grohl on the Foo Fighters, according to Rockapedia.
Ultimately, however, it's hard not to think about what might have happened if Cobain had lived. Does Nirvana still exist today? It seems likely that Cobain's creative tendencies ultimately led him to go it alone, a la Sting and the Police, to foster new innovations and approaches.
As the BBC points out, in 1993 he was talking about evolving into acoustic instruments, and he was always taking new directions. So whatever happened next in his career, it sure would have been fascinating… and, perhaps, a change as big as Nirvana himself.
NIRVANA: dates and chronology
- On May 10, 1965, birth of Krist Novoselic.
- On February 20, 1967, birth of Kurt Cobain.
- On January 14, 1969, birth of Dave Grohl.
- Fall 1985 Kurt meets Krist. They play together in several groups, including Stiff Woodies.
- December 1987 Kurt, Krist and drummer Aaron Burckhard form the original Nirvana lineup in Aberdeen, Washington.
- January 23, 1988 Nirvana records a 10 song demo with legendary Seattle producer Jack Endino Godfather of Grunge. Sub Pop boss Jonathan Poneman hears the tape and offers to release a Nirvana single. The group accepts.
- October 30, 1988 Kurt breaks his first guitar.
- June 1989 Bleach is released on Sub Pop. Nirvana begins a month-long US tour.
- September 25, 1990 Dave Grohl, former Washinton drummer, DC's Scream, joins Nirvana.
- October 1990 Nirvana toured England briefly with L7.
- Winter 1991 Nirvana signs with DGC Records.
- August 1991 Nirvana opens for Sonic Youth on a tour of European festivals, which includes a historic performance at the
- Reading Festival. The tour is documented in the 1991 film: The Year Punk Broke.
- September 24, 1991 Nevermind comes out.
- October 12, 1991 Nevermind is certified gold.
- November 1991 The group begins a six-week European tour as Nirvanamania hits the United States. MTV
- continuously broadcasts the video “Smells Like Teen Spirit”; the song is hailed as an anthem for a generation.
- On January 11, 1992, Nevermind reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart.
- January / February 1992 Nirvana tours Australia, Japan and Hawaii.
- April 1992 Nirvana appears on the cover of Rolling Stone.
- June / July 1992 Nirvana tours in Europe.
- December 15, 1992 Incesticide, a collection of B-sides and rarities, is released. It turns golden the following spring.
- April 9, 1993 Nirvana gives a concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco to raise awareness and generate help for rape victims
- in Bosnia and Herzegovina. L7, the Breeders and Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy are also playing.
- September 21, 1993 In Utero comes out.
- October 18, 1993 Nirvana begins a three-month tour of North America.
- November 19, 1993 Nirvana records a fully acoustic show for "MTV Unplugged" at Sony Studios in New York.
- Meat Puppets' Cris and Curt Kirkwood perform in three Meat Puppets songs.
- On December 16, 1993, MTV aired Nirvana's "Unplugged" program.
- January 7, 1994 Nirvana plays at Seattle Arena. It will be the last American concert of the group.
- February 6, 1994 Nirvana begins a tour of Europe.
Eric CANTO Photographer: Concert photos, portraits, album covers.