Perhaps this is a good time to come as you are into the journey of my 32 most influential albums in 32 days. Now that we’re getting toward the end, putting my #AlmostFamous journey into a before and after period, Nirvana was certainly the great delineator of my rock critic life. When this one came along, everything changed in music – and my life changed, too, as I became a club and wedding DJ and a sports radio shock jock speaking truth to power in other ways.
I was the one who liked all the pretty songs and I liked to sing along…
Music historians far more verbose and qualified than myself would tell you that “Nevermind” was an epochal generational shift. What else did you expect from Kurt Cobain, who set out to have a sound of The Knack and the Bay City Rollers getting molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath?
No wonder I loved it!
You never forget the first time you heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – and as the record shows, I had already heard a LOT of music in my life before my 23rd birthday. I remember one night riding around with Kevin Eck and we couldn’t turn that CD up loud enough or listen to it enough. And that hadn’t happened since “Red Barchetta”…
I left The Evening Sun and a life of Cameron Crowe dreams about three months after this was released and started doing Orioles reports from Camden Yards. One day, I’ll write further about how I almost became the music critic of The Memphis Commercial Appeal and The Tacoma Morning News Tribune and the zillion directions my life could’ve taken if I had ever been foolish enough to leave Baltimore.
There was something about Nirvana that was so very different at the time.
The sound was loud and numbing and raging and I was 23 years old. My hair was getting longer and this was the next big thing. Hammerjacks was about to die. And this grunge thing was very, very real – like a #MusicalNes pandemic!
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” was just an invitation to dive into the rest of this Cobain buffet of short, edgy, wailingly passionate mumbling tracks that all had a screech and an urgency that didn’t sound like anything else any of us had ever heard.
I listened to this very loudly, very often and always in its entirety. I loved every track. Still do.
My favorites are “Drain You” and “On a Plain” but they all have such a primal appeal, even all of these years later.
The naked baby on the cover chasing the dollar bill is now in his thirties. He once told a reporter that he has the most famous penis in the history of rock music – and I believe him!
Kurt Cobain didn’t have to die to make this music. And as you get older and read the lyrics and know the legacy, it’s shame that living life killed him because he was a melodic genius. And a tortured soul…