Nevermind is the second studio album by the American rock band Nirvana, released on September 24, 1991. Produced by Butch Vig, Nevermind was the group's first release on DGC Records. Frontman Kurt Cobain sought to make music outside the restrictive confines of the Seattle grunge scene, drawing influence from groups such as the Pixies and their use of loud/quiet song dynamics.
Despite low commercial expectations by the band and its record label, Nevermind became a surprise success in late 1991, largely due to the popularity of its first single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit". By January 1992, it had replaced Michael Jackson's album Dangerous at number one on the Billboard charts. The Recording Industry Association of America has certified the album ten times platinum (10 million copies shipped), and the album has sold over 26 million copies worldwide."". The Courier-Mail. June 2, 2008. Retrieved on December 12, 2010. Nevermind was responsible for bringing alternative rock to a large mainstream audience, and critics subsequently regarded it as one of the best rock albums of all time.
Nirvana was a band from Aberdeen, Washington, formed by Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, that had signed to Seattle independent record label Sub Pop. The group released its debut album Bleach in 1989, with Chad Channing on drums. However, Channing left Nirvana in 1990, and the band was in need of a permanent drummer. During a show by hardcore punk band Scream, the group's drummer, Dave Grohl, impressed Novoselic and Cobain. When Scream unexpectedly disbanded, Grohl contacted Novoselic, made his way to Seattle, and was soon invited to join the band. Novoselic said in retrospect that when Grohl joined the band, everything "fell into place".Classic Albums—Nirvana: Nevermind . Isis Productions, 2004.
Meanwhile Cobain was writing a number of new songs. At the time Cobain was listening to bands like R.E.M., The Smithereens, and the Pixies. Feeling disillusioned by the heavy detuned rock popular in the Seattle grunge scene upon which Sub Pop had built its image, Cobain—inspired by his contemporary listening habits—began writing songs that were more melodic. A key development was the single "Sliver", released on Sub Pop in 1990 (before Grohl joined the band), which Cobain said "was like a statement in a way. I had to write a pop song and release it on a single to prepare people for the next record. I wanted to write more songs like that."Azerrad, 1993. pg. 145 Grohl said that the band at that point often made the analogy of likening their music to children's music, in that the band tried to make its songs as simple as possible.
By the start of the 1990s, Sub Pop was experiencing financial difficulties. With rumors that Sub Pop would sign up as a subsidiary for a major label, the band decided to "cut out the middleman" and start to look for a major label. A number of labels courted the band, but Nirvana ultimately signed with Geffen Records imprint DGC Records based upon the recommendation of its management company Gold Mountain, who also managed the band's idols (and recent Geffen signings) Sonic Youth, and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon.Azerrad, 1993. pg. 162
Recording and production
In the spring of 1990, Nirvana began planning its second album for Sub Pop, tentatively titled Sheep. For the album, Sub Pop head Bruce Pavitt suggested Butch Vig as a potential producer. Nirvana particularly liked Vig's work with Killdozer and called Vig up to tell him, "We want to sound as heavy as that record."Hoi, Tobias. "In Bloom." Guitar World. October 2001. In April 1990, the band traveled out to Vig's Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin to begin work on the album. Most of the basic song arrangements were completed by that time, but Cobain was still working on lyrics and the band was unsure of which songs to record.Berkenstadt; Cross, pg. 29 Ultimately, eight songs were recorded: "Immodium" (later renamed "Breed"), "Dive" (later released as the B-side to "Sliver"), "In Bloom", "Pay to Play" (eventually renamed "Stay Away" and given a new set of lyrics), "Sappy", "Lithium", "Here She Comes Now" (released on Velvet Underground Tribute Album: Heaven and Hell Volume 1), and "Polly".Azerrad, 1993. pg. 137 The band had planned to record more tracks, but Cobain blew his voice out on "Lithium", forcing them to shut down recording. Vig was told that the band would come back to record more songs, but the producer did not hear anything for a while. Instead, the band used the sessions as a demo tape to shop for a new label. Within a few months, the tape was circulating amongst major labels, creating a buzz around the group.Azerrad, 1993. pg. 138
After signing to Geffen, a number of producers for the album were suggested, including Scott Litt, David Briggs, and Don Dixon, but Nirvana still wanted Butch Vig.Azerrad, 1993. pg. 164–65 Novoselic noted in 2001 that the band was already nervous about recording on a major label, and the producers suggested by DGC wanted percentage points for working on the album. Instead, the band held out for Vig, with whom they felt comfortable collaborating.Cross, Charles R. "Requiem for a Dream". Guitar World. October 2001. Afforded a budget of $65,000, Nirvana recorded Nevermind at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California in May and June 1991.Sandford 1995, pg. 181 Nirvana was originally set to record the album during March and April 1991, but the date kept getting pushed back in spite of the band's anxiousness to begin the sessions. To pay gas money to get to Los Angeles, Nirvana played a show where they performed "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the first time. The band sent Vig some rehearsal tapes prior to the sessions that featured songs recorded previously at Smart Studios, along with some new ones including "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Come as You Are".Azerrad 1993, pg. 167
When the group arrived in California, Nirvana did a few days of pre-production where the band and Vig tightened up some of the song arrangements.Azerrad 1993, pg. 169 The only recording carried over from the Smart Studios sessions was the song "Polly", which included cymbal crashes performed by Chad Channing. Once recording commenced, the band worked eight to ten hours a day. The band members tended to take two or three tries at instrumental takes; if the takes weren't satisfactory at that point, they would move on to something else.Azerrad 1993, pg. 174 The group had rehearsed the songs so much before recording started that often only a few takes were needed. Novoselic and Grohl finished their bass and drum tracks in a matter of days, but Cobain had to work longer on guitar overdubs, singing, and particularly lyrics (which sometimes were finished mere minutes before recording).Azerrad 1993, pg. 176 Cobain's phrasing was so consistent on various takes that Vig would mix the takes together to create overdubs. Vig says that he often had to trick Cobain into recording additional takes for overdubs since the singer was averse to performing multiple takes. In particular, Vig convinced Cobain to double-track his vocals on the song "In Bloom" by telling him "John Lennon did it." While the sessions went well generally, Vig said Cobain would become moody and difficult at times: "He'd be great for an hour, and then he'd sit in a corner and say nothing for an hour."
After the recording sessions were completed, Vig and the band set out to mix the album. However, after a few days, both Vig and the band members realized that they were unhappy with how the mixes were turning out. As a result, they decided to call in someone else to oversee the mixing, with Geffen Records imprint DGC supplying a list of possible options. The list contained several familiar names, including Scott Litt (known for his work with R.E.M.) and Ed Stasium (known for his work with The Smithereens). However, Cobain feared that bringing in known mixers would result in the album sounding like the work of those bands. Instead, Cobain chose Andy Wallace (who had co-produced Slayer's 1990 album Seasons in the Abyss) from the bottom of the list.di Perna, Alan. "Grunge Music: The Making of Nevermind". Guitar World. Fall 1996. Novoselic recalled, "We said, 'right on,' because those Slayer records were so heavy."Berkenstadt; Cross, pg. 96 Wallace ran the songs through various special effects boxes and tweaked the drum sounds, completing about one mix per day.Azerrad 1993, pg. 179–80 Both Wallace and Vig noted years later that upon hearing Wallace's work the band loved the mixes.Berkenstadt; Cross, pg. 99 After the album's release members of Nirvana expressed dissatisfaction with the polished sound the mixer had given Nevermind. Cobain said in Come as You Are, "Looking back on the production of Nevermind, I'm embarrassed by it now. It's closer to a Mötley Crüe record than it is a punk rock record."
Nevermind was mastered on the afternoon of August 2 at The Mastering Lab in Hollywood, California. Howie Weinberg started working alone when no one else showed up at the appointed time in the studio; by the time Nirvana, Andy Wallace, and Gary Gersh arrived, Weinberg had mastered most of the album.Berkenstadt; Cross, pg. 102 One of the songs mastered at the session, a hidden track called "Endless, Nameless" intended to appear at the end of "Something in the Way", was accidentally left off initial pressings of the album. Weinberg recalled, "In the beginning, it was kind of a verbal thing to put that track at the end. Maybe I misconstrued their instructions, so you can call it my mistake if you want. Maybe I didn't write it down when Nirvana or the record company said to do it. So, when they pressed the first twenty thousand or so CDs, albums, and cassettes, it wasn't on there." When the band discovered the song's omission after listening to its copy of the album, Cobain called Weinberg and demanded he rectify the mistake.Berkenstadt; Cross, pg. 103 Weinberg complied and added about ten minutes of silence between the end of "Something in the Way" and the start of the hidden track on future pressings of the album.Berkenstadt; Cross, pg. 104
Nevermind was released on September 24, 1991. American record stores received an initial shipment of 46,251 copies,Azerrad 1993, pg. 196 while 35,000 copies were shipped in the United Kingdom, where Bleach had been successful.Berkenstadt; Cross, pg. 113 The lead single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" had been released on September 10 with the intention of being a base-building cut among alternative rock fans, while the next single "Come As You Are" would be the song that would possibly garner more attention.Azerrad 1993, pg. 227 The band set out on a short American tour four days before the release date to support the album. Geffen Records hoped that Nevermind would sell around 250,000 copies, which was the same level the record company had achieved with Sonic Youth's Geffen debut Goo.Wice, Nathaniel. "How Nirvana Made It". Spin. April 1992. The best estimate was that if all involved worked hard, the record could possibly be certified Gold by September 1992.Azerrad 1993, pg. 193
The album debuted on the Billboard 200 at number 144.Azerrad 1993, pg. 198 Geffen shipped about half of the initial US pressing to the American Northwest, where it sold out quickly and was unavailable for days. Geffen reputedly put production of all other albums on hold in order to fulfill demand in the region.Berkenstadt; Cross, pg. 119 Nevermind was already selling well but, over the next few months, the momentum increased significantly as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" unexpectedly became more and more popular. The song's video had received a world premiere on MTV's late night alternative show 120 Minutes but it soon proved so popular that the channel began playing it during the day.Azerrad 1993, pg. 199 The record was soon certified gold, but the band was relatively uninterested in the achievement. Novoselic recalled, "Yeah I was happy about it. It was pretty cool. It was kind of neat. But I don't give a shit about some kind of achievement like that. It's cool—I guess."Azerrad 1993, pg. 202
As the band set out for their European tour at the start of November 1991, Nevermind entered the Billboard Top 40 for the first time at number 35. By this point, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" had become a genuine hit and the album was selling so fast none of Geffen's marketing strategies aimed at different sales levels could be enacted. Geffen president Ed Rosenblatt told The New York Times, "We didn't do anything. It was just one of those 'Get out of the way and duck' records."Azerrad 1993, pg. 228 Nirvana found as they toured Europe during the end of 1991 that the shows were dangerously oversold, television crews became a constant presence onstage, and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was almost omnipresent on radio and music television.Azerrad 1993, pg. 203
Nevermind became Nirvana's first number one album on January 11, 1992, replacing Michael Jackson at the top of the Billboard charts. By this time, Nevermind was selling approximately 300,000 copies a week.Azerrad 1993, pg. 229 "Come As You Are" was finally released as the second single in March 1992; it peaked at number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.. Billboard.com. Retrieved on August 26, 2009. Two more singles, "Lithium" and "In Bloom", were released from the album.
Nevermind was certified Gold and Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in November 1991, and was certified Diamond in March 1999.. RIAA.com. Retrieved on March 10, 2007. NB user needs to enter "Nirvana" in "Artist" and click "search". It was also certified Diamond in Canada (1,000,000 units sold) by the Canadian Recording Industry Association in March 2001.. CRIA.ca. March 2001. Retrieved on September 27, 2007. In 1996, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs released Nevermind on vinyl as part of its ANADISQ 200 series, and as a 24-carat gold Compact Disc. The CD pressings included "Endless, Nameless". The LP version quickly sold out its limited pressing but the CD edition stayed in print for years.Berkenstadt; Cross, pg. 148–49
Upon the album's release, several mainstream newspapers and magazines gave Nevermind positive reviews. Karen Schoemer of The New York Times wrote, "With 'Nevermind,' Nirvana has certainly succeeded. There are enough intriguing textures, mood shifts, instrumental snippets and inventive word plays to provide for hours of entertainment." Schoemer concluded, "'Nevermind' is more sophisticated and carefully produced than anything peer bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Mudhoney have yet offered."Schoemer, Karen. "". The New York Times. September 27, 1991. Retrieved on September 27, 2007. Entertainment Weekly gave Nevermind an A– rating, and reviewer David Browne argued that on Nevermind, Nirvana "never entertain the notion" of wanting to sound "normal," compared to other contemporary alternative bands.Browne, David. "". Entertainment Weekly. October 25, 1991. Retrieved on August 11, 2009. Concluding his very enthusiastic review for the British Melody Maker, Everett True wrote that "When Nirvana released Bleach all those years ago, the more sussed among us figured they had the potential to make an album that would blow every other contender away. My God have they proved us right."True, Everett. Nirvana: The Biography. Da Capo Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-306-81554-6. Pg. 233. Spin gave Nevermind a favorable review stating that "you'll be humming all the songs for the rest of your life—or at least until your CD-tape-album wears out."Spencer, Lauren. Nevermind review. Spin. December 1991.
Rolling Stone gave the album three out of five stars; reviewer Ira Robbins wrote, "If Nirvana isn't onto anything altogether new, Nevermind does possess the songs, character and confident spirit to be much more than a reformulation of college radio's high-octane hits."Robbins, Ira. "". Rolling Stone. September 27, 2005. Retrieved on August 3, 2010. The Boston Globe was less enthusiastic about the album; reviewer Steve Morse wrote, "Most of Nevermind is packed with generic punk-pop that had been done by countless acts from Iggy Pop to the Red Hot Chili Peppers," and added "the band has little or nothing to say, settling for moronic ramblings by singer-lyricist Cobain."Berkenstadt; Cross, pg. 117
Nevermind was voted as the best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics' poll; "Smells Like Teen Spirit" also topped the single of the year and video of the year polls.Christgau, Robert. "". RobertChristgau.com. March 3, 1992. Retrieved on May 19, 2007. Nevermind topped the poll by a large majority, and Village Voice critic Robert Christgau wrote in his companion piece to the poll, "As a modest pop surprise they might have scored a modest victory, like De La Soul in 1990. Instead, their multi-platinum takeover constituted the first full-scale public validation of the Amerindie values—the noise, the toons, the 'tude—the radder half of the electorate came up on."Christgau, Robert. "". RobertChristgau.com. March 3, 1992. Retrieved on September 29, 2007.
Cobain, Nirvana's main songwriter, fashioned chord sequences that were based mainly around power chords and wrote songs that combined pop hooks with dissonant guitar rhythms. His aim for Nevermind's material was to sound like the "Bay City Rollers getting molested by Black Flag".Lewis, Luke. "Nirvana - Nevermind". Q: Nirvana and the Story of Grunge. December 2005. Many of the songs on Nevermind feature shifts in dynamics, where the band changes from quiet verses to loud choruses. Dave Grohl said this approach originated during a four-month period prior to the recording of the album, where the band would experiment with extreme dynamics during regular jam sessions.di Perna, Alan. "Absolutely Foobulous!" Guitar World. August 1997.
Guitar World wrote, "Kurt Cobain's guitar sound on Nirvana's Nevermind set the tone for Nineties rock music." On Nevermind, Cobain played a 1960s Fender Mustang, a Fender Jaguar with DiMarzio pickups, and a few Fender Stratocasters with humbucker bridge pickups. The guitarist used distortion and chorus pedals as his main effects, the latter used to generate a "watery" sound on "Come as You Are" and the pre-choruses of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"."Cobainspotting". Guitar World. October 2001. Krist Novoselic tuned down his bass guitar one and a half steps to D flat "to get this fat-ass sound".
Grohl said that Cobain told him, "Music comes first, lyrics come second," and Grohl believes that above all Cobain focused on the melodies of his songs. Cobain was still working on the album's lyrics well into the recording of Nevermind. Additionally, Cobain's phrasing on the album is often difficult to understand. Vig asserted that clarity of Cobain's singing was not paramount. Vig said, "Even though you couldn't quite tell what he was singing about, you knew it was intense as hell." Cobain would later complain when rock journalists attempted to decipher his singing and extract meaning from his lyrics, writing "Why in the hell do journalists insist on coming up with a second-rate Freudian evaluation of my lyrics, when 90 percent of the time they've transcribed them incorrectly?"Cross 2001, pg. 182
Charles R. Cross asserted in his 2001 biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven, that many of the songs written for Nevermind were about Cobain's dysfunctional relationship with Tobi Vail. After the relationship ended, Cobain began writing and painting violent scenes, many of which revealed hatred for himself and others. Songs written during this period were less violent, but still reflected anger absent from Cobain's earlier songs. Cross wrote "In the four months following their break-up, Kurt would write a half dozen of his most memorable songs, all of them about Tobi Vail". "Drain You" begins with the line "One baby to another said 'I'm lucky to have met you'", quoting what Vail had once told Cobain, and the line "It is now my duty to completely drain you" refers to the power Vail had over Kurt in their relationship. According to Novoselic, "'Lounge Act' is about Tobi", and the song contains the line "I'll arrest myself, I'll wear a shield", referring to Cobain having the K Records logo tattooed on his arm to impress Vail. Though "Lithium" had been written before Cobain knew Vail, the lyrics of the song were changed to reference her.Cross 2001, pg. 168–69 Cobain also said in an interview with Musician that "some of my very personal experiences, like breaking up with girlfriends and having bad relationships, feeling that death void that the person in the song is feeling–very lonely, sick."Morris, Chris. "The Year's Hottest Band Can't Stand Still". Musician, January 1992.
The album's tentative title Sheep was something Cobain created as an inside joke towards the people he expected to buy the record. He wrote a fake ad for Sheep in his journal that read "Because you want to not; because everyone else is."Cross 2001, pg. 154 Novoselic said the inspiration for the title was the band's cynicism about the public's reaction to Operation Desert Storm. As recording sessions for the album were completed, Cobain grew tired of the title and suggested to Novoselic that the new album be named Nevermind. Cobain liked the title because it was a metaphor for his attitude on life, and because it was grammatically incorrect.Cross 2001, pg. 189
The Nevermind album cover shows a baby swimming toward a US dollar bill on a fishhook. According to Cobain, he conceived the idea while watching a television program on water births with Grohl. Cobain mentioned it to Geffen's art director Robert Fisher. Fisher found some stock footage of underwater births but they were too graphic for the record company. Also, the stock house that controlled the photo of a swimming baby that they subsequently settled on wanted $7,500 a year for its use, so instead Fisher sent a photographer to a pool for babies to take pictures. Five shots resulted and the band settled on the image of a three-month-old infant named Spencer Elden, the son of the photographer's friend. However, there was some concern because Elden's penis was visible in the image. Geffen prepared an alternate cover without the penis, as they were afraid that it would offend people, but relented when Cobain made it clear that the only compromise he would accept was a sticker covering the penis that would say, "If you're offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile."Azerrad 1993, pg. 180–81
The back cover of the album features a photograph of a rubber monkey in front of a collage created by Cobain. The collage features photos of raw beef from a supermarket advertisement, images from Dante's Inferno, and pictures of diseased vaginas from Cobain's collection of medical photos. Cobain noted, "If you look real close, there is a picture of Kiss in the back standing on a slab of beef."Berkenstadt; Cross, pg. 108 The album's liner notes contain no complete song lyrics; instead, the liner contains random song lyrics and unused lyrical fragments that Cobain arranged into a poem.Azerrad 1993, pg. 209
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.Olsen, Eric. "". MSNBC.com. April 9, 2004. Retrieved on September 27, 2007. Neverminds success surprised Nirvana's contemporaries, who felt dwarfed by its impact. Fugazi's Guy Picciotto later commented: "It was like our record could have been a hobo pissing in the forest for the amount of impact it had. It felt like we were playing ukuleles all of a sudden because of the disparity of the impact of what they did".Azerrad, 2001. p. 493 In 1992, Jon Pareles of The New York Times described that in the aftermath of the album's breakthrough, "Suddenly, all bets are off. No one has the inside track on which of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of ornery, obstreperous, unkempt bands might next appeal to the mall-walking millions". Record company executives offered large advances and record deals to bands, and previous strategies of building audiences for alternative rock bands had been replaced by the opportunity to achieve mainstream popularity quickly.Pareles, Jon. "". The New York Times. June 14, 1992. Retrieved on June 3, 2008.
Michael Azerrad argued in his Nirvana biography Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana (1993) that Nevermind marked the emergence of a generation of music fans in their twenties in a climate dominated by the musical tastes of the baby boomer generation that preceded them. Azerrad wrote, "Nevermind came along at exactly the right time. This was music by, for, and about a whole new group of young people who had been overlooked, ignored, or condescended to."Azerrad 1993, pg. 225 Rolling Stone wrote in its entry for Nevermind on its 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, "No album in recent history had such an overpowering impact on a generation—a nation of teens suddenly turned punk—and such a catastrophic effect on its main creator."
Nevermind has continued to garner critical praise since its release. The album was listed at number seventeen on Rolling Stone's list "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".. Rolling Stone. November 1, 2003. Retrieved on June 3, 2008. Time placed Nevermind, which writer Josh Tyrangiel called "the finest album of the 90s," on its 2006 list of "The All-TIME 100 Albums."Tyrangiel, Josh. "". Time. November 13, 2006. Retrieved on September 29, 2007. Pitchfork Media named the album the sixth best of the decade, noting that "anyone who hates this record today is just trying to be cool, and needs to be trying harder.""". Pitchfork.com. Retrieved on November 25, 2009. In 2005, the Library of Congress added Nevermind to the National Recording Registry, which collects "culturally, historically or aesthetically important" sound recordings from the 20th century.MTV News staff. "". MTV.com. April 6, 2005. Retrieved on July 16, 2009.
*Kurt Cobain (appears on the credits for the "Monkey Photo" as Kurdt Kobain) – lead vocals, guitar, photography
*Dave Grohl – drums, vocals
*Krist Novoselic (credited as Chris Novoselic) – bass guitar, vocals
*Chad Channing – cymbals on "Polly" (uncredited)
*Kirk Canning – cello on "Something in the Way"
;Technical staff and artwork
*Craig Doubet – assistant engineering, mixing
*Spencer Elden – infant in cover photo
*Robert Fisher – artwork, art direction, design, cover design
*Michael Lavine – photography
*Jeff Sheehan – assistant engineer
*Butch Vig – co-producer, engineer
*Andy Wallace – mixing
*Howie Weinberg – mastering
*Kirk Weddle – cover photo
* Nevermind It's an Interview
* Classic Albums: Nirvana – Nevermind
*List of best-selling albums worldwide
*List of best-selling albums in the United States
*Classic Albums—Nirvana: Nevermind . Isis Productions, 2004.
*Azerrad, Michael. Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Doubleday, 1993. ISBN 0-385-47199-8
*Berkenstadt, Jim; Cross, Charles. Classic Rock Albums: Nevermind. Schirmer, 1998. ISBN 0-02-864775-0
*Cross, Charles. Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain. Hyperion, 2001. ISBN 0-7868-8402-9
*Sandford, Christopher. Kurt Cobain. Carroll & Graff, 1995. ISBN 0-7867-1369-0
NotesThis text has been derived from Nevermind on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0
Nirvana was an American rock band that was formed by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. Nirvana went through a succession of drummers, the longest-lasting being Dave Grohl, who joined the band in 1990.
In the late 1980s Nirvana established itself as part of the Seattle grunge scene, releasing its first album Bleach for the independent record label Sub Pop in 1989. The band eventually came to develop a sound that relied on dynamic contrasts, often between quiet verses and loud, heavy choruses. After signing to major label DGC Records, Nirvana found unexpected success with "Smells Like Teen Spirit", the first single from the band's second album Nevermind (1991). Nirvana's sudden success widely popularized alternative rock as a whole, and as the band's frontman Cobain found himself referred to in the media as the "spokesman of a generation", with Nirvana being considered the "flagship band" of Generation X.Azerrad, Michael. "". Rolling Stone. April 16, 1992. Archived from on January 9, 2008. Retrieved August 23, 2010. Nirvana's third studio album In Utero (1993), challenged the group's audience, featuring an abrasive, less-mainstream sound.
Nirvana's brief run ended following the suicide of Cobain in 1994, but various posthumous releases have been issued since, overseen by Novoselic, Grohl, and Cobain's widow Courtney Love. Since its debut, the band has sold over 25 million albums in the United States alone, and over 50 million worldwide.Armstrong, Mark. ". Yahoo! Music. November 17, 2002. Retrieved February 28, 2011.". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved September 22, 2008.
Formation and early years
Cobain and Novoselic met while attending Aberdeen High, although they never connected, according to Cobain.Azerrad, 1994. p. 209 The pair eventually became friends while frequenting the practice space of the Melvins.Azerrad, 1994. p. 36 Cobain wanted to form a band with Novoselic, but Novoselic did not respond to his overtures, which included handing him a demo tape of his project Fecal Matter. Three years after the two first met, Novoselic notified Cobain that he had finally listened to the Fecal Matter demo Cobain had given him, and suggested they start a group. The pair recruited Bob McFadden on drums, but after a month the project fell apart.Azerrad, 1994. p. 44–5 In winter of 1987, Cobain and Novoselic recruited drummer Aaron Burckhard.Azerrad, 1994. p. 57 The trio practiced material from Cobain's Fecal Matter tape, but started writing new material soon after forming.Azerrad, 1994. p. 58
During its initial months, the band went through a series of names, starting with Skid Row and including Pen Cap Chew, Bliss, and Ted Ed Fred. The group finally settled on Nirvana, which Cobain said was chosen because "I wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of a mean, raunchy punk rock name like the Angry Samoans".Azerrad, 1994. p. 61–2 With Novoselic and Cobain having moved to Tacoma and Olympia, Washington, respectively, the two temporarily lost contact with Burckhard. The pair instead practiced with Dale Crover of the Melvins, and Nirvana recorded its first demos in January 1988.Azerrad, 1994. p. 67–8 In early 1988, Crover moved to San Francisco but recommended Dave Foster to the band as his replacement on drums.Azerrad, 1994. p. 73 Foster's tenure with Nirvana lasted only a few months; during a stint in jail, he was replaced by a returning Burckhard, who himself didn't stay with the band after telling Cobain he was too hung over to practice one day.Azerrad, 1994. p. 76–7 Cobain and Novoselic put an ad in Seattle music publication The Rocket seeking a replacement drummer which only yielded unsatisfactory responses. Meanwhile, a mutual friend introduced the pair to Chad Channing, and the three musicians agreed to jam together. Channing continued to jam with Cobain and Novoselic, although the drummer noted, "They never actually said 'Ok, you're in.'", and Channing played his first show with the group that May.Azerrad, 1994. p. 79
Nirvana released its first single, "Love Buzz", in November 1988 on the Seattle independent record label Sub Pop.Azerrad, 1994. p. 85 The following month, the band began recording its debut album, Bleach, with local producer Jack Endino.Azerrad, 1994. p. 90–1 Bleach was highly influenced by the heavy dirge-rock of the Melvins and Mudhoney, 1980s punk rock, and the 1970s heavy metal of Black Sabbath. Novoselic noted in a 2001 interview with Rolling Stone that the band had played a tape in their van while on tour that had an album by The Smithereens on one side and an album by the black metal band Celtic Frost on the other, and noted that the combination probably played an influence as well.Fricke, David. "Krist Novoselic". Rolling Stone. September 13, 2001. The money for the recording sessions for Bleach, listed as $606.17 on the album sleeve, was supplied by Jason Everman, who was subsequently brought into the band as the second guitarist. Though Everman did not actually play on the album, he received a credit on Bleach because, according to Novoselic, they "wanted to make him feel more at home in the band".Azerrad, 1994. p. 91–2 Just prior to the album's release, Nirvana insisted on signing an extended contract with Sub Pop, making the band the first to do so with the label.Azerrad, 1994. p. 110–11
Following the release of Bleach in June 1989, Nirvana embarked on its first national tour,Azerrad, 1994. p. 111 and the album became a favorite of college radio stations.Young, Charles; O'Donnell, Kevin. "". Rolling Stone. April 11, 2010. Retrieved February 21, 2011. Due to increasing dissatisfaction with Everman over the course of the tour, Nirvana canceled the last few dates and drove back to Washington. No one told Everman he was fired at the time, while Everman later claimed that he actually quit the group.Azerrad, 1994. p. 115–20 Although Sub Pop did not promote Bleach as much as other releases, it was a steady seller,Azerrad, 1994. p. 134 and had initial sales of 40,000 copies.Price, David J. . Billboard. August 4, 2009. Retrieved January 28, 2011. According to the source, Bleach has now sold 1.7 million copies in the United States. However, Cobain was upset by the label's lack of promotion and distribution for the album. In late 1989, the band recorded the Blew EP with producer Steve Fisk.Azerrad, 1994. p. 123
In a late 1989 interview, Cobain noted that the band's music was changing. He said, "The early songs were really angry ... But as time goes on the songs are getting poppier and poppier as I get happier and happier. The songs are now about conflicts in relationships, emotional things with other human beings".Robb, John. "White Heat". Sounds. October 21, 1989 In April 1990, the band began working with producer Butch Vig at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin on recordings for the follow-up to Bleach.Azerrad, 1994. p. 137 During the sessions, Cobain and Novoselic became disenchanted with Channing's drumming, and Channing expressed frustration at not being actively involved in songwriting. As bootlegs of Nirvana's demos with Vig began to circulate in the music industry and draw attention from major labels, Channing left the band.Azerrad, 1994. p. 138–39 That July, the band recorded the single "Sliver" with Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters.Azerrad, 1994. p. 142 Nirvana asked Dale Crover to fill in on drums for a seven-date American West Coast tour with Sonic Youth that August.Azerrad, 1994. p. 141 In September 1990, Buzz Osborne of the Melvins introduced the band to Dave Grohl, who was looking for a new band following the sudden break-up of Washington, D.C. hardcore punks Scream.Azerrad, 1994. p. 151 A few days after arriving in Seattle, Novoselic and Cobain auditioned Grohl, with Novoselic later stating, "We knew in two minutes that he was the right drummer".Azerrad, 1994. p. 154
Disenchanted with Sub Pop and with the Smart Studios sessions generating interest, Nirvana decided to look for a deal with a major record label since no indie label could buy the group out of its contract.Azerrad, 1994. p. 136–37 Following repeated recommendations by Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, Nirvana signed to DGC Records in 1990.Azerrad, 1994. p. 162 The band subsequently began recording its first major label album, Nevermind. The group was offered a number of producers to choose from, but ultimately held out for Butch Vig.Azerrad, 1994. p. 164–65 Rather than recording at Vig's Madison studio as they had in 1990, production shifted to Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, Los Angeles, California. For two months, the band worked through a variety of songs in its catalog. Some of the songs, such as "In Bloom" and "Breed", had been in Nirvana's repertoire for years, while others, including "On a Plain" and "Stay Away," lacked finished lyrics until mid-way through the recording process.Azerrad, 1994. p. 176–77 After the recording sessions were completed, Vig and the band set out to mix the album. However, the recording sessions had run behind schedule and the resulting mixes were deemed unsatisfactory. Slayer mixer Andy Wallace was brought in to create the final mix. After the album's release, members of Nirvana expressed dissatisfaction with the polished sound the mixer had given Nevermind.Azerrad, 1994. p. 179–80
Initially, DGC Records was hoping to sell 250,000 copies of Nevermind, which was the same level they had achieved with Sonic Youth's Goo.Wice, Nathaniel. "How Nirvana Made It". Spin. April 1993. However, the album's first single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" quickly gained momentum, thanks in part to significant airplay of the song's music video on MTV. As it toured Europe during late 1991, the band found that its shows were dangerously oversold, that television crews were becoming a constant presence onstage, and that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was almost omnipresent on radio and music television.Azerrad, 1994. p. 203 By Christmas 1991, Nevermind was selling 400,000 copies a week in the US.Lyons, James. Selling Seattle: Representing Contemporary Urban America. Wallflower, 2004. ISBN 1-903364-96-5, p. 120 In January 1992, the album displaced Michael Jackson's Dangerous at number one on the Billboard album charts, and also topped the charts in numerous other countries.Azerrad, 1994. p. 239 The month Nevermind reached number one, Billboard proclaimed, "Nirvana is that rare band that has everything: critical acclaim, industry respect, pop radio appeal, and a rock-solid college/alternative base.""Nirvana Achieves Chart Perfection!" Billboard. January 25, 1992. The album would eventually sell over 8.5 million copies in the United States.Barnes, Ken. "". USAToday.com. March 23, 2007. Archived from on June 12, 2008. Retrieved November 14, 2010.
Citing exhaustion, Nirvana decided not to undertake another American tour in support of Nevermind, instead opting to make only a handful of performances later that year.Azerrad, 1994. p. 256 In March 1992, Cobain sought to reorganize the group's songwriting royalties (which to this point had been split equally) so that they were more representative of the fact that he wrote the majority of the music. Grohl and Novoselic did not object to Cobain's request, but when the frontman asked for the agreement to be retroactive to the release of Nevermind, the disagreements between the two sides claim close to breaking up the band. After a week of tension, Cobain ended up receiving a retroactive share of 75 percent of the royalties, and bad feelings about the situation remained within the group afterward.Azerrad, 1994. p. 257–58 Amid rumors that the band was disbanding due to Cobain's health, Nirvana headlined the closing night of England's 1992 Reading Festival, where Cobain personally programmed the performance lineup.Azerrad, 1994. p. 271 Nirvana's performance at Reading is often regarded by the press as one of the most memorable of the group's career."". NME. April 20, 2009. Retrieved August 23, 2010."". BBC Online. Retrieved August 23, 2010. A few days later, Nirvana performed at the MTV Video Music Awards where, despite the network's refusal to let the band play the new song "Rape Me" during the broadcast, Cobain strummed and sang the first few bars of the song before breaking into "Lithium". At the ceremony, the band received awards for the Best Alternative Video and Best New Artist categories.Azerrad, 1994. p. 276–78
DGC had hoped to have a new Nirvana album by the band ready for a late 1992 holiday season release; since work on it proceeded slowly, the label released the compilation album Incesticide in December 1992.Gaar, Gillian G. "Verse Chorus Verse: The Recording History of Nirvana". Goldmine. February 14, 1997. A joint venture between DGC and Sub Pop, Incesticide collected various rare Nirvana recordings and was intended to provide the material for a better price and at better quality than was available via bootleg copies. As Nevermind had been out for 15 months and had yielded a fourth single, "In Bloom", by that point, Geffen/DGC opted not to heavily promote Incesticide, which was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America the following February.Azerrad, 1994. p. 296
In Utero, final months, and Cobain's death
In February 1993, Nirvana released "Puss"/"Oh, the Guilt", a split single with The Jesus Lizard, on the independent label Touch & Go. Meanwhile, the group chose Steve Albini, who had a reputation as a principled and opinionated individual in the American independent music scene, to record its third album. While there was speculation that the band chose Albini to record the album due to his underground credentials,DeRogatis, 2003. p. 5–6 Cobain insisted that Albini's sound was simply the one he had always wanted Nirvana to have: a "natural" recording without layers of studio trickery.Azerrad, 1994. p. 317 Nirvana traveled to Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota in that February to record the album.Gaar, 2006. p. 40 The sessions with Albini were productive and notably quick, and the album was recorded and mixed in two weeks for a cost of $25,000.DeRogatis, 2003. p. 4
Several weeks after the completion of the recording sessions, stories ran in the Chicago Tribune and Newsweek that quoted sources claiming DGC considered the album "unreleasable".DeRogatis, 2003. p. 17 As a result, fans began to believe that the band's creative vision might be compromised by their label.Azerrad, 1994. p. 332 While the stories about DGC shelving the album were untrue, the band actually was unhappy with certain aspects of Albini's mixes. Specifically, they thought the bass levels were too low,Fricke, David. "Kurt Cobain: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone. January 27, 1994. and Cobain felt that "Heart-Shaped Box" and "All Apologies" did not sound "perfect".Azerrad, 1994. p. 336–37 Longtime R.E.M. producer Scott Litt was called in to help remix those two songs, with Cobain adding additional instrumentation and backing vocals.Azerrad, 1994. p. 338
In Utero debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart in September 1993."". Entertainment Weekly. October 8, 1993. Retrieved August 23, 2010. Times Christopher John Farley wrote in his review of the album, "Despite the fears of some alternative-music fans, Nirvana hasn't gone mainstream, though this potent new album may once again force the mainstream to go Nirvana."Farley, Christopher John. "". Time. September 20, 1993. Retrieved August 23, 2010. In Utero went on to sell four million copies in the United States. That October, Nirvana embarked on its first American tour of the United States in two years. For the tour, the band added Pat Smear of the punk rock band Germs as a second guitarist.Azerrad, 1994. p. 352 In November 1993, Nirvana recorded a performance for the television program MTV Unplugged. Augmented by Smear and cellist Lori Goldston, the band sought to veer from the typical approach to the show, opting to stay away from playing its most recognizable songs. Instead, Nirvana performed several covers, and invited Cris and Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets to join the group for renditions of three of their songs.Di Perna, Alan. "Behind Unplugged". Guitar World. March 1995.
In early 1994, the band embarked on a European tour. In Rome, on the morning of March 4, Cobain's wife, Courtney Love, found Cobain unconscious in their hotel room and he was rushed to the hospital. A doctor from the hospital told a press conference that Cobain had reacted to a combination of prescription Rohypnol and alcohol. The rest of the tour was canceled, including a planned leg in the UK.Sanz, Cynthia. "". People. March 21, 1994. Retrieved October 2, 2010. In the ensuing weeks, Cobain's heroin addiction resurfaced. An intervention was organized, and Cobain was convinced to admit himself into drug rehabilitation. After less than a week in rehabilitation, Cobain climbed over the wall of the facility and took a plane back to Seattle. A week later, on Friday, April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head at his Seattle home.Heard, Chris. "". BBC News. April 6, 2004. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
Aftermath and posthumous releases
In August 1994, DGC announced that a double album titled Verse Chorus Verse featuring live material from throughout the group's career on one CD and its MTV Unplugged performance on another was due for release that November. However, Novoselic and Grohl found assembling the live material so soon after Cobain's death to be too emotionally overwhelming.Ali, Lorraine. "One Last Blast". Rolling Stone. October 17, 1996. With the career-spanning live portion postponed, MTV Unplugged in New York debuted at number one on the Billboard charts upon release in November 1994. A few weeks later the group's first full-length video, Live! Tonight! Sold OutThis text has been derived from Nirvana (band) on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0