It’s 20 years since Nevermind was released, I know lots of people are banging on about it, but it’s worth a short pause for thought.
Nevermind happened when I was 14, already developing a taste for punk and rock and roll, already addicted to Johnny Cash and the other ‘outlaw’ country and western singers. I reckon 14 is one of the most impressionable ages, certainly Nirvana made a huge impression on me, and impacted the way I listened, dressed, and conceived of myself for a number of years. The fact that the guys in Nirvana were all about 10 years older than me (doesnt every 14-year-old boy want to be about 24?) was probably a factor too.
Although Bleach was already out, it hadnt really registered with me to be honest, it was Nevermind that broke through to me. Perhaps just because of how heavy it was in comparison with other stuff around.
I can’t tell you how massive Smells Like Teen Spirit sounded back then. It left a huge impression, even though at first I couldnt really understand the words.
I remember hearing Graham Cray give a talk at Greenbelt, probably the following summer, in which he went through the lyrics of Smells Like Teen Spirit, if I hadnt already realised it, I then began to understand how profoundly they expressed the ennui and repressed fury that Nirvana seemed to embody.
I also remember the day that Kurt died, how there were kids in the school crying, who didnt even like his music. I wasnt impressed by that. But in some ways I already knew that Kurt’s death was the tragicaly inevitable ending of a tortured soul.
Somehow the life of Nirvana was more profound than the death, there was something of innocence in its Gen X vibe that disappeared as Kurt died and the millenials approached with their mocking reacceptance of the meta narrative.
And I forget just why I taste,
Oh, yeah, I guess it makes me smile,
I found it hard, it’s hard to find,
Oh well, whatever, nevermind.
Ah I dont know, I guess I could be talking through my hat, but this I do know for sure: There are only a handful of albums that are so iconic that they remain milestones in the path of music as popular culture. Nevermind is one of them.