Experiencing Nirvana

Nevermind was the first CD I owned and was a birthday gift from my girlfriend at the time. I'd seen the film clip for Smells Like Teen Spirit on MTV and asked for the album when it came out that week. Like everyone else I was crazy about it.

I managed the meet Nirvana briefly during their Australian tour, which coincided with Nevermind charging up the charts. They caused a riot at the ANU Bar in Canberra with fans smashing in the windows to see the show. I was watching from outside the stage door and introduced myself to Dave and Kris, who gave me a plectrum. Kurt was in his own world, detached.

The anniversary of the album will see a remastered version of Nevermind released and it's great to see a record given the director's cut-style treatment as I've been hoping for this for a while now.

However, I'm less enthused by these comments from Charles Sturt University academic Catherine Strong.

“Kurt was a contradictory figure, on one hand he had the reputation of being really pure, of being only about the music,” Dr Strong said.

“But he also enabled Nirvana to be marketed to a mass audience, with his choice of producers, record labels and so on.

“Grunge had anti-commercial and anti-capitalist messages, yet those things ended up getting lost along the way.

“Grunge also had a strong message of equality, supporting gay rights and women’s rights, yet this political aspect isn’t discussed much these days.”

It's a mistake to attribute so much to Kurt Cobain IMO and the remastered version of the album is supposed to be closer to his vision for Nevermind than what was released.

And grunge was a very successful label commercially for a bunch of bands from Seattle and some were closer to metal than pop-punk but it made them easier to market if they were lumped in with Nirvana. Everyone was surprised at the success they found, I remember reading a Rolling Stone article on grunge and the Seattle scene that was published about a year ahead of Nevermind and the author predicted Mudhoney as the band most likely to find a 'mainstream' audience.

It's also a mistake to lump a bunch of issues like gay rights with grunge, given the diversity of the genre. I suggest these were part of a much larger dynamic in the early 1990s that included trends like 'lipstick lesbianism'.