Frank Micelotta, Getty It was 19 years ago today that Nirvana singer Kurt…
- Posted by Spinner
Paul Bergen, Redferns
With the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's magnum opus, it seems everyone has an opinion about the album, which was reissued Tuesday, Sept. 27, with a whole mess of bonus content. Rather than chime in with yet another "brilliant" take on the record, we decided to compile our favorite quotes on the subject from critics and musicians alike. If you feel like sharing your 'Nevermind' memories, hit us up in the comments!
J Mascis: "It was awesome when it came out. It seemed like, here's a band that should be huge and then they get huge so it seemed like everything made sense for a minute until it didn't anymore. Just a moment in time where something happened that seemed like it should've happened. It's kind of rare when things make sense like that for any period of time." (Via Spinner)
John Pareles of the New York Times: "Even if Nirvana had not been the great band it was, it would be important for all the doors it opened, for the ways it reminded a broad public that the music on the fringes could make as much of a difference as the most heavily promoted corporate product."
Chris Cornell: When I hear a song from 'Nevermind' on the radio, it doesn't sound like an old song. Nirvana, 20 years after 'Nevermind,' sounds like it could be a band coming out right now. It sounds like it could be a band coming out 20 years from now." (Via GQ)
Peter Buck: "Nirvana played in Athens [Ga.] about a month after 'Nevermind' came out, and I had them stay at my house; they didn't have anywhere else to go. It's hard to believe that in the year 'Nevermind' was released, they weren't the biggest band in the world -- that was still about three months away. At the time, they played a club and then came over and got drunk. I played 45s. It wasn't any different from when the Young Fresh Fellows stayed at my house." (Via Spin)
Robert Christgau: "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 toones, the 'tude -- the radder half of the [Pazz and Jop poll] electorate came up on."
Flea: "'Nevermind' and 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik' came out the same day -- I remember being so excited because I felt like we had made our great record. I would put on the radio and keep listening to hear 'Give It Away,' but I kept hearing this Nirvana song and was like, 'God, that's a great f---ing song. But are they going to play 'Give It Away'?' And then they turned out to be the greatest band in the world." (Via Spin)
Danny Goldberg, Nirvana's manager: "'Nevermind' surprised everybody. It certainly surprised me. Suddenly, everybody saw that this band could become quite big -- way bigger than our idea of success was for them. Everybody had their theories about who the band's audience might be: the band had its theories, so did the label, so did management. In the end, we were all way off!" (Via Music Radar)
Eddie Gilreath, VP of sales at Geffen (1992): "From what we gather, 'Nevermind's' audience is between 14 and 34. It seems to be a project appealing to both the younger or hip set. Nirvana has outsold over the last two or three weeks U2, Hammer, Michael Jackson, Metallica: real big-name values. If you told me last year it would outsell U2 I'd probably die laughing." (Via New York Times)
Talib Kwelli: "There are certain pieces of work that are damn near perfect: Bob Marley's 'Talkin' Blues,' John Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme,' Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue,' and Nirvana's 'Nevermind.' The hardcore music scene that Nirvana came out of, when I was in high school, the lyrical sentiment and style of dress and politics all gelled with hip-hop. I know this because the white kids in my school were dressing like me and I was dressing like them. And that whole thing converged when rap kids really embraced Nirvana. You could play that record in any hip-hop club right now." (Via Spin)
Steve Lamacq of NME: "Nirvana have made an LP which is not only better than anything they've done before, it'll stand up as a new reference point for the future post-hardcore generation."
Butch Vig: "The afternoon we tried to track 'Lithium,' we had done a few passes, and for whatever reason Dave kept speeding up and it didn't feel good. Like halfway through the fourth take Kurt says, 'Stop! Stop!' He started playing 'Endless, Nameless,' and I just kept the tape rolling. Kurt was singing so hard I thought he was gonna kill somebody. The veins in his neck were bulging out, he just was pouring sweat, strangling his vocal chords, and at the end of song, he started smashing his guitar. I was in the control room and didn't even know what to say. I went out and asked, 'Are you okay?' He just got up and walked in the other room, and Krist sort of looked at me like, Whoa! I've never seen so much rage in someone in the studio that came out that instantaneously. It was scary to watch him play that song. I'm not kidding." (Via Mark Yarm's 'Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge')
Stephen Malkmus: "To me 'Nevermind' is a landmark of pop punk creativity and '90s overkill. My favorite song on 'Nevermind' if I had to say is 'Drain You' because, have you ever heard such a song that shredded so hard? I don't think so." (Via Rolling Stone)
Jeff Tweedy: "When 'Nevermind' came out, somebody gave us a cassette and we thought it sounded so slick -- like a Whitney Houston record. I think Kurt Cobain was a really great pop songwriter. But you have to understand, Uncle Tupelo [my band at the time] hated everything that wasn't a field recording from Appalachia, anything that wasn't raw and amateur-sounding. I liked a lot of the music that influenced 'Nevermind': The Replacements, punk rock from the '80s. Whenever I hear it now, I think it sounds great. But it really was produced compared to other records at the time. For a band that had an image of being super punk rock and dangerous, from our perspective, it was like, 'That's the opposite!'" (Via Spin)
Lauren Spencer of Spin: "You'll be humming all the songs for the rest of your life -- or at least until your CD-tape-album wears out."
Lil Wayne: "'Smells Like Teen Spirit' was one of the only rock songs that would come on and you'd be like, 'That one was OK, I could deal with that one.' Probably because I was young and I actually listened to the lyrics, and I probably felt at that time that I was rebelling and I could associate myself with that and relate to the things [Cobain] was talking about and speaking about in the song. I probably couldn't, but I thought I could." (Via HipHop DX)
Girl Talk: 'Nevermind' made me want to start making music. It also made me want to discover new music. Nirvana led to Sonic Youth, which led to the Boredoms, which led to Merzbow, which led to my friends and I starting to fool around on electronics and start our first bands. Nirvana is my favorite band." (Via Paste)
Ira Robbins of Rolling Stone: "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."
Wayne Coyne: "I really did love that ensemble they had with the drummer before Dave Grohl -- that's no slag on Dave Grohl -- there was just an element from 'Bleach' that we loved. We played a couple shows with them, maybe one in Seattle right around 'Bleach,' and backstage the mood at these Sub Pop shows was, you know, everyone was having a great time celebrating themselves. And there was a feeling that Kurt couldn't let loose and be a dork, like, 'F---, I wish I was having more fun than I am.' Later on, you'd run into normal people who'd say, 'I like Nirvana,' and you're like, 'Six months ago they were a cool, freaky Sub Pop group, and now Joe Sixpack at 7-Eleven is into Nirvana.' It didn't seem as though punk rock was suddenly outselling the Eagles or something. Most of the underground music remained underground and some of the clichéd copy bands like Bush became popular. Them, STP, Candlebox -- who we played with -- all that seemed to be the focus of that momentum. 'Nevermind' came out in '91, and by '96, people were saying, 'Whatever that is, we're not part of it.' That was probably the first time that happened, with us thinking, wrongly, that this is our music and the lunkheads will never know what we have here. It was great and phenomenal and weird and sad -- all of those things combined." (Via Spin)