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Nirvana - the Band

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Nirvana were a punk/grunge band from Seattle, Washington, USA. They are most famous for their 1991 single, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' which became a teen anthem for the early 1990s. Nirvana consisted of four members:

  • Kurt Cobain - Main vocals, lead guitar, and songwriter.
  • Krist Novoselic - Bass guitar.
  • David Grohl - Drums, background vocals.
  • Pat Smear - Played guitar in concerts starting in 19931.

Nirvana During the Life of Kurt Cobain

Nirvana began as a live band in 1987, touring and playing live performances.

At the time, live shows were our bread and butter... we'd hit the road for months at a time, coming back with one or two grand to be split three ways. In those days, that was about as much 'success' as we thought possible.

- Krist Novoselic, from the album cover of From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah

In 1989, Nirvana released Bleach, their first album, and their only album released by Sub Pop records. It contained such great songs as 'Blew,' 'About a Girl,' and 'School'. Nirvana then toured Europe for the rest of the year to support fellow Sub-Poppers.

In 1991, Nirvana signed with Geffen records and released Nevermind, their most successful album ever. Nevermind's album cover sparked controversy; it depicts a male baby under water with its genitals in clear view, chasing after a dollar that's attached to a fishing hook. The album itself contained the hits 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' 'Come as You Are,' and 'Lithium'. Other notable songs on the album are 'Polly,' 'Territorial Pissings', and 'Drain You'.

The 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' video is set in a school gymnasium, with lots of teen fans in the bleachers. The cheerleaders do their cheers in boredom, with anarchy symbols (a red A encircled) on their chest. At the end, the band is moshed, their instruments are torn apart, and the school principal is tied up, all as Kurt screams, 'A denial! A denial!' into the camera. This amazing work of art is what made 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' almost like a grunge anthem for the early 1990s.

Next in history is 1992, where Nirvana released Incesticide, a compilation of rare tracks, B-sides, and tapes from a BBC session. The only truly good songs on the album are '(New Wave) Polly' and 'Sliver'. Nirvana also released a similar compilation in Australia, called Hormoaning.

Perhaps more memorable from 1992 was 'Weird Al' Yankovic's parody of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' 'Smells Like Nirvana,' which pokes fun at the unintelligible way the lyrics are sung in the song. The video is a direct parody; it was actually shot on the same set with many of the same cheerleaders and audience members.

In 1993, Nirvana released In Utero, containing songs like 'Heart-Shaped Box' and 'All Apologies'. On the European version, a hidden track called 'Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow through the Strip' is also included. The album is darker in mood than the others; it makes direct reference to suicide, and inside the album cover is a collage of pictures depicting post-concert anarchy.

On 4 April, 1994, Kurt was found dead in his own home. He had shot himself in the mouth. He also wrote a suicide note, warning his daughter not to be like him. Some say the note was really his resignation and that he was murdered. However, after Kurt's ultimate struggle with the pressures of fame (at no point did he really expect or anticipate the kind of popularity that he and his band experienced in both their short-lived lives), it makes more sense that he killed himself. Although Nirvana could no longer make new music, it didn't end there.

Nirvana After Kurt Cobain

In late 1994, MTV released an album with the songs from Nirvana Unplugged. The great songs of this un-electrified, post-suicide release are 'All Apologies' and 'Pennyroyal Tea,' which were both previously released on In Utero, and 'Come as You Are' from Nevermind. Again the mood is dreary, the set contains a dark selection of songs, and Kurt mentions many times that he knows he's going to screw up in the end.

Also after Kurt's death, David Grohl and Pat Smear went on to form the 'Foo Fighters,' another grunge-style rock band. The Foo Fighters, while not as great as Nirvana, have some songs definitely worth checking out, such as the single, 'Learn to Fly'.

In 1996, Geffen Records released From the Muddy Banks of the Wiskah2, a compilation of Nirvana's best concert recordings. Although Kurt wasn't alive to see it, this is definitely one of Nirvana's best albums, and it was well-received by Nirvana fans. It includes 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' 'Tourette's,' and 'Polly,' all in wonderful live form.

Kurt Cobain was honoured by Rolling Stone magazine in May 1999, when he was named the Artist of the Decade. There was a page-and-a-half article written about him and the band, a poster inside with quotes and discography, and three of his albums, Nevermind, In Utero, and Nirvana: Unplugged Live in New York were named essential albums of the decade.

Oh well, whatever, nevermind.

- Kurt Cobain, from 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'
1It is rumoured he did so because Kurt was too high on heroin to play guitar himself.2The Wishkah is a river in Washington State, USA, near where Nirvana was started.

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