“Teenage angst has paid off well…” – The Story of Nirvana

The opening line to Nirvana’s final studio release, whilst the fated songsman was still rocking our socks, ‘In Utero’, flaunts their grim grit.

Vitriolic, antagonistic, 90s grunge spirit pioneers, the Seattle trio blew the guts out of the charts-scene with ‘91 release, ‘Nevermind’.

Their heavy metal smelted to hardcore-punkrock cosmically endangered the overtly-glammed-up rockers of the day as the trio stood to oust star Michael Jackson and parking-lot sellouts U2 from No.1.

Nirvana (copyright free) By MRTGM 007, via Wikimedia Commons

In the space of 3 months, three washed out nobodies became global rock’n’roll idols.

The three of them, songwriter Kurt, his long-time lanky friend, Krist Novoselic, and now infamous, Dave Grohl, grew to a monster size, overthrowing the western pop world media wrap with an accelerated frenzy not seen from one lone outfit since the Beatles era. Although Nirvana’s duration was disappointing, the sheer saturation of their body of noise and art muscled them to the pinnacle of…well, everything.

Kurt started his enterprise of noise with fellow Seattle outlier, Krist, and after recording album Bleach, garnered attention from big league titles. From the very birth of their union, Kurt and Krist courted the corporate rock game with humorous abandon. Flogging t-shirts with the tagline “we’re poor”; clearly stating their mission statement was not to ‘get high and f**k’…. for a punk-based act their behaviour was far from OK. The ideology of punk acts of the time was, in the first instance, to stay loyal to the scene or crowd where said band had invariably cut their teeth, and to support the particular flavour of the local rock’n’roll, but of course this wasn’t enough to put more aspirational punk rockers off vaulting the stigma of ‘selling out’.

Often the emphasis of a rock artist or group’s appeal is their ability to imagine and translate to sound exactly what their prospective fan would say to someone (dad, boss, school heart-wrench) given the chutzpah of unbridled pluck. Nirvana exemplified this, in an atom-span of listening. It was ‘Hey, we are self-starters/we’d survive whiskey’ and of course: ‘Eventually, we’re gonna win.’

Kurt Cobain wanted notoriety and fame hugely & passionately (he didn’t want to be the retiring bookworm some believed) but also dishearteningly, he took his craft and his life to the Nth degree – but as you and I know it ended tragically.

Mainly though, he needed fame inspiringly.

From the age of eleven Cobain was a lost soul due to divorce, and once his mother left, he never spent any of adolescence in secure stability. The meek arty youth Kurt drifted; his developing mind at sea, yet, slowly he schemed his push to the centre of the universe…

Lovers and relationships left him drained and devoid of emotion; frequently deposited with scorn into his lyrics. Nothing offered him solace unless music or art was involved. Incidentally, Kurt’s cultural verves were unique for his neighbourhood and he was, for one more reason, isolated from his surround in any case.

Not hugely known is that the Cobain and Novoselic cut though an assortment of percussionists (and took on second guitarists for periods of time) before finding hard core stick-seer Dave Grohl was the top guy for their group format. World Conquest was conceived within the year of Grohl’s attention, transforming the Seattle punk/noise group into the hit machine and sand-blasting anthemic ‘grunge’ band the earth soon came to know well.

The evolved sound of the group can be described as thus:  Krist Novoselic playing the bass like Bob Dylan – yes, really – but covered in tar; a furious riot of Grohl-isms clamping rhythms to even the casual fan’s cortex, and of course the wraith-howls and slice-of-life genius oozed by Kurt even when he simply breathed on the mic-stand.

Immeasurably, Grohl beat and smashed the kit on Nirvana’s (big-league) output as if Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham, had been kidnapped by The Sex Pistols, drugged with bullock testosterone and blindfolded, yet still capable of punching forth a piece worthy of Wembley Stadium. The chance unity and driven focus of the three breath-taking musicians astounds to this day.

Nirvana were simply so good for an intangible spirit exuded in all frenzied feats they slammed through. The ‘slacker’ image and ‘idle’-ism celebrated in the music-media and hipster ranks was frankly, bollocks. To the band at least – who worked like horses and wowed onstage and off – an intense schedule and workers’ ethic only became them. This was all irrespective of singer Kurt’s never-ceasing health defects and ultimate decline near the final months of his short, sharp and very tested, life. In essence, the obscenely wild wave of Nirvana’s conquest and influential voice exhausted Kurt Cobain, who became, whether he liked or not, nothing less than prophet-like in standing.

God bless, and nevermind, Kurt.