I think Rolling Stone said it best in their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: "No album in recent history had such an overpowering impact on a generation—a nation of teens suddenly turned punk—and such a catastrophic effect on its main creator.” Released in 1991, Nirvana’s Nevermind changed everything.
Nevermind was the stake in the heart of hair metal and brought Grunge to the forefront of the music scene. Nirvana went from relative unknowns, releasing their 1989 debut Bleach on the indie label Sub Pop, to selling millions of records and becoming international sensations. Presently, Nevermind has sold over thirty million copies.
The album's most commercial song, the tongue-in-cheek ode to The Pixies, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” received immediate airplay, while the video was in constant rotation on MTV. Even though Kurt Cobain’s songwriting embraced pop - Cobain was heavily influenced by John Lennon - the band was ultimately unhappy with Nevermind’s clean and polished sound.
Butch Vig, the record's producer, has maintained that the band was initially very happy with the result, but after its tremendous success, one by one, members began to dismiss the album. Dave Grohl even went so far to say, "I was driving and 'Teen Spirit' came on the radio, and I thought 'God, that really sounds like shit!’” With the equally amazing In Utero (their 1993 follow-up), the band set out to create a dirty, distorted, lo-fi sound.
Aside from the band itself, Nevermind has its share of detractors. In a 2007 interview with The Guardian, The Flaming Lips' leader Wayne Coyne said the album is incredibly overrated compared to Nirvana’s other work: "It’s better to be overrated than underrated. Besides, it’s not the musicians’ fault Nevermind is overrated – it’s the public’s, or the critics’. But you don’t find yourself ever longing to listen to it, because there were – still are, in fact – so many mediocre bands that sound like it, that you’re constantly experiencing it."
Nevermind gave us “Something In The Way” and “Polly," whose acoustic renditions would shine on their unplugged session. It gave us “Lithium” and “Drain You." And more importantly, it gave us Nirvana, ensuring they wouldn’t spend their career hopping from one from bankrupt label to another, their music lost and forgotten.
1. Smells Like Teen Spirit
2. In Bloom
3. Come As Your Are
7. Territorial Pissings
8. Drain You
9. Lounge Act
10. Stay Away
11. On A Plain
12. Something In The Way
(Hidden Track: "Endless, Nameless")
Kurt Cobain – vocals, guitar, photography
Krist Novoselic – bass, voice intro to "Territorial Pissings"
Dave Grohl – drums, backing vocals
Chad Channings – cymbals
Kirk Canning – cello
Butch Vig - co-producer, engineer
(Elford Alley has had plays produced and read across the United States and his sketch comedy featured in several shows in Chicago. He also writes for cracked.com. He currently resides in Dallas with his wife and daughter.)