Monday, September 26, 2011

Listening Post


I used to jokingly refer to Smells Like Teen Spirit as the musical version of the Kennedy Assassination. As in, the song packed such a profoundly overwhelming punch that chances are you probably remember where you were the first time you heard it.

I happened to be at a Metal and Hard Rock convention in Los Angeles -- the kind that at that time was still packed with a whole lot of guys sporting impossibly massive hair and all ridiculous manner of cowboy boots -- and had decided to tool around the city in a rented convertible with friends when KROQ fired the first shot that would inevitably become an onslaught. The DJ broke the new song from a Seattle band called Nirvana; we all listened, exclaiming a disbelieving "holy shit" at least three or four times throughout its 4:38 run time; we eventually drove back to the hotel, our eyes having been opened, and wandered amongst the instantly rendered relics of the past with the knowledge that, whether they knew it or not, a meteor had just struck the Earth that was destined to doom the dinosaurs. Everything would change in rock and roll; you knew that immediately.

Yes, it's been said often, many different ways and as enthusiastically as possible but it's always true: Nirvana's Nevermind was an epochal, once-in-a-generation record.

And yesterday, it turned 20 years old.

Here's On a Plain, performed live.

16 comments:

LK3 said...

Not sure if you are interested - Jon Stewart had an interview with Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl and Butch Vig Sirius this weekend. Not sure if there is a replay but here is RS's summary

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/jon-stewart-talks-nirvana-with-krist-novoselic-dave-grohl-and-butch-vig-20110926

tgt said...

Homophones are not your friend today. Plane != Plain.

e said...

We'll have to excuse my age. I was around 7 when this hit, so it's hard for me to comprehend just how "gamechanging" Nirvana was to gen x'ers. Was it because the music was so radically different than the hair metal? Just like watching older movies, it becomes hard to put myself into the context of the time to fully appreciate certain things.

Like say Citizen Kane, I can recognize how modern a movie it feels, but having been so inundated with film from a young age, it's easy to take for granted that 1940's didn't have many reference points for it.

Chez said...

The shitty thing is I knew that about the correct title. I just had a brain fart first thing in the morning. Embarrassing. Thanks for the correction.

Al said...

I had spun it on the air at 'VUM and loved it...but it was when they played it at the Rat that and saw the reaction that I realized it was going to be f-ing HUGE. Boggles my mind it was 20 years ago.

IrishGirl said...

e...speaking as a gen x'er...it was everything....the tone, the lyrics, the delivery....it was so different and powerful. Imagine if you've only ever seen the world in shades of blue and then suddenly one day you can also see red, in all it's glorious shades. I'm no musician, so that's the best metaphor I can give you.

FabMax said...

The alternative to Hair Metal was Thrash Metal.

By the gods, but Nirvana was one of the most overrated bands at the time. Other bands of the Grunge wave were so much better.

Fungi said...

e: It was everything the last 10 years weren't (80's). It wasn't excess. It wasn't over the top. It was 3 guys stripped down to their instruments. I remember the first time I heard the song. It was actually the video that I saw. I hated it. Turned it off half through. Looking back, I think I really liked it, but I knew that this one song, this one band, was going to end the music & lifestyle that I loved.

Mart said...

First time I was listening to WXRT Chicago getting off Ogden Avenue on the ramp to Route 53. At first thought it was out of their adult alternative range, but was instantly hooked and understood how it made their playlist. Sorta wished I was 15 years younger; my youth's music coincided the the horrors of the peak of disco. We fought the good fight against disco, but were grossly outnumbered.

LzyMom said...

I honestly don't remember where I first heard it - maybe MuchMusic? Yes, I'm Canadian. :P

My friends and I all ran out and got the album. It was for "us".

Whether it was ground breaking or not, let's not lose sight of the real issue....

How the fuck did I get to be 40???

Sonia

Anonymous said...

I'm more aligned with an American Music Critic, who is nameless only because I have forgotten his name, whose opinion was that it was probably correct to agree that Nirvana was the most significant Group; pretty much the best that the '90s had to offer, and that when THAT awful reality had sunk into Kurt as well, he had offed himself. And who could really blame him?

Turgid, self-pitying drivel with a sound track! And you've got the nerve to get all 'holier-than-thou' on Boomers and the Woodstock crowd??!!

Get a Grip!

Liz said...

I was overseas the first time I heard it, stationed in Italy. I was too busy eating pasta, drinking vino, and chasing ass to pay attention to the rest of the world. To be honest, I had no clue that the whole grunge movement was even happening until someone made me listen to the Singles soundtrack. Love it or hate it (and I still love it, so suck it) that soundtrack introduced me to the revolution. Loved Nevermind and drove my roommate nuts howling the lyrics non-stop.

Chez said...

Thanks for the inarticulate rambling there, Anon 4:50 -- as well as the clichéd anonymous trolling in general -- but it might be a good idea not to slam the music of the early 90s when you're tossing out 20 year old catch-phrases yourself.

"Get a grip?" Who the fuck still says that? Run along now and leave the conversation to the big kids.

Anonymous said...

I am SO sorry for the dated catch-phrase. Please, when you publish your "Late Thirties Hipster Clinging DESPERATELY to the Illusion That He's Still On The Cutting Edge Of ANYTHING, Particularly Music's Guide to Urban Slang du Jour", DO send me an advance copy. I shall so enjoy being as 'hip' as you.

You've probably never recovered from the 'direct hit' that Yankovic's "Smells Like Nirvana"
scored on the whole, pathetic mess; not so much because SLTS actually merited a send-up, but because it was so "down on it's knees BEGGING for one".

And please, go ahead and post my e-mail address if it salves your hurt widdle feelings any. Anon is just the easiest box to check

Chez said...

Yup. You sure showed me.

Ducky said...

I agree that Nirvana was a huge part of the Grunge movement. I agree that they had some good tunes. I, however, was always a Soundgarden guy. I never saw the appeal of Kurt, no matter if I agreed with his statements about music or anything else. He was never larger than life, just some guy with a guitar and some talent out of the middle of Buttfuck, Nowhere. I have the Nevermind album, and Incesticide as well. I jam to them once in a blue moon, but I find myself revisiting Superunknown far more often. I still hold that the best thing to come out of Nirvana was Foo Fighters.

Of course, it may be that I never forgave him for unleashing Courtney Love on the world.