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.