Saturday, 5 April 2014

Nirvana - Twenty Years Later...

My mum gave me a copy of Smells Like Teen Spirit on 7 inch vinyl in September 1991 - she heard it and thought I'd like it. I remember staring at the mysterious, blurry faces on the cover, I didn't know what to make of it and I couldn't imagine what the music would sound like - I didn't even know what the word nirvana meant. When the needle dropped and those now unmistakable opening chords came blaring out of the speakers I'd love to harp on about how it immediately changed my life but it didn't - it took a few listens before I became slowly hooked. I was barely twelve years old. My world was skateboarding, football, computer games, music and girls, in that order. I loved Prince, The Stone Roses, Michael Jackson, Guns N' Roses and Metallica. I'd already discovered the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Motown and more obscure sounding artists like Nick Drake through my parents vinyl collection. But Nirvana was something new to my ears - a simpler and more primal sound.

It wasn't metal. The electric guitars were more colourful in tone and less about flamboyant showmanship than your typical hair-metal band of the time - it sounded like anyone could pick up a guitar and play this stuff. The chord progressions weren't typical either, something that caught my young ear and enhanced the feeling that this band were channeling something exotic and new. After a few listens to the partially undefinable words, the quiet verse/loud chorus dynamics, the singers seemingly untrained voice and impassioned, raucous screams, I became addicted - I'm still a huge fan.

For a short while it felt like Nirvana were my secret. Then I began to notice other kids at school getting into them too. Then after a while it felt like every kid I knew liked Nirvana. Even the kids who didn't really like the band were pretending to like them just to fit in - such was the speed and scale of Nirvana's rise to fame. Three years later when my mum told me Kurt Cobain was dead I remember pretending not to care.

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