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Saturday, September 24, 2011

'Nevermind" Turns 20

On September 24, 1991, DCG Records released Nirvana's sophomore album, 'Nevermind'.  There was little fanfare.  Practically zero publicity for the album.  In fact, the label only expected fans of their first album, 'Bleach' to purchase 'Nevermind'.  Only 46,000 copies of the album were made, 35,000 of those shipped to the UK, where their debut had proven more successful.

Though their sound had been alive and well in the Pacific Northwest for the better part of a decade, it was still new to the world.  Pearl Jam had just released their debut album 'Ten', three weeks prior.  The nation was infatuated with pop music.  Color Me Badd had the number one single in the country with 'I Adore Mi Amor'.  They had just taken the spot after Bryan Adams held it for seven weeks with '(Everything I Do) I Do It For You'.  The mixture of hard rock and punk, which would later be referred to as "grunge" by the media, was wholly unfamiliar to the American masses.

'Smells Like Teen Spirit' eventually made it to the airwaves.  Then the video premiered on MTV's '120 Minutes' (remember that show?).  The response was so overwhelming, the video received regular daytime rotation on the network, which, for a rock video, was unheard of at that time.

In January 2002, Nirvana unseated Michael Jackson at the top of the Billboard charts.  It has gone on to sell over 20 million copies.

If you look at the music industry today, the Billboard charts are much like what they were 20 years ago.  The top 10 this week is dominated by Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, LMFAO and Maroon 5.  People say that history is cyclical.  That the world is due for another "Nirvana occurrence".  Some critics believe that it will never happen again.  Well, not at the scale of what we saw in '91, at least.

With the over saturation of pop music, rock acts today have to work double time just to keep up.  Not to mention the fact that today they're openly competing with television as well, when you look at shows like 'American Idol' and 'The X Factor'.  Also, the 16-24 demographic of 1991 appears to be much different than the same of 2011.  In 1991, we were angsty (Yes.  It's a word.  I checked.).  We were disenfranchised, and frankly, I think we were more intelligent.  Today's teenagers wouldn't get the irony or the sarcasm in something like 'Nevermind'.  Hell, they probably don't even get the title.

Anyhow, enough with the "get off of my lawn" bit.  I'm starting to feel old, now.  Here is one of my favorite tracks on the album.  As someone who has lived with depression and anxiety for much of my life, and for a short time prescribed Lithium, I've always thought this song did a great job at sort of talking about mental illness from the perspective of someone that has it.


Rachel said...

We went to see Nirvana on their first tour for Nevermind. They were opening up for Dinosaur Jr. Yes, opening up! It was at a local venue that help maybe 100-150 people. It wasn't sold out by any means, especially when they took the stage. I had enjoyed Bleach and my friends and I were curious about them. The most vivid memory I have of that night is Kurt Cobain crawling up on the lighting equipment about 10 feet off the stage and slamming his guitar around. About 2 weeks later we got Nevermind and I loved it. I remember being pissed off when they got popular. That was MY punk music, not for the blond bouffy-haired popular girls who started wearing black because it was "cool." I felt angry and betrayed, but I still loved Nirvana. Sorry this is so long, your post sparked that memeory.