Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ Changed The Cultural Landscape

September 25, 2019 by No Comments

Nevermind” is the second studio album by American rock band Nirvana, released on September 24, 1991 by DGC Records. Produced by Butch Vig, it was the band’s first release on the label, as well as the first to feature drummer Dave Grohl.

Around this time 28 years ago the band Nirvana released the album “Nevermind”. With just 49 minutes and 9 seconds, the album changed the culture of a generation and gave many other bands the confident thoughts that they didn’t need expensive equipment to get success in the music industry.

“Nevermind” was initially named as “Sheep” by Kurt Kobain to tease those who intended to buy it. Later, after being tired of thinking of an official name for it, Nirvana decided to call it “Nevermind” (implying “Never mind”).

* The world before and after “Nevermind”

There was an unusual spread in the British school world in early September 1991 about the “wars” in music. Some people chatted about AC / DC’s “thunder” during the Donington race night while others were talking about the bombastic fireworks display of Guns ‘n’ Roses at Wembley Stadium.

However, people who attended the Reading festival that year did not care about those two famous names. Instead, they were fiddling around with a great passion as if talking about a small band from Seattle across the ocean who carries gems tossed in every word that they wrote in their songs. That band is called Nirvana! And just a few weeks later, these three young men from America released one of the most influential and best-selling albums in the world.

The “Nevermind” album has engulfed UK record stores for the past quarter century. With more than 30 million records sold worldwide, its effects are diverse and dizzying.This album sparked the beginning of a new genre of music. “Grunge,” a combination of heavy metal and alternative rock, officially marked the end of the hair metal stage that plagued the late 80s.

In terms of music, it creates the DIY revolution (Do It Yourself), where artists make their own decisions without the need of experts. Culturally, it blurs the lines between the underground and mainstream, marking the end of the baby-boomer era (referring to those born after World War II). Aesthetically, it creates a loose, comfortable, even a little sloppy, dirty line of “grunge” fashion; like what Nirvana wears.

And most outstandingly the band leader Kurt Cobain became the “spokesman of a generation” who is still worshiped until now despite it having been 25 years since he ended his life. For many people, the world split before and after “Nevermind”.

Before “Nevermind”, there was an “iron curtain” between the big record labels and the small independent labels. Phil Collins, Michael Bolton or Bryan Adams, Guns ‘n’ Roses are brightly polished by manufacturers. Meanwhile, in the same year 1991, Massive Attack, Primal Scream or Teenage Fanclub, My Bloody Valentine released breakthrough albums but were only mentioned by people “underground”.

Then suddenly, at the end of 1991, the streets were filled with girls wearing torn jeans, checkered shirts, dusty, plain as if they were coming from the “underground”. 

It was Cobain, Kris Novoselic and Dave Grohl of Nirvana that made this change.

Cobain, Kris Novoselic and Dave Grohl of Nirvana

* Spokesperson for a generation

Cobain and bassist Novoselic founded Nirvana in 1987. Later drummer Grohl joined the band in 1990.

With their first album “Bleach”, the band immediately became a notable name in Seattle, but they yearned for more. Cobain was too tired of the way Sub Pop records work and wanted to switch to another to liberate himself.

The trio,in their early twenties, entered the Sound City studio in Van Nuys, Los Angeles in May 1991. All of the 12 songs on the album “Nevermind” were recorded in just one week. By June, the mixing process begins with a budget of only 65,000 USD. The album features grunge features: crunching guitar sounds, loud vocals, and catchy melodies. The band also jokes, alternating between the quiet guitar pieces are unexpected noises.

DGC did not expect much, so it only left 46,521 copies in the US and shipped 35,000 copies to the UK. Yet by December, more than two months after its release, “Nevermind” had sold 1 million copies in the US alone. 

Expensive albums like Phil Collins or Dire Straits are no longer at the top. Guns ‘n’ Roses’s two albums “Use Your Illusion”, released at the same time, cost a lot of millions of dollars and were massively promoted, initially selling well but then falling back quickly.

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit (Official Music Video)

Nirvana’s “Nevermind” changed the music industry at that time. It gives small bands the confidence that they don’t need to spend too much money to get a product that is well-received by the public. And above all, free yourself from the clichéd patterns of music.

“Nevermind” has been in the top 100 UK for 302 weeks. In 2011, after 20 years of release, the album  suddenly returned to No. 5 on the chart. Recent statistics from Spotify show that this is the third most-listened album on the net. In 2014, Vogue magazine praised Cobain as “one of the most influential fashion icons of our time”, alongside Audrey Hepburn and Catherine Deneuve.

Young people today are still passionately listening to “Nevermind”.

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