Saturday (September 24th) marked the 25th anniversary of the release of Nirvana‘s Nevermind. The band’s second full-length album was its first for a major label, Geffen Records, and within months of its release it became perhaps the most important rock album of its era. It propelled alternative music into the mainstream, created a cultural anthem in the song “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” ushered in a new wave of rock bands and helped to anoint the band’s reluctant frontman, Kurt Cobain, as the spokesperson for an entire generation until his suicide in 1994.
- Nirvana and Nevermind were crucial in bringing mainstream attention to both the Seattle music scene and alternative music in general.
- In an interview with the Associated Press on the album’s 20th anniversary, Vig, bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl — who now leads Foo Fighters — looked back at the making of the album that changed their lives.
- Novoselic was asked about the effect the album’s success had on the trio. He replied, “It was shocking to be famous. I bought a house to deal with it. Then, of course, there was Kurt, who was thrust into being the spokesman of a generation. That was hard for him.”
- Grohl discussed the importance of Nevermind in his life, saying, “It was a specific, exciting time in my life. Personally, my life is split by the release of that album. My entire life is pre-Nevermind and post-Nevermind. When it came out, my whole world was changed forever.”
- Vig discussed how the music scene has changed in the two decades since Nevermind came out, saying, “With information moving so fast, the whole world has A.D.D. You only grab onto something for a second before you discard it. When Nevermind happened, it was still a slower time. That record really took off from a grass roots level.”
- Grohl said about the impact that Nevermind had on culture, “I think that album came out at a time when a lot of kids didn’t have anything to believe in and Nirvana was entirely real.”
- Almost four months after its release, Nevermind hit Number One on the Billboard album chart, turning the “grunge” genre into a phenomenon.
- Just 46,000 copies of Nevermind were shipped to record stores when it came out. The record debuted on the Billboard album chart at Number 144 and hit Number One on January 11th, 1992.
- Nevermind was eventually certified Diamond in the U.S. for sales of more than 10 million copies. It has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.
Incredibly, September 24th, 1991 also saw the release of Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the band’s commercial breakthrough and one of the seminal alternative rock records of the early 1990s. The band’s fifth studio effort, it was their first for Warner Bros. Records after the semi-successful Mother’s Milk came out in 1989. But Blood Sugar Sex Magik took the Peppers to an entirely new level of success which they’ve enjoyed ever since.
- Blood Sugar Sex Magik reached Number Three on the Billboard album chart, going on to sell seven million copies in the U.S. and 13 million worldwide.
- The disc yielded four major hit singles, including “Give It Away,” “Under the Bridge,” “Breaking the Girl” and “Suck My Kiss.”
- The record was the first of six Chili Peppers albums produced by Rick Rubin, who the band was hesitant to work with at first because of his association with “negative” bands like Slayerand Danzig.
- Blood Sugar Sex Magik was recorded at Rubin’s 10-bedroom mansion in the Hollywood Hills, marking the first time Rubin produced a record there after having a studio installed. DrummerChad Smith, unlike the other three band members, refused to live at the house because it was reputedly haunted.
EIGHT MYTHS ABOUT NEVERMIND (from Spin magazine)
Spin magazine published a list of eight myths about Nevermind in 2011, and then let Nirvana historian Charles R. Cross reveal the real story. They are:
1. Nevermind was Kurt Cobain’s first choice for the album’s title: Not true. His first idea for the title was Sheep. The band finally decided on Nevermind in late 1990.
2. Nevermind was recorded in 1991: Most of the album was made in 1991, beginning in April. But the band’s first album sessions took place in April 1990 at Vig’s studio in Madison, Wisconsin. Five of the eight songs recorded there ended up on Nevermind, although they were re-recorded when Dave Grohl joined the band.
3. Dave Grohl is the only drummer on Nevermind: When the band recorded in Madison in 1990, Chad Channing was still the drummer. His performance on the song “Polly” made it to the final album, although he isn’t credited.
4. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was written about a deodorant: Cobain’s friend, Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna, did indeed write “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit” on Cobain’s bedroom wall, which is where the song title came from. But Cobain didn’t know there was an actual Teen Spirit deodorant until after the album came out.
5. Nirvana made a cassette demo of “Teen Spirit” to prove they had a hit: There is a rehearsal tape of “Teen Spirit” that was recorded on a boombox, but the band had no idea it had a potential smash on its hands. The band recorded that and many other songs on the boombox so that they wouldn’t forget how to play them.
6. Nevermind was written about drugs: There are references to drugs throughout the album, but that’s not what the entire disc was about. Plus Cobain’s full-scale drug addiction didn’t start until after the album was recorded. Most of the record was written about his friends, neighbors, or girlfriends.
7. The cover shot of the naked baby chasing the dollar bill in the pool was Cobain’s idea: Cobain wanted something more graphic for the cover — a shot of a baby’s head emerging from its mother’s vagina in a pool. Not surprisingly, that idea ended up not being used.
8. Cobain became instantly rich thanks to Nevermind: Most of the album’s sales came in 1992, and with record companies notoriously slow in paying royalties, Cobain made just under $30,000 in 1991, most of it from touring. In fact, after he returned home from recording the album, he found himself evicted from his apartment.
FIVE THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS’ BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK (from Rolling Stone):
1. Singer Anthony Kiedis had no intention of recording “Under The Bridge”: The massive hit “Under the Bridge,” about Kiedis’ days as a drug addict, began as a poem that Kiedis wrote during early rehearsals for Blood Sugar Sex Magik after being sober for two years. He never wanted to use it for a song until Rick Rubin accidentally discovered the poem in Kiedis’ notebook and insisted he sing it.
2. The album’s other huge hit, “Give It Away,” was partially inspired by the late River Phoenix: Kiedis wrote in his memoir Scar Tissue that Phoenix was “around a lot during the writing and recording of our album,” adding, “He was a big supporter of our band, and I wrote a whole verse about him in ‘Give It Away’: ‘There’s a river, born to be a giver, keep you warm, won’t let you shiver/His heart is never going to wither, come on everybody, time to deliver.’”
3. Kiedis wrote “I Could Have Lied” about his short-lived relationship with Sinéad O’Connor: The singer briefly dated O’Connor while she was living in Los Angeles, although he claims that the two never slept together. Kiedis said it was the “most wonderful, non-sexual relationship I’d ever had,” and was heartbroken when O’Connor abruptly broke it off with a message on his answering machine. The pair never spoke again.
4. Blood Sugar Sex Magik was originally supposed to be a double-CD set: The Peppers recorded 26 or 27 songs for the album, but ended up putting 17 on the final product. The record label thought that a two-CD set would be too much for fans to purchase. Several of the additional songs would later turn up on various B-sides and movie soundtracks.
5. The band only played “Breaking the Girl” once on the entire Blood Sugar Sex Magik tour: Even though it was a huge hit, the Peppers — and more specifically Kiedis — were not happy with their performance when they played “Breaking The Girl” live on the first date of the Blood Sugar Sex Magik tour. It didn’t show up again on that tour or in any Peppers set list until 2000, and has only been played 16 times since then.