Nirvana were a Grunge band from Aberdeen (Washington/USA). After their foundation in 1987 they attained huge popularity in 1991 with their single "Smells Like Teen Spirit“ off of the album , "Nevermind". 7 years after the band's formation on April 5th 1994 it was ended short by the suicide of lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain.
History & Evolution
The Beginnings (1987-1989)
Nirvana were founded in 1987 by Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. They got to know each other during school in 1984 and especially due to the fact they were both huge fans and supporters of another local band from their high school known as "The Melvins". In 1985 Kurt founded together with the later Melvins-Drummer Dale Croyer and himself as bassist the band „Fecal Matter“. After having recorded two demos (in the house of Kurt Cobains aunt) and played some gigs, they resolved theirselves.
But one of the demos they recorded convinced Krist Novoselic to found a band together with Kurt. As a result in 1985 Kurt (this time on the drums), Novoselic (vocals), Steve Newman (bass) founded the coverband „The Sellouts“. During the same periode of time Kurt and Novoseli also had a band with the drummer Bob McFadden, but the both of the bands resolved theirselves in winter of 1985. In spring 1986 Novoselic moved together with his girlfriend Shelli from Phoenix to Arizona.
A new bandproject with several names - will it stay?
But he came back to Aberdeen in autumn and inmediately he and Coban began to search for a new drummer. January 87': with Aaron Burckhardt a drummer was found and they launched a band that had the names „Ted Ed Fred“ and „The Stiff Woodies“. This time Novoselic was on the bass while Kurt Cobain was playing guitar and singing. But still there were problemes coming up because Burckhardt was kind of a „metalhead“, while Novoselic and Cobain were more listening to alternative-rock and new-wave. Together with the fact that Burckhardt wasn't that engaging himself in the band it became a hard time. In march they played their first concert on a private party in Raymond. At this point of time they were already playing their own songs. In the same month they played also their first „real“ gig in the GESCO Hall in Olympia in front of around 10 people.
17th of april '87 was again a concert for a local radio station called Kaos FM.
But in autumn 1987 Cobain moved to Olympia and Burckhardt was the only bandmember who left in Aberdeen. His missing engagement in combination with the distance lead into the fact that the band wasn't active anymore. Nothing happend until Cobain and Novoselic found a new drummer in Dale Crover in novembre and started practicing again. At the 23th of January 1988 the band produced their first demotape in the famous studio „Reciprocal Recordings“. It's said that they paid 152,44$ and Kurt paid this alone. The demotape consisted of 10 piceces and was ran under the leadership of the producent Jack Endino. In spring Cobain started to bargain with Jonathan Poneman, a member of the „Sub Pop“ lable in Seattle. As a result, they planned to come up with a single. But the drummer Crover, who moced to San Francisco was changed through Dave Foster.
The last name change - Nirvana is born
On the 19th of march the band played the first time with the name „Nirvana“. Up to this time they had already had the names „Ted ed Fred“, „Bliss“, „Throat Oyster“, „Pen Cap Chew“ and „Windowpane“. Kurt Cobain said later on to the name „Nirvana“ that he wanted to have a nice, beautiful and cute name and not an ungly Punk-Rock one like „Angry Samoans“ for his band. But afterward he wasn't happy with this name, either. He said it would be „too esoteric and serious“. But this still wasn't one of the last changes on the drummer-position: already on the 29th of may 1988 Foster was replaced with Chad Channing, because Foster didn't arrived to the rehearsals.
The first recorddeal is arranged
In the same time the demo had convinced „Sub Pop“ to produce a single with Nirvana called „Love Buzz / Big Cheese“ with a number of copies of 1000. The head-song was a Cover from the Popband „Shocking Blue“ that Novoselic liked very much and convinced Cobain to sing it. But after that the „Sub PoP“ lable ran into financial problemes which made Nirvanas hopes to be able to produce an album an end.
Success and sponsors arrive
But still the band went into the studio for 30hours splitted over 3 days. This time it costed 606,17$. This amount was paid by Jason Everman, a friend and fan of the band, who became shortly after that the 2nd guitarist of the band (because Kurt wasn't good enough to play the guitar, sing and remember the text at once). But before that Nirvana played their first two weeks-lasting tour on the westcoast of america. Due to the fact that Nirvana was quite un-known at this time, they played often in front of only 20 people or even less, who are only came to see the „new“ band of the „Sub Pop“ lable. All in all the band had in 1989 more than 100 gigs. At the 9th of june 1989 the first album called „Bleach“ appeared. After that the band played a tour through clubs and bars to promote it. This tour ended with the expulsion of Everman in New York. In august Nirvana recorded 5 songs with Steve Fisk in the „Music Source Studio“ which were wanted to appear on an EP. After this recording section, the band gave concerts again and the audience grow up to over 200 people and it was the first time Nivana earned money. Later on the „Sub Pop“ lable band „Tad“ had a 42-days leasting europe-tour on which Nirvana was the opening act. Although all gigs were sold out, the atomsphere was bad because the two bands had together (with equipment) only one little 10-seat coach (they were 9 people!). This was one reason why Nirvana stopped to like „Sup Pop“.
Nevermind appears (1990-1992)
The Work on a new album
With the beginning of 1990 „Sub Pop“ was again close to the sinsolvency and the apperance of the 2nd album wasn't sure anymore. So the band kept playing gigs in the United States up to the 2nd of April when they went in the „Smart Studios“ together with Butch Vig. The seven songs recorded here in the time of one week, were sent to „Sub Pop“, but to be honest, they were produced to have an bargain-base with the bigger „Major“ lables. In July 1990 the only apperance of the band appeared on that Channing on the drumms: in his diary Kurt said that Channings was a very bad drummer, too.
The final line up and a new lable is found
After some studio/sessions drummers in august 1990 was David Grohl taken into the band. (former „Scream“ drummer). With their demotape the band started to get in contact with the „Geffen Records“-sublable „DGC“. On the 30th of april 1991 Nirvana signed their contract with this lable and got a rate of 287.000$. Sub Pop became 75.000 to write Geffen into the contract and give them the needed permissions. In August 1991 Nirvana played on the „The-Year-That-Punk-Broke“ tournee through europe with Sonic Youth and the Ramones on the „Reading Festival“ in England.
Nevermind - and with it - the breakthrough comes
On the 24th of septembre 1991 the album Nevermind appeared and came in the US-Charts 3 weeks later (on the 12th of octobre). Geffen expected the album to sell around 50.000 times (thats the digit of copies they produced first), but this was wrong, obviously. On the 4th Novembre 1991 the single „Smells like Teen Spirit“ appeared, and only 4 weeks after the single's apperance the Nevermind album got „Platin“, that means 1.000.000 copies sold. From the 4th novembre to the 7th decembre the band played again a short europe tournee. In England they played in a popular TV-show on Channel 4. Only one day later the Smells like Teen Spirit single started from zero to seven in the UK-Single Charts. The rest of the tournee had to be canceled because Kurt became ill. The year ended for Nirvana on the 31st of demcembre with a concert in San Francisco.
The Nevermind album was on the 11th of january on the first place of the US-Charts and replaced Michael Jacksons „Dangerous“ album. Smells Like Teen Spirit was at that time already on the 6th place of the US Charts and became on the 1st of april in 1992 platin.
Time to Tour
During their tournees through Australia (january), Japan and Newzealand (february) their Nevermind album has been sold 3million time in the USA. In the april 1992 the Come As You Are Single appeared, in August Litihium was taken as a Single. In Octobre they started to record a new album with the producent of „Bleach“ Jack Endino. After this thunder-like successes Nirvana was honored with two MTV Music Award for „Best Alternative Music Video“ and „Best New Artist Video“ for Smells like Teen Spirit. Here they played Lithium live and destroyed their equipment afterwards. Novoselic was hit by his bass which he had troughn on the cieling. Kurt Cobain spit on the piano, when leaving, that belonged to Axl Rose (Guns'n'Roses), what caused big shockings in the musical-world.
In Utero appears (1993)
I Hate Myself and I Want to Die (?) =
On the 16th of January a compilation of b-side single-songs was published called „Incesticide“ because every rock/grunge-fan out there wanted to have a succession of the Nevermind album. To this album a video to the Single „Silver“ (1990) that was sold out long before, was produced. The video shows the band members in a seedy flat, ugly-lucking and tired. This was a cery cheap video, as it was filmed in two takes all in all. On the 6th of march they produced a Split single together with „The Jesus Lizzard“ (Oh, The Guilt from Nirvana / Puss from The Jesus Lizzard) that made it up to the 12th position in the UK charts and was sold later on in the USA limitated to 100.000 from the lable „Split and Go“. In the same year, they played together with Pearl Jam on a demonstration for the right of women to abort.
Troubles with DGC
In the february in 1993 the band started togeth with the producer Steve Albini to record a new album (it was meant to be named „I Hate Myself and I Want to Die“) in Minnesota. The result was not pleasing the Label DGC, that called the recordings „shit“. Albini declared this himself that way, the the lable didn't want him to be the producer of the band, but Nirvana kept him. In the time after Nirvana got only in the headlines through a lot of problemes with the police becasue of drugs, times in prison and the tryings of Kurt to get away from heroine. On the MTV Video Music Awards in Universal City (California) In Bloom (Nevermind album) won the „best Atlernatnive Video“ section. In this video you could see the band playing in suits and brave-looking. At the end ot the video they destroyed their equipment, though. On the 11th septembre the Heart Shaped Box single appeared, on the 25th of septembre their third album called In Utero. It made it in the UK charts to the top position. It got also in the USA from zero to one. In the same autumn they played – with second guitarist Pat Smear (former The Germs guitarist) a world tournee. At the 18th of Novembre the band recorded a concert with accoustiv instruments only for the MTV-Unplugged series. On the Beavis-and-Butt-Head-Experience Compilation (23rd novembre) appeared the Song I Hate Myself and I Want to Die. After that followed the appearance of a single called All Apologies / Rape me. Shortly after on the 13rd of decembre the band played a sold out concert called „Live and Loud“ that was transmitted by MTV in Pier 48 in Seattle (Washington).
At the 8th of January in 1994 Nirvana played in the Center Arena of Seattle their last US-concert. On the 6th of February the europe tournee started; it was thought to end on the 8th of april in Dublin but the last concert of Nirvana was played on the 1st of march on the airport in Munic (Germany). After a stay in hospital, at the 1st of april Kurt escaped from the „Exodus Recovery Center“, a drug withdrawal clinic, in Marina del Ray (Los Angeles) and stopped the last try to get away from heroine and the other drugs. A week later at the 8th of april, Kurt was found dead in his garage. The musical legacy belongs to his wife Courtney Love-Cobain and the both bandmembers Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. At the 8th of septembre Nirvana won (already after it's resolvation) by the 11. MTV Music Awards in New York the „Best Alternative Video“ and „Best Art direction“ price for it's video for Heart Shaped Box (1993, from the In Utero album). Initially for novembre a live recording called „Verse Chorus Verse“ was meant to appear, but it didn't. Instead of that Geffen published the accoustic album MTV Unplugged in New York that appeard at the 12th of novembre in Great Britain and a week later in the USA. On Both it walked from zero to one in the charts. During two months it was sold more than three million times.
The songs of Nirvana are lyrically seen quite simple and give a lot space for interpretations. On the Bleach album some songs have only one verse that is repeated. Songwriter Kurt wrote his songs in the beginning spontaneously on the way to the studio or back home or combined them from earlier-written poems. About the lyrics from Bleach Kurt said later that the lyrics weren't important for him at that time and no song he liked was important for him cause of his lyrics. Besides that the voice of Kurt is said to be very powerful and „authentic“.
Kurt Cobain had – mainly at the begin of his career – the clear aim to become a rockstar. But stil he didn't liked the music industry or his audience. In 1989 Kurt said – little ironically – that Nirvana had noticed a cessation in the underground scene and a commercialisation to the big, ugly, capitalist-Major Lables. But he drew other conclusions than you could think: on on the rhetorical question „Do we feel a moralic comittment to fight this cancerous ulcer?“ He answered himself: „NOT AT ALL! We want to earn money the same way, the fat cats do.“ This shows also his splitted up relationship to the music „society“. Nirvana tried very often to do new things in the music buissnes and make themselves to „anti-heros“. On a concert with playback, they played (conscious) out of the beat and Kurt Cobain stopped acting like playing the guitar and hold the micro in his hands. Besides that, when playing concerts live in Television, they didn't care about the setlist; the consequence was that the writing on the television screens about the song that they played currently was wrong. They became also famous for destroying their equipment after giving concerts. But this was staged more and more by the lables / promotors and as a result, Nirvana itself didn't feel authentic anymore.
The First Album of Nirvana contains all their early and sometimes strange songs that you can count to the Indie genre. It's named after a product of a promotion that wanted heroine-dependants to clean their injections with „Bleach“. Bleach is the album that shows the „honesty“ and „authenticity“ of the band, after their big commercial successes. It consists of 13 songs that are all very different and interesting. The most famous song on this album can be called „About a Girl“ that you can also find on the Unplugged record. The album was recordered in the Reciprocal Studios under the lead of Jack Endinos. It took the band 3 sessions, all together 11 days. Jason Everman who paid the recordings and assisted as 2nd guitarist, is mentioned on the album cover, but in fact, he didn't played at least one note.
Blew - 2:54
Floyd the Barber - 2:17
About a Girl - 2:48
School - 2:42
Love Buzz - 3:35
Paper Cuts - 4:05
Negative Creep - 2:55
Scoff - 4:10
Swap Meet - 3:02
Mr. Moustache - 3:23
Sifting - 5:22
Big Cheese - 3:42
Downer - 1:42
Nevermind is the 2nd album of Nirvana and one of the most sold albums ever. The song Smells like Teen Spirit is said to be one of the most played ones in the 1990s. It's the beginning of a new area of musicans; big and glamourful rockstars like Bon Jovi, Europe or Guns'n'Roses that didn't care about the getting worse and worse political and social cicrumstances were „over“. Nirvana showed a complete new feeling; angry about politicans and a non-moving culture. It was very soon position 1 in nearly all important chart-lists and became platin only after a few weeks. This album gave the „Generation X“ called generation (at this time teenagers) a new feeling like getting more interested in politics, combined with a new LifeStyle. Still this generation was called spiritlessly and disoriented. The Library of Congress' National Recording Registry(USA) put the album in the last years into their „National Recording Registry“ - a honor that not many pop-artists got.
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" - 5:02
"In Bloom" - 4:15
"Come as You Are" - 3:39
"Breed" - 3:04
"Lithium" - 4:17
"Polly" - 2:56
"Territorial Pissings" - 2:23
"Drain You" - 3:45
"Lounge Act" - 2:37
"Stay Away" - 3:33
"On a Plain" - 3:17
"Something in the Way" - 3:51
Hidden Track „Endless, Nameless“ - 7:24
„In Utero“ is the latin term for „in womb“. It's the last studio album of Nirvana and was produced in 1993 together with Steve Albini. As the Nevermind album was quite „soft“ and as a result, Nirvana won many „mainstream“ fans. The row and „loud“ sound of this album was new for them, therefore, but still, it was liked. Nirvana, in opposite, came with this album back to their roots, and tried to defend theirselves against a commercialisation. „In Utero“ expresses Nirvanas wish to get back to the place where you feel yourself save, good and home. Only the Wal-mart concern had problmes with the album: The song „rape me“ was changed into „Waif me“ and the collage of Kurt on the back of the album was changed, too: instead of babies and flutes, the walmart customers saw frogs. Stylisitcally seen, In Utero is more lively, row and bulky than Nevermind. On this album was also a „secret“ track called allons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip, that started 20minutes after „All Apologies“ (24:00). All songs except the bonus track were written alone by Kurt Cobain. The last song is a works of the whole band, that was formed during a Jam-session.
Serve the Servants – 3:34
Scentless Apprentice – 3:47
Heart-Shaped Box – 4:39
Rape Me – 2:49
Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle – 4:07
Dumb – 2:29
Very Ape – 1:55
Milk It – 3:52
Pennyroyal Tea – 3:36
Radio Friendly Unit Shifter – 4:49
Tourette's – 1:33
All Apologies – 3:50; at 24:00 is the hidden track Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip Hidden Track – 7:33
As it was probably the best gig of Nirvana (or even of anyone) it has to be mentioned here. Reading is city in the south of England, bewteen London and Oxford. Every year a rock festival takes place here, called "Reading Festival" with more than 30.000 visitors. In 92 Nirvana played there a gig, that was - as sad above - genial. It was on the 30th of april 1992 where Nirvana played, and, it's said, it wasn't secure that Nirvana would play there, until some hours before the concert started. But, to make it short, they DID play, and how: because the audience didn't know whether Nirvana would play or not, there was a great exitement in the audience, and when it became obvious that Nirvana was going to play, as the word is, a very entusiastic mood came over the whole festival. The gig began with Kurt letting himself drive on a wheelchair on to the stage. The opener "Drain You" is, if you believe what a lot of fans say - played here live even better than on the album, and a lot of songs they played, were played the best here. Nirvana played here really on it's best conditions: Few days before the festival there were rumors that Nirvana had stolen the riff from Smells Like Teen Spirit from Boston (More than a feeling). The way Nirvana answered - well - watch it yourself, its quite fun Also the last song they played (Territorial Pissings) is one of the most radical things the trio had composed ever, but afterwards it came even harder: the destruction of the equipment is just happening in a furious way (including a tribute to Jimi Hendrix). After you have seen this concert, it should be clear to you, that Nirvana (and exspecially Kurt) were not full-time depressive fools. You can see them joking and snear about just anything. With this energetic show Nirvana transmitted pure joy at living to its audience. Even the moment where Kurt declares (with the help of the audience) his love to Courtney is just funny. So all in all, a great concert, that you must have seen if you like Nirvana. There's a DVD out called "At Reading Festival" where you can watch this great gig. If you don't want to spend the money, parts of the gig are also visible on youtube (in poor quality).
Nirvana is one of the most popular rockbands ever. Besides the commercial succes the band had a very, very large influence on the music scene and industry ans is seen by some poeple as the speaking tube of a whole generation. With worldwide more than 50.000.000 albums sold, the band is one of the most (commercial) succesful band. Kurt Cobain itself was the „best-earning dead personage“ in 2006. Nirvana also made the Indi-rock being part of the mainstream and made the Grunge popular. It's said, that Nirvana managed it, to give the Rock'n'Roll a new spirit. As a result, the death of Kurt Cobain was a conclusion point for this Rock-area in general. It's also said that Nirvana made the United States again the centre of rock-music. The impressum of „Rock-Hard“ mentions Nirvana as the „most important Rockband of the 90s“ and speaks of a „musical legacy that no band could come into“. The journalist Michael Azerrad talks even of a „new calendar“ for music industry: From Nirvana on, every band was pre- or post-nirvana.
1993: In Utero
1994: MTV Unplugged New York
1996: From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah
1988: Love Buzz/Big Cheese
1991: Molly’s Lips/Candy
1991: Here She Comes Now / Venus in Furs
1991: Smells Like Teen Spirit
1992: Come as You Are
1992: In Bloom
1993: Oh, the Guilt/Puss
1993: Heart-Shaped Box
1993: All Apologies / Rape Me
Misscellaneous and post-Nirvana published records:
1989: Blew (EP that only appeared in Europe)
1992: Hormoaning (EP; published only in Australia and Japan, to promote the upcoming tou
1992: Incesticide (flip sides + rarities)
1995: Singles (Hit Singles of Nevermind and In Utero in a cardboard-box)
2002: Nirvana (Best-Of)
2004: With the Lights Out (rarities and (unknown) accoustic versions
2005: Sliver – The Best of the Box