“Does anyone have any other news to share this morning?” Mr Elderidge asked.
Marty stood up. A tall lanky boy with a mop of blond hair. “Kurt Cobain, from Nirvana, blew his brains out this morning!”
There was a gasp amongst the class. “Thank you for that Marty, now please sit down.”
The gasp turned to a rumble and soon the whole class was chattering.
“He was so hot.”
“Did he leave a note?”
“I love that song about the bridge.”
Mr Elderidge regained order of the class and started the daily maths lesson. But as he prattled on about algebra, my mind was elsewhere. I was thinking of the song that had been playing on the radio non-stop for the past year or more and on RTR countdown every Saturday morning.
Here we are now
I feel stupid
Here we are now
Here we are now
It wasn’t long before the tapes came to school. The rainy April lunchtimes became classroom sing-alongs. Crowded around a small tape player, the true devotees would sit and drone along to the lyrics of, what we referred to then as the ‘Penis Baby Album’.
Soon we realised the tape deck had two tape players, and a record function! Bootlegs were made. Many. I remember the moment when my very own dubbed copy of Nevermind was dropped into my 11 year old hand: Pure excitement.
With my first taste of pirated music still fresh on my tongue, I ran home as fast as I could to test my wares. I jammed that puppy into my tape deck and then lay on the bed listening intently to every line, every base note, every wail and scream. I was hooked.
The album began with its most well known song – Smells like Teen Spirit – which with a name like that was always going to be a theme song for the teen slacker generation. The name was supposedly inspired when a friend wrote on a bedroom wall: “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit” referring to a deodorant of the time. Typically though, this song, which was the most pop friendly and earned the most air time, was far from the best song on the album and my least favourite.
Breed was my personal theme song for my own slacker generation. With its feedback rich intro, vicious drumroll and heavy base, giving way to lyrics Like: “I don’t care, I don’t care” and “I don’t mind, If I don’t have a mind” it’s not hard to see why.
Lithium was another favourite of mine. A tender intro and sweetly delivered verse that gives way to a very simple, yet powerful chorus and bridge. A subtle amount of layering in the chorus vocals gives the entire song more weight. Supposedly this was something producer Butch Vig had to trick Cobain into by layering multiple takes. Kurt, a grunge purist, was hugely opposed to giving the vocals any kind of polished or processed sound, only relenting when Vig reminded him: “John Lennon used layering”.
Territorial Pissings had me thrashing around my bedroom, hooked on the thrill of heavy, fast music. After Novoselic’s farcical delivery of the vocal intro – a cover of the young blood’s ‘Get Together’ – the song evolves into a banging post punk track, more true to the bands original bleach sound than any other the other tracks on the album. The lyrics in the verse - "Never met a wise man/If so, it's a woman" was my first taste of male pro-feminist views. Something I hadn’t experienced growing up with a right-wing misogynistic father. There’s nothing more irresistible to an 11 year old girl than a male feminist musician.w
One baby to another says, "I'm lucky to have met you"
I don't care what you think unless it is about me
It is now my duty to completely drain you
I travel through a tube and end up in your infection
Chew my meat for you
Pass it back and forth in a passionate kiss
From my mouth to yours
Coz, I like you.
Nirvana Nevermind has shaped the girl I am today. Sure, it may have caused me to rip my jeans, don a petticoat, shirk my homework and smoke at the train station as a way to highlight my grunge persuasions, but it also influenced my creative intentions. As an artist, as a writer I am still drawn the imperfect, the artistic intention over flawless skill. So what if you can sing like Celine Dion if you end up singing like Celine Dion? I’d rather listen to Fiona Apple, who squawks the high notes occasionally, because I believe her. I believe her integrity as an artist. Not just a singer. I believe that she is feeling what she is singing. Where Celine Dion sings songs, Fiona Apple makes art. I’d rather mess than sterile perfection that lacks the evidence of passionate creativity. For instance, I’ve heard professional vocalists say that Kurt Cobain could not sing, that he was flat in most of his songs and had terrible diction. I think what Nevermind proves is: it doesn’t matter. There is something to be said about passion and intensity. It trumps perfection any day. As producer Butch Vig said: "Even though you couldn't quite tell what he was singing about, you knew it was intense as hell."