History of Rock and Roll
April 28, 2005
There possibly isn’t an album in history that is as genre defining as Nirvana’s Nevermind. Released in 1991, it single handedly was responsible for the birth of what became to be known as grunge and has gone on to sell over 10 million copies in the United States alone (Stuessy, Joe). It reached number 1 in 1991 and was the first album to bring Seattle grunge to the mainstream audience (Stuessy, Joe). Nevermind is a mix of slow, dark songs and fast paced grunge rock songs. With its grinding guitars, pounding drums, and lead singer, Kurt Cobain’s distinctive voice, Nevermind found a distinctive way to fuse alternative punk with 70’s rock (Nirvana, Nevermind).
The biggest influential song on Nirvana’s Nevermind album was the first song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It reached number 6 on the Top 40 Charts. This song was groundbreaking for Nirvana and the alternative music scene as a whole. After the release of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” white, middle-class youth of the United States finally had a style of music to call their own and express their “teenage anthems” (Stuessy, Joe). This was the first song to emerge from alternative rock and to be known in the mainstream of rock and roll, expressing their generation’s expectations, “…here we are now, entertain us”(Stuessy, Joe). “Smells like Teen Spirit” was Curt Cobain’s “attempt to write the ultimate pop song”(Nevermind, Nirvana). He used the soft-loud dynamics of his favorite band, the Pixies. The insidious hooks also showed his admiration for the Beatle’s John Lennon(Nevermind, Nirvana). The style used in this song is simple, plain, loud, and straight-forward. Musically, there is nothing very “innovative” or difficult. However, the reason it is important to rock history is because it brought America’s attention to the once before underground style of grunge. “A driving drum beat, powered by Novelsek’s rhythmic bass, and a memorable guitar riff and solo, mix perfectly with Kurt Cobain’s depressing yet humorous lyrics” (Kastner, Patrick). While it has certainly been overplayed in the past years, it is still an essential part of Rock history.
“Come As You Are” and “Polly” showcase that Nirvana were not only a band interested in seeing people jump up and down and scream at shows. Many people, fans and celebrities alike consider “Polly” to be Kurt Cobain’s most well written song. “Polly”, number six, is a story of a girl who got molested and tortured and sexually abused. The girl was able to escape by pretending she wanted to stay with her capturer, and he took her handcuffs off and she escaped. A very melancholy song, played out through youthful lyrics. Kurt exchanges the distortion drenched guitars in for a simple acoustic guitar, and the song still sounds powerful (Nirvana, Nevermind).
Number three on the album is a mellow, “Come As You Are.” A very confusing, thought provoking sound and verse. The chorus refers to the dependency on the past that some people rely on as an influence in the future. Curt mutters “Memoria” which, in latin means “Past”. Another interesting fact is the bridge to this song, “I don’t have a gun”. This song is the prime example of Curt’s ability to write lyrics in an obscure and ironic manner (Nirvana, Nevermind).
“In Bloom” is the second song on the album, Nevermind. It has been said this song is contains the best production style on the album. The drum lines and guitar rhythms in this song are coordinated un-perfectly to make an unforgettable grunge sound that Nirvana and Kurt were all but sure to create (Nirvana, Nevermind).
“Breed” is song four. With a “scratchy riff” that inspires teens to rebel, this song seems to tell a story of a man and a wife who are happy because the man is beat into submission over and over by his overbearing other(as shown by the lines “I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care, gimme some,” and “We can plant a house, we can build a tree, I don’t even care, we can have all three she said!”. This is a great song, with an impacting musical technique used by Curt Cobain. He emphasizes certain parts of the song by screaming in the chorus and muttering throughout the verses (Nirvana, Nevermind).
Lithium is number five. This seems to be a party like song, a story reminiscent of an uncaring, witty mastermind that makes his own world out of his likes and dislikes. It also tells of a love hate relationship, as shown in the lines “I like you, I’m not gonna crack, I miss you, I’m not gonna crack, I kill you I’m not gonna crack.” This is a great song that is very lyrically focused (Nirvana, Nevermind).
“Territorial Pissings” is easily the most unattractive song on the album. However, it is still an excellent song reminiscent of a party-like atmosphere in “Lithium.” This song also resembles “Breed” “because of it’s muttered verse and screamed craziness of the chorus” (Nirvana, Nevermind).
The eighth song on Nevermind is “Drain You.” With a high, power cord infested verse and a dark chorus that describes something along the lines of a filthy sexual experience, this is a wonderful song with a great premise and great wording. This song is obviously about a woman in Kurt’s life at the time, as seen in the chorus, “Chew your meat for you, pass it back and forth in a passionate kiss from my mouth to yours, you’re my final prayer, I like you”(Nirvana, Nevermind).
“Lounge Act” and “Stay Away,” both start with a “trashing pull-off bass line”. “Lounge Act” progresses from laid back to thrashing mayhem. “Stay Away” emphasizes the drums, particularly the snare(Nirvana, Nevermind).
The last song on the album is, “Something in the Way.” It’s constant “acousticized riffs” make for one of the most melancholy and sheer depressive songs that Nirvana may have ever made (Nirvana, Nevermind).
“Nevermind righted a lot of what went wrong with music in the ’80s. Cobain was clearly making music for creative expression and release, not to get rich and go live happily ever after in the Riviera. In doing so, he found himself more popular than anybody could have expected. His chronic stomach pain became a metaphor for the natural angst of disenfranchised youth around the world. The rock anthems of Nevermind became the lasting impression of rock in the ’90s, merely a year into the decade. This is primarily because of the countless imitators who sprung up in its footsteps” (Nevermind, Nirvana). Everyone may not be a Nirvana fan, however, they must recognize the fact that Nevermind created a lasting impression on the face of music and won’t be soon forgotten.
1. Joe Stuessy and Scott Lipscomb. Rock and Roll. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003
2. “Nevermind, Nirvana.”
(20 April 2005).
3. “Nirvana, Nevermind.”
(4 April 2005).
4. Kastner, Patrick. “Nirvana, Nevermind.”
(25 April 2005)