Music Rewind welcomes back Danny Prokup for his second episode to discuss a now-legendary album that marked a turning point in the American Music evolution, 1991’s Nevermind by Nirvana
A great conversation that tries to go beyond the impact and legacy of the album, and talk about how it was truly 3 guys having fun while playing their music. It just so happened to change music forever.
Album: Nevermind Artist: Nirvana Year: 1991
Get the album here: https://amzn.to/3JTlM4n
Danny’s previous episode on Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary here:
Transcript as follows:
Hello and welcome to Music Rewind, a podcast where we look to tell the stories behind our favorite albums. I'm your host, Steve Epley, and in each episode we invite a guest on to tell us about their favorite music album, how they decide covered it and what makes it special to them. Joining me today is a Music Rewind regular who needs no introduction. Danny broke up. You will find Danny on previous episodes diary by Sunny Day, Real Estate and the 90s music roundtable he's also a frequent guest on our livestreams. Welcome, Danny, and thank you for coming back on the show. Thanks for having me back. Steve really excited about it. I've been listening and following up on season two episodes and stuff. A lot of good things happening. I'm excited to be part of season three. Awesome. All right, well, let's jump right into this. What album did you bring to the table and how did you discover today, Steve? I'm going to try to tackle Nirvana's, never mind
the way I discovered it. I think like everyone else, it just became part of the zeitgeist around 91. And I originally think I saw much like half the population. I originally saw the Smells Like Teen Spirit video on MTV in rotation, and it just spoke to me and it made me intrigued and want to dive in and find more and more about it, more and more about the record more and more about the guys behind the band and the band and dive into it and sink my teeth into I have a confession to make. I had not listened to this album all the way through until preparing for ever in your life ever until preparing for this episode. Why? Let's get into this. I have owned it for many years, but I never just put it on and listened all the way through. And the back half, a lot of it was new to me. Wow. Let's talk about that. Let's flip the script on this episode because those are strong to me. We'll get into it, obviously, but I don't know whether it's just because of the first half of the record was pretty much radio and MTV staples, but the back half of the record, I think, is some of their strongest songs. Well, like you said in 91, that was right about the time that I got MTV for the first time. So that video along with Jeremy and others were always on there from all that new music that was just slamming me in the head from many different directions. And I didn't zero in on much until the pumpkins. I kind of passed over in Nevada at that time. So it wasn't until later on because I kind of thought that, well, it just smells like tea, Spirit and then a couple of others, and that's not really my thing. And then I really was not a big fan of in utero. That one didn't click with me at all. So I never really went back and gave it the time that it deserved. Got you, I think, for me it was because I kind of had to go back and reassess how I found the album and put myself in the shoes. I was then when I first heard it rather than what it is now. I think for me, I had older cousins and you talked to Rick, whose episode is fantastic, the Puppets episode, but through him found bands like The Smiths and Television and those earlier Metallica records. But at the same time, like Metallica, the one video was on Headbanger's Ball. I had older cousins who were into sort of the metal scene at the time. So they got me into watching like, Headbanger's Ball and stuff like that. And I think, honestly, that's the first place I saw this Smells Like Teen Spirit video was headbanger's ball. And, you know, people forget at the time where that's where quote unquote heavy music was. He was still Jackson. Donna, this is early 90s. Feels like Teen Spirit comes out in September of 91. So it's early. And I think for me, again, I think it was visually the way the three of those guys were dressed. It's cliche now and it's every talking point you've ever heard about it. But at the time it's jeans and T shirts. It's some of those bands, like, I was being exposed to like the Television and The Smith. Some of those bands that look like that but living in a small town like we did. There's no college radio. I don't know at this point, really who The Replacements are or anyone like that who screwdoo any of that underground alternative rock, college rock at the time. So seeing these guys, there was just something about it and it was heavy, but it was also melodic. And I think that's what drew me into Nirvana at first and then sort of seemingly not even seemingly. I mean, the record comes out in September and by January it's number one on the Billboard charts and then everything else follows, especially at such a young age, not knowing the background of alternative or college rock. It was overnight where all of this music came out and everyone's either into it or against it but everyone's aware of and knows Nirvana and the music that follows. But I think for me, I was sort of hesitant and I have to be honest, hesitant about bringing this record in is not because I don't love it. I mean, it's a cornerstone record for me. But what else can you say about it's? Almost like saying your favorite band is The Beatles, where it means so much, but it's almost so like I don't want to say generic, but it becomes something bigger than it is. Right? So what I want to try to do is go back to strip all that away, to strip mythology about it. The kirk Cobain T shirts and the bigger than the Beatles. And now you can buy your Nirvana shirts at Target and whatever, and you could for years and the statues and the myth and just go back to when this record was made, what it meant, and try to capture that, what it meant to me at that time. All right, well, why don't you walk me through how you listen to the album and we'll tackle it that way. Honestly now, it's one of those ones where we were talking about before is usually I skip to the back half just because I haven't heard those songs in forever. Going back and preparing for this episode, I've been listening to it all the way through, and if it comes up, it's all the way through. It's not something I'll sit down and go, oh, I've got to listen to this just because it brings up so much for me. It's a heavy listen. It's not something I have on in the background. On that note, that's kind of what I ended up doing, too, because the first five, six tracks are no, those are the hits and the ones that I know, just not even listening to the album all the way through. I know those songs, not even the lyrics. It's just hell in Bloom was on rock band. Yeah, but from track seven on, those were the ones that were kind of new to me. So whenever I would put it on to prepare for this, I would skip straight to seven and then listen to the back end. I think, for me, too, I think it's like anybody with their favorite record or records, it's the relationship with it. It changes, it ebbs and flows, it mutates, it grows. It's everything that to us, music nerds. It's everything that a real relationship is. Right. It's the record that meant this to you then. It means something else now. This song does this. This song does that. So I've had to reevaluate my relationship with this record numerous times over the years. And I was so young when it first came out and it spoke to me. But then I think the whole world went back and re examined and over a fine tooth comb, went through the lyrics and, oh, my God, cobain was telling us this whole time that this was there. And there's that whole mythology of he's the tortured artist, and there's that whole thing to unpack of. He's just depressed. If you look at these lyrics in retrospect, you could connect dots whether they're real or not. Well, and that's something I want to talk about, too, through this, and I know we'll get into it then I had to do that. And then growing up, we're almost 20 years older than Cobain at this point ever was. So then you're going through all of those things, and now I'm at the point where they mean a lot to me, but I'm seeing them and I have for the last however many years but seeing them again as what they are, they're just great. I think what sets Nirvana apart from a lot of bands and why they resonate so much is because they were attacking this music. It's heavy, but the melodies are there. I think what separates them and the whole looking back on it and Grunge and all that kind of stuff, where bands like Soundgarden and Alice and Change, those bands have more in common with Black Sabbath where Nirvana really to me has more in common with, like, Cheap Trick. I can see that the bass has turned up. There's a quiet loud. There's a lot of the similarities and the heaviness but to me, I think that's what drew me to them more so to those other bands at the time. And now, believe me, my love of Pearl Jam and SoundGuard in those bands goes beyond. But I think what sets Nirvana apart for me is sort of that melody in the songwriting and that all really comes down to covain, but just the way it gelled together and what the underlying needs. But going through the lyrics especially and you were talking about the tortured soul. But what people forget and what I'd like to talk about is the fact that it's just funny. A lot of it is funny. He's just a humorous guy and I think a lot of people miss that because of the tragic ending. And then you're looking for meaning and then however many then you're reading somebody else's account about it. If you're going back and reading these books when the ending is known instead of seeing about it what it was, I don't know if they took themselves as seriously as the rest of us do in terms of especially now is it, you know, 30 years, 32 years of hindsight. 31 years of hindsight on on this record. So, yeah, I think a lot of the lyrics when you're not trying to connect the imaginary dots like you said, because, you know, the ending, they can be taken as completely tongue cheek where just either they're they're meaningless. Just because they sound good in the in the moment, or he's trying to he's doing the Paul McCartney, just writing about what's around him in a 360 view and putting it to some hard reason just for the fun of it. Without a doubt. I think a lot of it was that too. I mean, it's not funny, the voice of a generation and all that kind of stuff. But then you read and I know we'll go track by track and one of my favorite songs for humor is like on a Plane. It starts off and I'll start this off without any words,
ounce of it later is that it was one of the last songs that he was writing and they were running out of time on the recording session. But the last verse is really one more special message to go, then I'm done and I can go home. And you're like, yeah, that's a 24 year old kid, you know, on a deadline. But it's fun, you know, it's just and they're sprinkled throughout those kind of things, you know, those those lyrics and stuff. But I think just seeing it as a whole and I think the mythology has enveloped the band rightfully wrongfully. So that's a debate for the countless volumes that people have written and talked about at Nauseum. But it's interesting to know if you put yourself into when this album, who this band was, when this album was recorded and how it was recorded, I think, to me brings a whole new meaning on to what comes after it, if that makes sense. No, I agree with that. You got to think at the time, too. So 88, they have Bleach, their first record, and it gets some play in the underground, especially their their cover of shocking blues love Buzz. And, you know, they're big, relatively speaking, in Europe and all that kind of stuff. There's bidding wars and people can find out the history of the band, but when these guys get together, it's not nirvan in quotes in big blocks recording their follow up record. This isn't the Beatles making Revolver or Sergeant Peppers where there's this smoke in this heat. For years, I thought this was their first album. A lot of people still do, to be honest with you. But not only that, the whole shift, this isn't like, oh, they're putting this record out for the masses that are prepared to that are already listening to this type of music. Thriller, you know, Michael Jackson's at the top of the charts, Garz Brooks is coming. Like we talked about, all the pop stuff. Yeah, this music is out there. And I think that's, you know, a lot of especially the the older generation, the older folks in our generation, you know, often say, well, Nirvana was they sound like the pixies, or they're doing this, they're doing that, and they completely owned up to that. They weren't reinventing the wheel, but I think in the way that they did it brought it to that next level. But I think at the time, they just get a new drummer. So Chad Channing, who is the drummer on Bleach, is gone. They get Dave Grohl, who is in DC. Hardcore band scream. They go into Sun Studios. Their last record was made for $700. They get a big time producer. There's money, quote unquote, behind it. But again, it's not this big alternative rock record because that term didn't even exist yet. Was Bleacher released on Sub Pop as well? Bleach is Sub Pop, and then after that, this is when there's a bidding war. They get new management. I think Gold Mountain is the management company that they sign with all nerdy, weird, into the weeds stuff, but then they sign with our Sub Pop essentially signs with Geffin or a deal with Geffen, which famously saves the company the influx of cash. But that was mostly on DGC at the time. They just put out Sonic Use Goo, which was a pretty good record. They had a pretty good roster of, for lack of a better term, alternative bands at the time. But again, this record, if anything, was probably supposed to sell half the records sonic Youth, maybe, or or be popular in that the same way. A hard, earnest fan base, a Fervent fan base, I should say, that that sought out this type of music. But I don't think anybody even as good as these songs are are thinking, well, in three years there's going to be flannel fashion shows and winning Grammys and then on the COVID of Time magazine and all of those sorts of things, it just doesn't happen. This was a band again, new drummer, new something. They're making these sets of songs and I think it was if you take the mythology and again, the ending out of it and what it's grown to become bigger than of itself and just take a look at what this record is, I think, again, it's just mind blowing. It still is mind blowing to think about where this could be or what it turned into, I should say. Yeah, I mean, the mainstream rock that proceeded in on, say, MTV and others was things like Unskinny BOP from Poison still in spandex and running around on stage. And then they're this was completely different and it was jarring in a good way because those other bands you mentioned, they weren't getting any MTV airtime. Exactly. And I think Nirvana has crowned the death of hair metal and all that kind of stuff. If you look at it, I think that's a bow to put on it and it's a nice way just to end it and move on and say, well, Grunge killed hair metal and now we're moving on. I think just like in real life, in any era, there was overlap and it was messy but that kind of music was already dying in and of itself because you get those bands at the tail end just like anything, just like at the end of the Grunge scene. Those bands that have no connection to the original the original Sunset Strip in terms of the Grunge underground of the kind of punk and what have you underground of that Grunge had. So the music is already lacking. People are moving on, but they're hungry for something new. And then you've got these guys that are especially like Grunge and Soundgarden and Alice and Chains and the Pearl Jam guys. Those guys were all in some of those bands. Mother Love Bone is a glam rock band. Yeah, Duff Mccagan is in punk bands and he's also in GNR and Appetite For Destruction could be of I don't necessarily think that's a hair metal record by any stretch of the imagination. So a lot of influence and mix. And I think that's what always that's the neat bow, too, that I think that a lot of people put on, is that, well, Nirvana is grunge and they're from Seattle, but they're not they're from outside of it. They're from Aberdeen. They weren't rubbing elbows with Cornell and Veteran and those guys, they played Sub Pop and Lanagan and Screaming Trees and Tad and Mud Honey and those sorts of bands. And there's overlap. Mark Arm and mud. Honey. They played with the guys in Green River with a mat and those guys. But I think Nirvana just is set off a little bit to the side enough where they weren't necessarily as influenced by those bands as some of the others were, if that makes sense. Yeah. Cobain famously would hang around like the Melvin's practice space. They're doing their weird sort of heavy things, but there's also melody in there. And I think Cobain's love of The Beatles and Am Radio and Cheap Trick sort of comes through in this songwriting in a way that doesn't necessarily come through in other Grunge records. There was one track on here that he was spouting the lyrics to The Yellowbloods at the beginning. Get together right now. Oh, yeah, that was a throw that I wasn't expecting. And that's Nova Selige, the bass player, singing, so that's his oh, is it? Yeah.
Come on, people now smiling your mother again I think that's an example of singing that. And he's singing poorly nova celebrity. I don't know if he was singing an artist or he's just that good of a singer, but it's sort of that. Come on, people, now smile on your brother get together right now and then the lyrics are all about I got to get away got to find a way, a better way
the death of the older sort of generation, the boomer parents. And we're still doing the same thing we're doing now, but just that whole idea of you got to find a way, a better way. Right. And then he's got that awesome, that iconic lyric in there to me, which I've never met a wise man, if so it's a woman. And I think lyrics like that really go into sort of, I think, why Nirvana broke a lot bigger and why there was something there is it spoke to everybody. It wasn't homophobic, it wasn't misogynist. They were talking about cobain wears the dress on headbanger's ball and everybody's up in arms. He wears the ball gown, famously. I thought it was a ball. But I think that's why Nirvana did it in such a way is because for better or for worse, and I know for a lot of people, especially, like I said, a few years older, where they were, you have sort of this insular tribe. And he says, Cobain talks about the tribe and smells like teen spirit, but you've got this insular tribe and you're fighting and wouldn't it be great if we all were on the same page? Well, then it gets mass marketed and commodified and all of a sudden your Small Little World and your tribe is now, like I said, a fashion show and all that sort of stuff and it has a tragic ending. But I think for a minute there was just that sort of and this is me looking back on it and reading things like I said from those folks that were in their twenty s at the time and had been a part of that underground scene to see one of their quote unquote own make it hue. I think there was that sense of sort of the underground has won, things are really going to change. I think that was a moment of that generation, that Gen X, our generation that we're at the tail end of okay, now that we're in charge, we're going to change everything. I think every generation has that right until the machine keeps rolling. But I think for a minute there, there really probably was that feeling of we won, we're in charge. The outcasts are now in charge. Illusion. Yeah, the illusion of it. Absolutely. Like I said, it's the same as any other generation, right? Every generation is fighting against the older generation. And once we get in charge, this is going to change. And not a lot does. For better or for worse. I do wonder if this album would have taken off the way it did if MTV was not a thing. How the music scene would have progressed to the 90s if this was not right there, right at the beginning, right as MTV was in full stride. Yeah, that's a good question. I think just because the nature of the world at the time MTV was the way the masses received their music or found out this is still their only ten years in MTV at this time. And they're telling you what's cool right there's the daytime videos and all that kind of stuff and then there's Headbangers Ball to document the Sunset Strip and heavier music at the time but there's really no other way. How else would you hear about it in Spring Valley? And that's what made me think of it because say we come from a very rural area and we only had two or three decent stations that were playing either classic rock, gold and oldies or the Pop 40. And this stuff, if it wasn't being broadcast on our TVs we probably wouldn't have heard. No, without a doubt. Just because we didn't get Chicago radio stations. And quite honestly what I think was great you would have get your I would peruse the rock magazines at the grocery store when my mom was shopping. I think it was like hip parador and circus and all those kind of stuff. And at the beginning Nirvana is in there with bands like skid Row employees. They're on the COVID or sharing covers. I think that's what especially for younger folks and younger listeners, there is no alternative. It doesn't exist. This is just a rock record. This is just a heavy record. This is on headbanger's ball. This is on those stations with I agree. I hear term alternative rock. I'm thinking experimental, almost progressive rock, like something that's out of the I'm saying this poorly, but out of the ordinary. Whereas this was a good rock record. Yeah, Ten was a good rock record. These weren't alternative to me. Well, and at the time, I could be misquoting. I think at the time it was alternative to the mainstream. There you go. Alternative meant and then the irony is that it became the mainstream. Like I said, for better or for worse, this shaped a lot of what came after it. And obviously it ends, at least for Nirvana, ends in a way that ends quickly, unfortunately, to say it again. And I think a record like that doesn't happen. It's one of those things where you can tell when a band is being forced on you or when somebody says, this is going to be the next big thing, and then it goes away. I think this record and took everyone by surprise that worked on it just in terms of they might have thought it would be a success, but not as big as it was. I don't think anyone could have predicted that all of a sudden you're going to have this type of music take over the Billboard charts and you're going to knock Michael Jackson from the one spot that just doesn't happen. And then it's just something that especially when it is word of mouth, I remember distinctly, I think I first got the CD. A kid my dad worked with got it who is a metal fan and was like, this is terrible. Do you think your son, you know, you know, your son like, Smells Like Teen Spirit, you know, does he want this CD? And that's how I got this. My first copy of the CD was a hand me down because a, you know, 1718 year old kid that was working with my dad or 20 year old guy or whatever, didn't like it because it wasn't heavy enough or didn't speak to him as a metal guy. That's interesting. Yeah, it makes sense that it would be exposed that way because it was like I said, they're on the COVID it's Sebastian Bach and I'm making it up. And I'm assuming I remember Nirvana being on the COVID of Circus and all that kind of stuff, and then kind of that shifting of a guard or changing of a guard, rather, if you will. Well, we can go track by track or you can just point out was that you want to speak about I think we can kind of do just go around, if you don't mind the Barovsky style. Yeah. All these thoughts, like, I've already talked about terrorists and plane. What I'm trying to do and please cut this. What I'm trying to do is avoid the rehash everything that's already been said about it. To touch on those first five, six tracks, though, they were all over the place on MTV, and they kind of did make some radio airplay eventually, once they got into the Top 40, but Smells Like Teen Spirit, In Bloom, Come As You Are, Lithium. Those four, at least, I know, really kind of put them forward. In Bloom is still one of my favorite videos. Oh, yeah. That video is just fantastic.
That's the one that kind of made me think, okay, these guys are clever. This isn't just an average band. These guys are clever. And I think it speaks to the humor of the band, too, which often gets overlooked. I keep going back on it, but I think that's one of the reasons that I love them so much is just because it has all of those things. It's anger, it's rebellion, it's acceptance, it's conflicting feelings. But there's funny in there. And some of it's dark humor, some of it's just like I said, some of it's just plain, this is funny. But then you've got that video tearing down the for those out there that haven't seen it, they're kind of like on a Ned Sullivan style show with slicked hair and snappy outfits, clearly miming their instruments and lips exactly. Doing what they're told, what they're supposed to do. And then it cuts to them trashing the stage and it flips back and forth throughout the video. And it's pretty great. Yeah. Well, they've got the screaming girls like the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Girls are going crazy, and they've got bad wigs on it's just great stuff. I will say this is a debate that I've had before. Side one. Track one smells like teen spirits. Got to be up there with the best and best. I can agree with that. It's a hell of an oprah. It really is.
Back in Black on Back in Black, welcome to the Jungle and type. But side one, track one on a way to open a record, come on, that just hits you in the face. It does. Yeah. I completely agree. I could put it on that level with appetite. As far as how the Allen opens, it's got everything you need. I mean, it might be hacky to say the biggest song from the band, biggest song from the biggest band, but it really does kind of encapsulate the band as a whole. The whole loud, quiet, loud, dynamic, sort of the inclusiveness he's talking about the tribe and the lyrics. Might mean everything, might mean nothing. Might just be rhyming words. We could read into them more than we want to. If we want to. We could throw them away. We could just put there's the melody, there the heaviness of it. Grew's drumming obviously goes without saying, but if this is the first song and this was the first song many people heard after Bleach, so even if you like Bleach, this is such a leap up and Bleach is some great songs. So for your listeners out there, if you haven't listened to Bleach and you like Nirvana, do yourself a favor, but this is just something that hits you over the head and like, oh, this is a record to be. This is a band and a record that needs to be reckoned with. I did see a Little Real once where Dave Grohl was talking that he ripped that drum beat from the Gap Band. Without a doubt. Yeah, street Lift, he's proud of it. And whatever the drummer or the Gap Band is, they've spoken, they'd be like, man, you well done. That's what's great about it, too. I mean, everyone there's, I remember the debate and I think it's probably still raging somewhere where it's the more than a feeling guitar riff.
Holy shit, you're right. And they're like, yeah, that's just good stuff. It was never like, we're standing on the shoulder of, you know, or we're ripping people off to be a sum of a hole, but that was always The Detractors. Or I would just remember those and, like, Fiercely, you know, defending Nirvana, and you're like, oh, wait, they were in on it, you know, are they? Well, then then come as you are is a straight rip off of 80s by The Killing Joke. Yeah, yeah, exactly.
I read that and I had to go to YouTube and find that song and, yeah, there's no ambiguity there, it's just a straight rep whatsoever. And again, I think this is defending a band that doesn't need defense or doesn't need my voice in it, but I think it's it's an homage to those things, to the Underground, I think, and and the melting pot of everything. And it's I don't, you know, I don't think Come As You Are, I don't think Cobain is sitting down like, oh, I'm going to take this guitar riff and we're going to be the biggest fucking band in the world. It wasn't sort of stealing from here and here and then being I think it was just this is what these guys were listening to. Yeah. I think there's a big difference between a Blatant rip off for to steal versus these are your influences and this is what's in the back of your subconscious as what you know and what you play. Apple doesn't invent anything either. They just take other people's ideas and make them better. Yeah, there's a whole there's a whole rant about people getting rich off of other people's ideas and names and likeness, so we can go on it's the American way, because I invented the music podcast, elon invented Tesla. I am the first person to ever want to do a music podcast about people talking about an album well, and believe me, I'm the first guy to ever talk about Nirvana. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. There we go. So for all you music fanatics out there, here's a great podcast to add to your must listen list. Nakedly Examined Music is a podcast about songs and songwriting. In each episode, Mark Linsenmeier speaks with a songwriter about three of their songs, which you get to hear in full. Nakedly Examined Music explores what motivates creative decisions at every step of a song's creation, from the initial idea to the final recording. It also provides a picture of how a songwriter's work has changed over the course of their career. This is the ideal context for introducing you to new music. And you're going to come away from the podcast with many new favorite songs. You're also going to learn about legendary artists, and you'll get filled in on scenes and genres that you always felt like you should know more about. You may come away a better listener and a more inspired creator. Start listening today. Wherever you listen to your podcast, the link in the show notes or find the firstname.lastname@example.org. I know I keep repeating myself, but I think it's that thing of maybe it's just because it's been a part of my life for 32 years now, or 31 years now, and it took a long time. When he dies, when he kills himself, I was like 14. And so that was hard. I remember it hit a ton of bricks, and for me it still hurts. And I never met the guy. I don't know him at all, celebrity death or whatever you say. But at the time it meant a lot to me. And so for a long time, I did what everybody else did. I was reading the lyrics, especially at that age, getting into it, and, oh man, he was telling us the whole time, and I swear I don't have a gun. What did he mean? And all this kind of stuff and reading everything I could about it and blah, blah, what everybody else does. But then as you get older and you just start to listen to it and you go back and put yourself into when it was recorded. And this is a 24 year old kid who isn't that guy yet. He's not the most famous person in the world and the most famous band in the world. He doesn't have this debilitating drug addiction. He can walk around the street. Nobody knows who the fuck he is. Half the world doesn't even know he exists. The same with anyone in that genre of music. If you're wearing a Sonic Youth shirt, there's five people that know, especially in Spring Valley, people would be like, oh, you listen to this music? Cool. There was those folks, but the quarterback didn't have a Nirvana T shirt, you know what I mean? Not saying we're any different, but it just wasn't a part of the Zeitgeist like it would become a few months after it's released. So I think, looking back on it, then you strip all that away. Like I said, this isn't Nirvana recording a record. This is really two high school friends, Curt and Chris, with a new drummer who had a pretty good first record that got a lot of, for lack of a better term, buzz because of singles like Love Buzz and about a Girl and some of their songs that were like, oh, this is good shit, this is good music. Maybe the second record. This is a band worth investing in. If you're the Geoffing Company, maybe they can tour with sonic use and sell a few records. And that's exactly what they did. And then, holy shit, it takes on a life of its own. I remember reading in Michael Azra's book, Come As You Are, but they were saying the record wasn't selling like it was until after Christmas. So it was like everyone got a Michael Bolton CD for Christmas. Brooks or Madonna's CD for Christmas. And then our generation, they went and returned it and got Nevermind. And then all of a sudden it spiked and went up. And whether that's true or not, I just always thought it was a nice little antidote of sort of what was going on at the time. That changing of the guard, if you will. And I also had to go back, too, when I'm thinking about this record is because, like I said, it wasn't the first record that was my music. And I know a lot of people will say their first favorite record is that first one that they could point to that wasn't their parents record or something like that. For me, that record really was Metallica's injustice for all. Where I had it, I had it in my headphones. I was scared to let my parents hear it. It was something I knew they weren't going to like or understand. My parents like Nirvana. My dad request that I bring the tape into the minivan because it was melody and poppy and heavy or whatever. He was more the demo for this than I was at the time. He's 20 or he's in his early 30s, so maybe a little bit older when this comes out. But to me, I think it was the first thing that again, I think it was the first thing that opened up a world that I didn't know existed. So you're seeing Cobain, he's talking about all these other bands and he's wearing the T shirts and they're named Dropping. And they're bringing girl groups with the girl group, but they're bringing rock bands that aren't on MTV because they don't fit the aesthetic they're pointing out, say, like l Seven and Seven Year Bitch and all these other bands that aren't getting airplay. And I'm going back and I'm finding the Melvins and I'm finding these bands that were influenced and just because you saw somebody. He wore a T shirt on the COVID of Rolling Stone and now I'm reading the liner notes of who he's thinking or who he's shouting out, oh, I've got to find this band and I've got to find this band. I think, to me, it was that first record that really was the tide that rose all boats, if you will. It was the thing that opened me up to everything. And then it's right after this, it's Ten, it's all those bands that come with it. It'll sound weird, but it's a timeless record to me, where it sounds like this could be recorded yesterday and I still think it's a hit record. If it was released today, obviously it'll be on Pitchfork and they'd probably give it a 4.0 because it doesn't have enough sense and all that kind of stuff. But to me, it's just a timeless record, as Kurt says, it's always been and always will until the end. I think it's just one of those things that has stood the test of time, continues to stand the test of time. And I don't think it's because of the, for lack of a better term, the hype and the mythology that's around it. Yeah, I still think if Cobain lives and they're putting out bad records, but if they go the route of, say, Pearl Jam and people are like, oh, they were only good for Ten, and who listens to dad rock? Yeah, you probably would have that. I'd love to live in a world where I was on the 15th Nirvana record and they were saying, It's dad rock. So there is that thing where you're only 20 once and that was what they were feeling then. But I do think it's timeless and I think a lot of it has to do with the melody of it. The songwriting, I think, is superb. The mixing on it, the thing I keep going back to is how underrated the bass sounds like nova celich's bass parts. The way that it played up a little bit in the mix, very an homage to that 70s style recording like lounge act, has a good bass intro that jumped out of it. Yeah, absolutely.
And the thing that a lot of bands had it, I think you could probably say that's the Pixies influence, their base is very deals bases. Kim deals base is very turned up in the mix, obviously, the way that Groll and Novicelle play off each other. But again, it's a broken record. But it all comes down to, I think, Cobain and his songwriting and his sense of melody, his sense of putting things together to touch on something. You mentioned quite a bit, but this album was made before they were famous, so this is them having fun with yourself. You could tell on the songwriting and the playing that they're enjoying themselves. It feels that way, and I think that's why I definitely like this a lot better than In Utero. But there is just a lot of joy in the way they're playing, and I think it comes across in the music a lot. I agree. I will say what I love about In Utero and this goes back to the humor is so now they're recording in utero. They're the biggest band in the world. They're everything that the myth has become. Yeah, they're on the COVID of Time magazine. That can't go anywhere. And the record starts off with teenage Angst has paid off. Well, now I'm bored and old from Served. That's the first of your major label follow up, your multiplatinum record. And I think that just goes back to Cobain's humor and what often gets overlooked. And if you read Dave Grohl and those guys and the experts of people that knew him, I think that often gets overlooked by the tragic ending and the tortured artist and all those things where you're going to read back what you will on it. And a lot of people do. And a lot of people did. Yeah, like you said, this is three guys having fun. And this could have been their one shot, their last record, their Dave Grohl's documentary, Sound City. So this is recorded in Sound City, where Tom Petty did Damn the Torpedoes. And Fleetwood Mac recorded. And Rick Springfield okay. Highly recommend the documentary if you haven't seen it, but GroEL talks about that the place is nearing its end because no one's making those types of records in the studio anymore. Nirvana comes in and they have a modest budget, and they record there. Again, it's three guys in a room. There's a famous where something in the Way, the last track, they couldn't get it right. Butchvig couldn't get it right in the studio. So that's Cobain in the beginning, him strumming his guitar. He's laying down in front of the council, which turns off all the fans, and he's just laying down, strumming the guitar, essentially quietly singing it, trying to work it out, and Butch is recording it. And that's what you hear on the final track
is from the league.
Obviously, everything else is mixed in Something in the Way.
But again, I think it's just that, like you said, they're having fun or they're making a record. They're not making the voice of a generation record. They're not making back in black. They're making? Never mind. It becomes Capital never Mind bold underlined this record after the fact. So the version I have has a 13th track, Endless Nameless. Was that on the original or was that a bonus? That was a hidden track on the original. So I think Something in the Way is something like 18 minutes long. Ten minutes. Remember in the good old days? Yeah. What I think that was just a sound collage of them. Oh, it's terrible. And that's coming from a guy that likes to listen to pistachio medley from the pumpkins yeah. Endless. The name was. I say it's terrible, but I think it's supposed to be. Like I said, it was them. Just I had to read about it because I was so curious, what is this?
But they were starting to record lithium and it went south and so then they started just doing whatever came to mind. And this goes back to what I was saying before. They were having fun with it. It wasn't like, Crosby still is a nast sort of JM session. This was a Nirvana jam session and that's what it's going to sound like. And quite honestly, they're just walking around there or whatever. But it's the DNA of nirvana, right? Yeah. Loud Screaming the quiet interlude with the bait. So it's always there. It's just in their DNA, Steve. That's just who they are. As a fan, when I say it's terrible, it's terrible in a good way, it's good terrible in a good way. Well, it's not the lead single. Yeah. And we'll have to mention, though, something In The Way did fit very nicely in that Batman tree. Oh, yeah. Yes. So for millions of new people to be like, what band is that? Yeah, well, it's weird to me, and maybe it's that thing of getting older, but it has to be the same way where when we were walking around in the 90s with Led Zeppelin T shirts on, what our parents were must have thought, where now? In my daughter's third grade class, there's kids with the smiley face T shirt on. They don't know Nirvana. They don't listen. I doubt their parents listen. It to Nirvana, but it's at Target, next to the it's in their spring line and whatever. And there's an argument. Is that terrible? Is it great? Is it whatever. It's Something in The Way charts for the first time in 30 years, because it's in a trade. Oh. Charted, I believe it really? Oh, yeah. Oh, wow. Even having a reconnaissance there, I mean, a resurgent as the last track of the record with Wild. It does make me a little sad, though, when our local Target here, they have a display up and it's been up there for weeks with a special edition Target only vinyl of Nevermind. And next to their T shirt display of you can get these T shirts too. It's just like, all right there. And a nice bubbly Target display makes me cringe just a little bit. You know what? And I did the same thing and I do, and it sucks, where a lot of what I think about is who I was, and now the world is a completely different place. So I know it's apples. It's apples to hand grenades. What my comparison? But what I think about is the kid who is intrigued by the COVID or the smiley face, who hasn't heard it, who's only been listening to, say, TikTok videos or the Top 40 with their parents or whatever, and then for some reason puts this record on and it speaks to them in a way. We were a complete one from where we were 31 years ago, especially living in a small town where you were only going to hear it because, like, we were talking about MTV or somebody older turned you on to where now there's so much white noise, there's access to everything that it almost back to where it was. And because you have such a short lifespan, puts up a record today. It's already been talked to death. If I don't hear it till Friday, everyone's done talking about it because the next single came up or the next record came. Right. I fight with that, too. But at the same time, if it turns somebody on to Nirvana who goes and changes their world in a way that it did mine and countless of other people and I hope it does. I hope that with their recent researches through whatever means. I hope so. There are some people out there that discover this album for the first time because there isn't anything to my knowledge right now that's new, that sounds anything like well, and it goes back to you. Saw it with you just talked with Masters of Puppets with your episode with Rick. Metallica ended their La Laplus set with the Stranger Things in the background and Masters of Puppets, that's a song that's 40 years old, just about, or whatever. And now there's new kids, new fans of Metallica or the Masters of Puppet record because of stress things, you know, or the Kate Bush phenomenon, all that kind of stuff. So good music will find a way. I posted about this last year or earlier this year with due credit to Metallica and Kate Bush, but there is an excellent Journey recut of separate ways in Stranger Things that doesn't get enough attention. All right. It was beautiful, beautiful scene. You know, when we would talk about Journey in the Never Mind episode, I was wondering how we could steer it there. And I'm glad we did. Straight line from Skid Row. It is, really is. Are there any other tracks you want to touch on before we move forward? Man, it's like talking about your favorite kids. I love them all. Drain you is one of my favorite songs,
I think, just again, the dynamics of it, the way he's just his vocal performance on the song, I think, is just top notch. I like the lyrics of that one. I thought they were, say, tongue and cheek. Funny. It is my duty to drain you pass it back. Yeah. Lounge act, I think, has talked about it a little bit, but that is also a great song.
A lot of people, like I said, going back on it, people were talking about is it addiction? I've got this friend, you see who makes me feel and I want it more I could steal I don't think that's what it's about. I think it's more about it I took it as a breakup song. Yeah, it's more about a relationship. I'll keep fighting jealousy. I could still smell her around you, smell her on you, those types of things. That's what it's about. There's just so much to unpack. And still, like I said, 31 years later, still listening to it and hearing different lyrics or lyrics in a different way. Been listening to it with my kids and they're like, oh, that was funny. Or what's he say there? And you're like, oh, that's what he's saying. Or that's what he means. I will recommend anyone out there, though, that if they want to hear the stuff that is not forced down on you, the back half of this album is pretty excellent. And I think that's what makes Nirvana is it's not just the single, or in the case of this record, the singles. And if all you know about Nirvana is Smells Like Teen Spirit In Bloom, Come As You Are, Lithium, or going on to the next record, Hard Shaped Box and All Apologies, or even the unplugged record, go back and listen to it's funny to say, the Deep tracks, they put out three records. But if you like Nirvana, go back. Or if you're intrigued by what you hear and you're not familiar with, and go back and listen to Bleach. Go back and listen to the songs that aren't state, quote unquote staples, or listen to them again in context, or for the 100th time, or the first time. Just because I think this is a band worthy of immersion and exploration. It's a band that, again, has shaped me in ways, in my musical taste in ways. And it's a band that has a little bit to offer for everyone, whether you're a Beatles fan or whether you're a Metallica fan or everything in between. I think it's in these records because that's who these guys are. That's who they were. You can see it when Grohl goes on and what he does in the Foo Fighters and that stuff. Actually, I had a younger colleague said they never gave Nirvana a try because they didn't like the Foo Fighters. And so if anyone out there is on the fence with that nirvana and the Foo Fighters have nothing in common except for their drummer and maybe the DNA that runs through his songwriting. But this is a completely different animal. So if you're avoiding Nirvana because of your opinion on the Food Fighters, two completely different bands, stop that now. Yes, I enjoy both bands. I'm a big fan of the Foo Fighters. But, yeah, two completely different. That just popped into my head because I remember younger, it was about three or four years ago, and I had Nirvana on in my head. He's like, what are you listening to? And whatever Nirvana song. And he was like, I never give him a chance. I can't stand the foo Fighters and I was like, oh, man, that would be the way in for people. But I'm an old guy, so never mind. You brought that to the table today. What albums would be a short list for you? Steve Unreal? There's so many. I keep going back and forth on all of these and every time time you ask me, like I said, I think in the last episode, every time you ask me, I go back and I'm like, oh, I forgot to say this. And I forgot to say that what's on your short list? Is one of my favorite questions. I know it boggles everyone when you put them on the spot. I've got my record collection down here in front of me and I don't know what I would talk about. Well, you've already mentioned Injustice for all an appetite during the show here. Injustice was for me. The Replacements, Let It Be is on my short list of ones that I was going to talk about. Yeah, I don't know, we'd have to cut this. If you had to recommend a Pixie's album for someone as an intro, because that's a band that's been mentioned on several shows, several episodes, but I don't know their catalog and I'd like to kind of explore them a bit. I would say the two that you need to listen to if you don't know anything about them are Doolittle and Surfer Rosa. Okay. You might know where is my mind with the fight club? Some club. Yeah. That's the pixies. That is my knowledge of the Pixies. Yeah. Well, honestly, if you like Nirvana, you're going to like the Pixies. I mean, the way they sound, it's the loud, quiet, loud dynamic. There's funny. There's a lot of shared DNA between the bands. I think Frank Black, the songwriter, the lyricist and the singer, has very similar songwriting DNA to Cobain and that the lyrics could mean everything. They could mean nothing. They're funny, they're humorous, they're insightful, they're dark, they're scary, they're edgy, they have the pop sensibility. In fact, the song on Doolittle called Here Comes Your Man is basically like a 60s do Op song. Oh, really? Imdeal Sings and it's just a phenomenal song. They have their experimental, they're loud sort of feedback, screaming side again. If you dig Nirvana and you like what Nirvana has done and what they've put out, especially the Nevermind record, then Do Little and Surfer Rose are worth checking out for sure. And they're still putting out albums now. The Pixies are still going strong. Their last two or three, I should say, of their reunion records are really solid records worth checking out as well. All right, I will say just a few other things on Never Mind. Like I said with Never Mind, I was struggling on whether or not to talk about it because everything had been talked to death. But I think at the end of the day, the biggest thing that gets lost about. Never mind is that it is just a fun, angry, cathartic rock record. It's everything that you want in an album. It has melody, it has tragedy, it has anger, it has alienation, it has acceptance, it has the come as you are. All are welcome. It doesn't matter. This record is for you. This record is for if you're the outcast. This record is for if you're sad or depressed. This record is for if you're happy. It's just one of those records that encapsulates everything that I love about music, everything that I love about songwriting down to its production. And I think what is so unbelievable to me is that, yes, it is this huge record now, but it is the record that deserves the adolation that it's got, deserves the accolades that it's gotten. I think it would still to say the quiet part out loud, I still think it would resonate into accolades even if they were putting out records today and Cobain was still putting out records. I think it is that powerful of a record. I think it stands head and shoulders above other records of the era for good reason and we've talked about it, shares DNA with a lot of those bands and literal parts of other bands catalogues. But it is that record that does it so well. I will say it's that once in a generation talent of Cobain, of novicellic and of grohl, those three guys coming together to make this record, they bid in utero, which I'll stand behind as well. I love that record. I don't think there's a bad Nirvana song or record. You can see how this record stands up and just the unbelievable songwriting. If you watch the unplugged, if you've only heard that record and heard these songs in that setting, stripped down to the bare bones, to their DNA, you can hear how powerful they are without the guitars, without the drums kicking you in the head, because that's how strong of a songwriter they are. That's how strong the DNA of these songs are. And I think that speaks. And that's a testament to the power of this band and why this band and this record are important, continue to be important and hopefully generations continue to discover and listen and sit with this record because it's worthy of that. It's very well put, well set. There were so many things, Steve, that I wanted to talk about. Like, I've got these notes about everything and I was doing what I you were on a roll. I wasn't going to interrupt you. Thank you. Thank you for that. Hopefully it was something you can use. Before we wrap this up, anything you want to tell our listeners of? If you're working on something where they can find you or anything you would like to pitch? Nothing I would like to pitch. Support music. Rewind support your local podcaster. I think I've said it before on these episodes. But if you every episode is worth hearing. If you think if you don't know an album or you think you don't like an album, hear it again through somebody else's eyes. Hear it again through the lens that they're bringing to you. Go back and rediscover it. Go back and discover it. Hear it again for the thousandth time or the first time, but with somebody else's perspective in mind. I've done that. And fall in love with records or listen found nuggets of things and records that I had written off just because they weren't what I thought I would like or didn't like at first. Hearing them with somebody else's insight and connecting in a way that somebody else did is pretty damn enjoyable to a music nerd like myself and like, hopefully everyone who's listening to this to this podcast. I appreciate that. And and what's one of the joys that I get out of this podcast is hearing these albums through someone else's eyes. Which makes no sense when you say it out loud. But no, that's why I put it man, I love it. It is. But it's interesting. A lot of off the wall albums have been brought up in a lot of different ones of different genres, different ways they were recorded, different levels of success. But when you put it through the eyes of the person that it was a life changing album for them, it adds to the overall enjoyment of the album for me. Absolutely. And that's what's cool about me being a music fan, right? Yeah, absolutely. I still hope to discover when you ask what my favorite record is or what other records are short list, it's not because I don't have a list, because there's so many. And since the last time we talked, there's like other records that I love just as much or went back, new stuff that came out that I'm loving. So that's the great thing about Vietnamese fan, especially in this day and age where everything is available and timeless. If you want to discover this band, if you only like one song or one record, that's fantastic. Spend time with it and discover something. All right, well, thanks for your time today, Dan. It's a pleasure to sit and talk with you about your violence. Never mind. Thanks for having me on, Steve. I really appreciate it. I've read every book and seen every documentary and I was just trying to bring something to it that wasn't there. And I think that's what I kept hitting on was just the enjoyment of it and what it was and what it is. Well set. I'd like to thank you for listening to Music Rewind, a podcast from the Ciderial Media Group. If you enjoyed today's episode, there are many ways to help the show, such as our patreon or affiliate links in the show notes. The easiest way, though, is to give the show a rating or comment wherever you listen we really do appreciate it. Thank you again. And as I always say, listen to the full album. Until next time.
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