"Smells Like Teen Spirit" - Classic Or Dud?

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An old question but a goodie. Maura wrote on NYLPM about how age has not withered SLTS, nor the years condemned. But what about the rest of you? How does it work for you now - nostalgia fest, living piece of pop greatness, irritant, museum piece? Does it have anything to tell us anymore?

Tom, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

It tells me that Kurt Kobain knew how to write blazing punk-pop. It's one of those songs I don't think will ever bore me.

Dan Perry, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Oh, Maura nailed it. That opening... wow.

Josh, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

well, sorry to interrupt while everyone's sucking each other's dicks here, but here comes the loud, odious voice of dissent. "smells like teen spirit" means nothing to me now (assuming that it actually *does* mean something) and it meant nothing to me then: indeed, i believe in order for it to mean anything to you now, it had to have meant something to you then: i don't think there are too many late converts to nirvana, though i could be wrong.

oh, sure, if it's on the radio, i'll do some mock-rocking out with the quiet-to-LOUD part (just where did they discover *that* particular dynamic?) but that's only if there's someone else in the car and i can amuse them. as far as i'm concerned, the opening is the litmus test: it either grabs you or it doesn't. it's a nice touch going from the acoustic strum to the plugged-in BURST -- credit for the dynamics, again -- but that's all it is for me, and all nirvana has *ever* been for me: the pixies sans the fun.

fred solinger, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Gosh, the first time I heard the song I had just turned 15, and I'd never even heard of the Pixies (or basically any alternative music at all..I thought the kids who listened to the Cure and Depeche Mode were a bunch of losers), all I knew about punk I learned from Disney movies (in which the punk kids didn't like the heavy metal kids -- I considered myself a heavy metal kid but my mom wouldn't let me grow my hair long. But then, even the skaters with the firehose and Fugazi patches on their backpacks were heavy metal kids as far as I knew). This was what, the second or third month of my first year of high school, the most impressionable time in any person's life if you believe the tv shows. The coolest thing about my high school is that every friday, during lunch, we had a PA set up and guys from the high school radio station would play music, these guys were almost all heshers and mostly what you would hear was like Metallica and Slayer and Primus and Exodus and stuff. Well, one of them decided to play "Smells Like Teen Spirit", I don't even think I was paying any attention until the loud part, but I had never heard anything like that, especially the way it was sung. I remember turning to a friend of mine who was in a band and new more about music than I did, and asking him if he knew what this was. He said something like, "Nirvana...haven't you heard them before? They're better than Metallica!" This was right after the black album so I was inclined to agree. Anyway, I went to another friend of mine who knew more about music than me -- this guy was like 6'5" and hung out with a bunch of strange, older kids -- and asked him if he had the Nirvana album. He said he did but that he liked their first album, "Bleach" much better. One day in class he played me "Negative Creep" on his headphones and it was the most alien, incredible thing I'd ever heard. I ended up getting Nevermind for Christmas. Unless "Unsung" by Helmet counts (which I think came before, or maybe not), "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was the first short-haired rock and roll I and many others my age had ever heard. Then I remember seeing the video for "100%" by Sonic Youth and laughing at how short and unfinished it sounded, and how the guitar solo was nothing but noise, and how they were dressed just like the skaters at my school. But that was the beginning of something for me, no question.

About whether the song still holds up, I'm probably the wrong person to ask. I mean, I get nostalgic when I hear a fucking BUSH song on the radio these days. I don't own Nevermind anymore, I only have "Lounge Act" on mp3, but everytime "Smells Like Teen Spirit" comes on the radio I turn it up. It's probably like whatever "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" was to my dad, which is kind of pathetic. But my question is, if "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is the "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" of its generation, does that make "Baby, One More Time" the "Sugar, Sugar" of its generation?

Kris P. Dickchopper, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Speaking as a late convert to Nirvana (being too young for pop when grunge was huge, I don't think I ever heard them until after Kurt Cobain killed himself), I can say that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is still the greatest rock and roll song of the last ten years -- it destroys anything else released since. And as far as ripping off the Pixies goes... theft makes great music. Fine, Nirvana was in its way a cheap knock-off of the Pixies. So? The Rolling Stones were in their way a cheap knock-off of American rythym and blues. The Sex Pistols were in their way cheap knock-offs of the New York Dolls (who in turn wanted to be the Rolling Stones). And the Pixies hardly came about in a vacuum; they were very much a product of hardcore and indie rock. What *ought* to be far more heinous than stealing from Frank Black is lifting "Smells Like Teen Spirit"'s riff wholesale from a Boston song (ugh). But Nirvana pulls it off with such style I hardly notice, and when I do, I don't care.

And by the way, how much *fun* were the Pixies? When I think fun music, I think something like Wilson Pickett, or Basement Jaxx, not "Where is My Mind", or even the goofy surf instrumentals.

Greg Ferguson, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Jesus, Solinger, you woke up grumpy today. Good for you, it means nothing to you. Do you have to be such a stinker about it, though?

Josh, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Oh, and what's more: I think all the Pixies comparisons are just force of habit by now. Mostly trumpeted by Pixies fans who are disgruntled because the Pixies never became popular.

Josh, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

greg: true, everything takes something from someone else. very few acts are wholly original. yes, the rolling stones stole from blues, but, on the other hand, michael bolton stole from otis redding. it's not the rip-off that's the problem: it's the fact that i think nirvana did very little with the rip-off.

as far as fun music goes, sure, the pixies aren't clarence carter or abba, but listen to "debaser" and tell me that's not the sound of a band having a good time.

josh: sorry, i didn't know you were so sensitive, but you do like indie, so i should've known better. anyhow, the pixies comparison became force of habit because it's true, mainly. kurt cobain calling "smells like teen spirit" a pixies rip only helped things.

fred solinger, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

I hate Nirvana AND the Pixies. Can we stop bitching about each other's dicks, as Fred oh so nicely put it, and move on?

Anyhow, I think that if you liked the song then, you'll like it now. If you hated the song then, you'll hate it now. I'd sooner listen to Jeremy than Smells Like Teen Spirit, but that's me. As for Tom's actual questions:

1) It never actually worked for me, as I said, but I'll consider it a museum piece for a period in history upon which chart music was at its lowest point ever, and a band like Nirvana could actually have a hit.

2) It never had anything to tell us. It's a fairly nonsensical song sung in a mush mouth fashion.

There ya go. Your mileage may vary.

Ally Kearney, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Ally: if the song has anything to "tell" us (a criterion I'm dubious to adopt anyway), it's certainly not through the lyrics _alone_.

Josh, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

The point is, and it's a point I've made a fair few times, that it was the winter of 1991 and really, there were better (more exciting, thrilling, interesting, new) things going on than a kid who'd realised the studio came with a volume knob. It doesn't matter that those things ended up in fucking dreadful Paul Van Dyk trance nonsense any more than it matters that Nirvana ended up in Creed (say). Good work Fred. Good work Kurt for that matter, since SLTS is still a decent pop tune.

Tom, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

The point is, you can bang your head to it alot better than you can to most anything else they played on Headbanger's Ball. The complete and total goodness of headbanging must not gestalt for Fred. I guess this is obvious. He thinks Zeppelin rock, after all.

What none of you have brought up is how fucking godhead Leif Garrett is singing the song on the last Melvins album. I can play it alongside "I Was Made For Dancing" and it stands up fine, and that's all you can ask of a song.

Otis Wheeler, Wednesday, 25 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Led Zepplin are not about rock, they're about being Vikings and having bustles in your hedgerows and goin' on down to the Misty Mountain. Jeez. I thought that was established years ago.

Anyhow, Josh: The question was not "What does Nirvana's fans and their response tell us anymore?", it was what does the song tell us. It was never a song about anything. It is, of course, much like how the Smiths are supposedly about being depressed and ridiculous, yet I find their songs funny and I bet Morrissey does too. I don't think Kurt Cobain was trying to tell us anything; I think he was trying to make a headbangers song. Which he succeeded to do. The only reason it "means" anything today besides the fact that it marked a successful headbangers song is because the man is dead. Cf Double Fantasy.

Ally, Thursday, 26 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

I don't think that's true at all. You sound as if you're expecting all of the Meaning to come from the lyrics, which is almost never the case.

Josh, Thursday, 26 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Uh-oh - I think we've got another meaning = feeling conversation coming up here. Nearly all pop songs, like nearly all dreams, mean nothing. What is it that Kurt is telling us smells like teen spirit? I actually think the meaning of the lyrics in Smells are bloody obvious (though not the mulado and albino bits). "With the lights out its less dangerous, here we are now - entertain us" - not really much depth there.

Any meaning which can be garnered from the song which is outside the lyrics is wholly personal. Indeed the majority of meaning from most songs garnered from the lyrics is pretty much personal too. We're reading outside the text after all.

Nevertheless - that intro. Those quiet bits. Those noisy bits. Its Moshpit 101 and should be praised for that.

Pete, Thursday, 26 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

It's not all wholly personal. The _sounds_ have culturally-viable meanings attached to them, just as the words do. You don't play "Teen Spirit" for your grandmother, do you?

Josh, Thursday, 26 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Why wouldn't you play Teen Spirit for your grandmother? You're assuming your grandmother is exactly like my grandmother who is exactly like Tom's grandmother who is exactly like Fred's granmother, etc. The point is, different people attach different things to different objects and just because you feel that the "sound of the song" has a "cultural meaning" doesn't mean *I* do. I think the "sound of the song's" cultural meaning is "it's fun to rip off other bands for profit". Which is fine by me, but not fine by you as you have attached a completely different "cultural meaning" to the sound of the song.

ANYTHING to do with culture will invariably be interepreted a million different ways by a million different people and you trying to attach a hard and fast, cut and dry, black and white universal "cultural meaning" to the way Smells Like Teen Spirit sounds isn't going to win any debate.

If it means something to you, fan-fuckin-tastic. It doesn't to me, as I come from a completely different background. Got it? Good. End of semi-rant.

Ally, Thursday, 26 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Actually, I probably *could* play it at my grandmother. Alas, she is dead.

Re: my own feelings. After having heard about it for a bit, I was introduced to it at KLA in UCLA mid-September 1991. Thought it was all right. Grew on me more with time, but not being a huge Pixies fan at that point either I didn't have an opinion on that subject. If anything I was bemused by the Police comparisons. Which are sort of accurate.

I think Kris' description suits it best. Very much an of-a-time of-a-place it-is-everywhere phenomenon that effortlessly calls back said time upon initial hearing. Haven't bothered playing it, that album or anything by them in years. The kid on the cover is what, ten now?

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 26 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

But Tom:

What could those "better moments" in the winter of 1991 have possibly meant to a fifteen year old suburban kid for whom the nearest EIGHTEEN AND OVER club was 30 miles away? Other than in urban areas with lots of twentysomethings (a demographic which in this country hardly even existed before dot-communism), it's hardly a mystery why thump thump knob- twiddle never had much currency to us, other than the arena friendly bits (and I mean sports arenas, not rock arenas). Moshing IS a kind of dancing; Nirvana WAS a new thing insofar as now any kid who wanted to be a punk or a metalhead could be one without picking up a skateboard or lighting a joint, they just had to buy the CD. The sound was tremendously empowering in that way, something hardcore techno (or early post rock, or whatever you're referring to) could NEVER have been to us, even if there was a way for us to hear any of it. Again, I sound like R Meltzer describing the fucking Beatles, so I'll just stop.

Kris P. Divashriek, Thursday, 26 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

That's not the point I was making, Ally. You can shove all the "what's the meaning of this song" under the rug of individual taste (hmm, sounds like a bad Rush lyric), but what I meant was that there are other things in the song for people to find meaningful - the fact that you looked for meaning in the lyrics, apparently, and found none, doesn't preclude meaning "residing" elsewhere.

Josh, Thursday, 26 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Well, so what, Kris? It's not so bad to sound like Meltzer, since you're RIGHT.

Josh, Thursday, 26 October 2000 00:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

I always wheel out this particular story-ette whenever the whole Nirvana debate comes around.

Around 2 years ago, Mary-Ann-Hobbes on her Radio 1 Breezeblock show played Smells Like Teen Spirit (this was when it still went out fairly early and had more listeners that now), and was inundated for the remainder of the show from people desperate to find out what this tune was, and when it was coming out.

Apparently that night they had the most calls and email they have ever received.

Chewshabadoo, Thursday, 2 November 2000 01:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

That song is crap and it was never any good. Except that it marked the beginning of the end for Kurtis who eventually felt too guilty for selling out and he offed himself. Unless Courtney did it... "Bleach" was a better record, "Smells Like..." is a commercial piece of crap and everyone got what they deserve.

Nate Ernst, Thursday, 2 November 2000 01:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

i too hear at least as much police than pixies. the effect of listening to the pixies is *nothing* like the effect of nirvana.

i was a 12-year-old rock critic zeppelin/doors/hendrix fan who thought rock was dead. i mean, r.e.m. was fine and dandy in a beatles way but they didn't really *rock.* and i'd seen punk and alternative rock and commercial industrial music on citylimits, the muchmusic alternative show, but who really listened to that? (smart, arty, and unhappy college students who wore black, from what tv told me.) some of it may have grown on me with more regular exposure. (i didn't really have disposable income or parents willing to buy pop albums).

i'd already read the glowing reviews of _nevermind_ and was eager to hear it. when i heard "teen spirit" on the local rock station it seemed like rock was really renewed: something genuinely fresh was here with as much raw emotion as any classic stuff. i dubbed the album from a friend and liked it quite a bit for a while. it seemed burned-out and bummed in a way none of my dubbed albums were. guitar teachers despised them.

it didn't take too long -- soon after everyone else liked them actually -- before i turned against them for lacking musical depth (i'm still not sure how much of this was motivated by musical snobbery and how much by genuine boredom -- a bit of both, i think). i hung onto my soundgarden tape in an unfortunately reactionary move. i know i still felt something when i heard the nirvana songs on the radio.

3 years later, after i'd been listening to college radio and had got into the sex pistols and sonic youth and had turned against zeppelin for being bloated etc (and was at a more appropriately angsty age), the _unplugged_ videos started playing and seemed immediately evocative and touching. i got _in utero_ and _unplugged_ for christmas and they remained among my most played albums for at least a year.

maybe 4 years after that, i picked up a used cassette copy of _nevermind_. i liked it in a sad-pop way for a while.

now: _nevermind_ is ok. i listen to it now and then. my main issue is the production, which really weakens it. with better production, actually, it could possibly be as good or better than _in utero_. its strengths are melody and lyrics. i agree the "teen spirit" (or other) lyrics aren't that obscure. i thought the "mulatto" and "albino" bits are about not fitting in and standing out in an obvious way. "teen spirit" is a decent tune. boston stole the riff from "louie louie." _in utero_ and _unplugged_ are still powerful.

sundar subramanian, Saturday, 4 November 2000 01:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Most overrated song of all time.

Sometimes, I believe that I'm the only person in the world that's ever hated Nirvana.....oh well. Grunge was a load of old bollocks. Oh, he's dead. That wasn't very responible!

R.S. Rediffusion, Friday, 10 November 2000 01:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

i was only 10 or 11 when nevermind was released, so needless to say i missed out on the grunge years and in 1995 whenit was all over and i was 14 i heard the song on the radio(the live version)and that song is responsible for opening the flood gates of rock music i listen to now. That one simple song was God at one time. If you play that record backwards, you'd probably hear a little of God's voice on there. many people have their own opinions about nirvana and the quote legendary song unquote and i may have not lived the grunge- lifestyle back when that seen was cool to be apart of, but i just know that that was the first rock song i ever liked and that song is why i am who i am today. any song that changes a person's perception on the world in general is a legend to that person i believe. i agree when nirvana haters blame nirvana for shit like 3 eye blind or any of the sick noise from ska,pop. grunge was a one time thing, whether it comes back or not i don't know . but i know this i will be right in the front row this time.

casey, Tuesday, 21 November 2000 01:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

that song was the most famous song we ever wrote and yet so simple i thought Kurt was a musical genious

Krist Noveselic, Tuesday, 28 November 2000 01:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

I do think it is a really good song. You might think it means nothing, but it shows a lot about a teen generation.

Carlos Galicia, Saturday, 2 December 2000 01:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

I listened to that song (and Nevermind) so much between the age of 14- 15, it doesnt do anything to me anymore..I think Nirvana had better and more heartfelt songs...but SLTS is still a classic...Ive listened to Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy" to the point where I cant bear it anymore but is it a bad song...FUCK NO!!!...Nirvana were probably the last great rock band ..the people who say that they didnt mean anything are probably the same people who say the Sex Pistols were just a novelty shock band...Go listen to yer hand- wringing and oh-so-sincere Pearl Jam albums

Michael Bourke, Monday, 4 December 2000 01:00 (twenty-three years ago) link

Well, to start off i would like to say that SLTS is one of the finest rock tunes i've ever heard, and since hearing the rest of their stuff, I still have not found another band who can rival Nirvana's sheer emotion and intensity. And, what is all of this bullshit about "meaning" from the lyrics, or song, come on, listen to it, grunge is certainly not about bringing a message across through lyrics-listen to Rage Against The Machine(another awesome band) if that's what you're looking for. Grunge is about raw emotion, anger, depression, angst being conveyed through the medium of the music, the lyrics are just there to complete the song, maybe so that the artist can add a bit of a personal touch. SLTS was revolutionary stuff and has Nirvana have proven to be one of the most influential bands of the modern rock era, that fact no-one can deny. As for the various people out there who claim that Nirvana are simply a Pixies copy, where are you guys coming from? Having heard all of the Pixies albums (i am a fan of theirs too) as well as the whole Nirvana collection, i honestly cannot understand how Kurt could have "copied" the pixies. Sure, they were an influence, but hey, every band is influenced by some or other predecessor in creating their style. As far as i can see, Nirvana is about as original as any other great band out there, i see no evidence of stealing songs whatsoever. Fact remains, Nirvana rose from the ranks of punk and metal and created a whole new musical style,which has influenced a whole generation of musicians, and if the pixies had done it first, they would be the ones that we would be debating about now, wouldn't they? Nirvana FOREVER, man!

Jon, Sunday, 17 December 2000 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Time will, for better or worse, render SLTS in the cannon. However I could never endorse that particular song or album to anyone hoping to get a crash course in the music of the time. And that's not just 'coz the Sonic Youth and Pixies were so much more diverse and artistically impressive. Kurt was a hero to some, but he ain't a hero to me.

Jimmy Mod, Monday, 18 December 2000 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

two weeks pass...
SLTS is a great song. Who cares if it was influenced by the pixies. The Clash were directly influenced by the Sex Pistols, but they still wrote better music. It's o.k to like something that's popular. And there is meaning in the lyrics, it's just not spelled out for you. Besides, the lyrics are just as confusing as any pixies song (debaser!!!). I do not think that SLTS is Nirvana's greatest song, but it is definately one of their best.

chard, Wednesday, 3 January 2001 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Smells like... Tori Amos is even better. Do you know the cover she did? It's a b-side on some single of her (Crucify?).

Alexandra, Sunday, 14 January 2001 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

I never liked Nirvana. but I always liked this song!

So I think this song could be considered as a classic. but nirvana isn't.


Ludo, Monday, 15 January 2001 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Classic, but a useless one. An empty gesture, a "Hotel California" for the 1990s.

o.munoz, Thursday, 18 January 2001 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

A song that still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. That feeling has never diminished over all these years. Apart from Nirvana none of the grunge scene meant anything to me, Pearl Jam are one of the dullest bands ever. Yet Nirvana transcended any musical fashion and wrote classic songs. The John Lennon of my generation (IMHO).

Andy, Tuesday, 30 January 2001 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

It doesn't say much eh.... Tom? Its a classic that will never get old, if you don't like send me some stick but I don't think I'm wrong. so uh......get bent. Hee hee!!!! C-ya

Bucko, Friday, 9 February 2001 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Who the f**k are you! Get with Maura..... Rock On

Bucko, Friday, 9 February 2001 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

I still can't believe this topic is brought back from the dead naerly every week. Especially since this song was ARSE!

Phil Paterson, Saturday, 10 February 2001 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

More than a Feeling -- enough said.

Nicole, Saturday, 10 February 2001 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

two months pass...
Although this is my favourite song of all time and is the best rock song of all time if you read the inside of the nirvana album'on the muddy banks of wishkah' it states that all songs written by kurt cobain except 'anuerysm' 'scentless apprentice' and 'SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT.'so it is a classic but who wrote it?

Scott Williams, Tuesday, 8 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Courtney Love.

Ally, Tuesday, 8 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

I recorded it backward on a 4-track one time, and there are hidden messages..."say yes to me" and "i hate you"...I think!

james e l, Tuesday, 8 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Most records played backwards sound to me like Indian music (or at least my idea of what Indian music is), but Indian music played backwards (or at least "Within You Without You", the closest thing to Indian music that me and my buddy had handy to play on his backwards-spinning turntable) doesn't sound like regular pop, it just sounds even weirder.

Patrick, Tuesday, 8 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

I just watched Kurt & Courtney, it's the greatest documentary I've ever seen, and there's no Nirvana music in it. I'm somehow able to hate Nirvana at the same time as I love them. It's the same with most hippies.

Otis Wheeler, Tuesday, 8 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

I'm starting to think Otis is secretly a hippie. He wears bell bottoms and puts on patchouli oil in his spare time, and goes to sweat lodges to find himself.

Ally, Tuesday, 8 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

I'm a hippie gangsta, yo, but I still resent these accusations. Even waking up from a blackout, I didn't have to go looking for myself, I knew I was right there. My clothes were another story, unfortunately.

Otis Wheeler, Tuesday, 8 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Irritating. I have heard it far too many times over the last decade.

Nick Greenfield, Wednesday, 9 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Kurt died, why? listening to this track again is a good start. It's angry, it's unfocused, it's successful, it's pop, whether it likes it or not. The music came from Kurt's effort to reconcile two opposing aspects of his life (take your pick), his talent and his career, it's their friction in this song that makes it memorable. His talent was undeniable, it was in his blood, in his brain (early recordings suggest this.) However it came out: anger or apathy, he had the ability to tap these currents and by-pass his brain, express undiluted emotion. But the career was beyond his control, impotent to affect it, he shambled through everything but still ended up at the top of the charts. SLTS stands out cause it succinctly says all you need to know about Nirvana's paradox, being a successful band and confused young people, the power of their position and their incoherence. Words fail Kurt, but the feedback and screams resonate with the frustrated generation who don't even know what's got them so wound up, he delivers a fresh answer to the questions indie music had on the tip of their tongue throughout the 80's - aaaaaaarrrrrggggggh. That's the punchline, not his death. We knew he was '4-real' when he said 'I feel stupid [on stage]'. He never did resolve the disparity between his personal and public life, though the music bridged this gap he probably never heard it like we did - we can relate, empathise for a full three minutes, but then it's over. I've yet to hear a track, this honest, at number one.

K-reg, Wednesday, 9 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

apparently the guy kept the drums, *re-recorded the guitar parts*, and then pitch-shifted the vocals to match

i am not the guy fwiw. i got that from another board

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Sunday, 7 January 2018 23:41 (five years ago) link


flappy bird, Monday, 8 January 2018 00:05 (five years ago) link

was really weird when Foo Fighters performed the Never Gonna Give You Up/Teen Spirit mash-up with Astley a few times last year


ufo, Monday, 8 January 2018 01:13 (five years ago) link

Slow start to the year, it seems!

Gholdfish Killah (Turrican), Monday, 8 January 2018 16:59 (five years ago) link

BTW, I'm 14 and I've only recently become a Nirvana fan (and no, it wasn't because of YKYR :P). It's safe to say that Nirvana hasn't lost any meaning over the years.

going "awwww" at this classic crut post

mh, Monday, 8 January 2018 18:07 (five years ago) link

re: Cicieraga, I strongly considered nominating "T.I.M.E." in the tracks poll

Simon H., Monday, 8 January 2018 18:14 (five years ago) link

wow, that Jump/Imagine is spectacular!!

niels, Monday, 8 January 2018 19:36 (five years ago) link

six months pass...

Ghrol makes this song what it is

calstars, Saturday, 21 July 2018 22:15 (five years ago) link

five years pass...

I don't know where this BS line started that Grohl was inspired by the Gap Band's "Early in the Morning, but given that "Teen Spirit" already bears a passing minor key resemblance to "More Than a Feeling," check out the drum fill leading in to the final chorus, around 2:45:


Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:08 (three weeks ago) link

It came from Grohl himself in an interview he did with Pharrell where he cited Funk licks/beats/rolls he used on Nevermind.

an icon of a worried-looking, long-haired, bespectacled man (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:14 (three weeks ago) link

Faking the funk! J'accuse!

BrianB, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:16 (three weeks ago) link

Yeah, he's full of shit, lol.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:20 (three weeks ago) link

That album is exceptionally not funky, and drum intro to Teen Spirit sounds nothing like the Gap Band. But it does sound like that bit in More Than a Feeling, which the rest of the song sounds like, too. Possibly mature Grohl is guilty of a little revisionism.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:23 (three weeks ago) link


an icon of a worried-looking, long-haired, bespectacled man (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:26 (three weeks ago) link

Opened this up and was reminded of "Teen Sprite" from a few years ago. The original link above was taken down, and it's a little harder to find now--it's on YouTube under the name "Nirvirna." It's probably impossible to erase anything permanently, someone will always be around to re-post, but if you've never heard it, there does seem to be some effort to do so.


clemenza, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:29 (three weeks ago) link

I agree I don't hear it on "Early In The Morning" but 100% hear it on the opening of "Burn Rubber On Me" fwiw


citation needed (Steve Shasta), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:31 (three weeks ago) link

I don't hear it, it lacks that bass drum syncopation, which the Boston fill has.

xpost A few years ago there were a whole bunch of major key versions of minor key songs posted. I seem to recall the major key Losing My Religion was pretty good.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:33 (three weeks ago) link

this will always be the definitive version for me


the world is your octopus (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:37 (three weeks ago) link


stuffing your suit pockets with cold, stale chicken tende (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:40 (three weeks ago) link

I remember Tom Scholz being sore about the similarities. I heard a radio interview before a Boston concert in the mid-'90s and he and/or Delp bitching about doing "The Nirvana Song" onstage.

an icon of a worried-looking, long-haired, bespectacled man (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:41 (three weeks ago) link

xp (Fun fact: the tires screeching before the drum intro is sampled for the instrumental chorus of NWA's "Straight Outta Compton")

citation needed (Steve Shasta), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 01:09 (three weeks ago) link

I don’t hear any fill at 2:45 in the Boston song?

Agree with Steve it totally sounds like the opening of the gap band jam and it’s used In exactly the same way

xheugy eddy (D-40), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 01:27 (three weeks ago) link

I think he meant 3:45

an icon of a worried-looking, long-haired, bespectacled man (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 01:31 (three weeks ago) link

Yeah, sorry. Toward the end.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 01:36 (three weeks ago) link

Dave Grohl got me reeling
When ripped off "More Than Feeling"


an icon of a worried-looking, long-haired, bespectacled man (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 01:38 (three weeks ago) link

The drums definitely enter "Teen Spirit" the same sort of way they enter those Gap Band tracks, but come on, there is no way Grohl was thinking Gap Band, Cameo and Chic when he was recording "Nevermind." At, what, age 22? With his punk background? Nah. But old man Grohl now, friend to everyone, lover of all music, sure. He probably wanted to seem hip to Pharrell.

Reminds me of some making of "Murmur" thing I read years ago (I don't think it was Niimi's book) where they were talking about the supposedly "anything goes" recording, trying everything, including sliding in James Brown samples. Come on, no they weren't.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 01:48 (three weeks ago) link

I read the early circa 2000 posts above. So much hate for this song/band!

Like, show us on the doll where the Anarchy cheerleader touched you...

Loud guitars shit all over "Bette Davis Eyes" (NYCNative), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 05:34 (three weeks ago) link

my god I remember that pixies talking point it was used all the time as if it was the last word on nirvana as a band. they sound nothing alike! not even on SLTS except for some of the basic dynamics. it seems like people were just repeating something cobain said once as an excuse to flex their indie cred (and it worked in that it made me feel totally basic for liking nirvana more). the best legacy of the pixies reunion is that it totally killed the mystique that made them such a trump card in these games

Left, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 08:23 (three weeks ago) link

anyway isn't everyone who does the quiet/loud thing just ripping off haydn?

Left, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 08:24 (three weeks ago) link

fwiw as a 15 year old when Smells Like Teen Spirit came out, I saw the video on MTV in the school common room, knew nothing about them, and thought "I like this it sounds a bit like a heavier version of the Pixies".

I didn't have a lot of other points of reference for indie rock/punk stuff at the time mind you. I'd bought Doolittle a few months prior to this and was listening to it constantly.

Colonel Poo, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 10:35 (three weeks ago) link

I can hear it if I squint but they seem very different to me probably because my introduction to nirvana was more like "this is like a better version of nickelback". discovering the pixies later was on was like getting inducted into the cool kids gang. but nirvana was for everyone

this song is OK

Left, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 11:15 (three weeks ago) link

there's a pretty clear line from "gigantic" to a lot of nirvana, not much else though

ufo, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 11:23 (three weeks ago) link

ok I was wrong they're not nothing alike and I guess I hear a lot of kim deal in nirvana's bass parts too (and those of so many other bands since then)

getting into 80s-90s alt/indie rock all at once after the fact makes it harder to know how the parts fit together than if you grew up with it

Left, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 11:35 (three weeks ago) link

I have no interest in Nirvana, but this was a great song on a great album and that should be the final word, and no they don’t sound like the Pixies

H.P, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 12:29 (three weeks ago) link

nobody said they were a one-to-one match, that’s not how influence works

is he disgruntled adrian? (voodoo chili), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 12:50 (three weeks ago) link

Besides a few of the other hallmarks - the screaming, the stark dynamics - I find it odd that the most blatant Pixies identifier is ... 8th note bass lines? That's really it, isn't it, the bass? Whether it's "Teen Spirit" or Sugar's "A Good Idea," if you want to sound like the Pixies, you play ... a straight forward bass part. But there have to be antecedents to something so simple, right?

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 13:12 (three weeks ago) link

speaking of antecedents whenever i hear that driving downbeat snare drum pattern (like in the gap band song) i think motown

is he disgruntled adrian? (voodoo chili), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 13:15 (three weeks ago) link

The drums definitely enter "Teen Spirit" the same sort of way they enter those Gap Band tracks, but come on, there is no way Grohl was thinking Gap Band, Cameo and Chic when he was recording "Nevermind." At, what, age 22? With his punk background? Nah. But old man Grohl now, friend to everyone, lover of all music, sure. He probably wanted to seem hip to Pharrell.

Reminds me of some making of "Murmur" thing I read years ago (I don't think it was Niimi's book) where they were talking about the supposedly "anything goes" recording, trying everything, including sliding in James Brown samples. Come on, no they weren't.

― Josh in Chicago, Monday, November 13, 2023 7:48 PM (yesterday) bookmarkflaglink

Why is there “no way”? That stuff was on radio. It was a big sound at the time. He may have even done it subconsciously and looked back and been like oh damn that’s where I got that. Idk, the Boston thing is similar but it’s *kurt* who was inspired by Boston

xheugy eddy (D-40), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 19:19 (three weeks ago) link

yeah I don't see why Gap Band, etc. wouldn't have been on Grohl's musical diet. I still remember 30 years ago when it astounded some people to learn that "More Than a Feeling" inspired (in part) SLTS -- was he too punk for it or something?

stuffing your suit pockets with cold, stale chicken tende (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 19:21 (three weeks ago) link

IME drummers have always been drum nerds who like weird drum music, so the Grohl/Gap connection sounds v plausible

Chuck_Tatum, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 19:32 (three weeks ago) link

I mean, nothing is impossible. "Nevermind" was recorded in, what, 1991? When "Early in the Morning" was a hit he was 13, and by his own account a full-on punk rocker. So sure, it's *possible*, he just seems like a dude that listened to Boston on purpose but maybe only heard the Gap Band in passing; definitely he and Kurt heard the Boston song a million times whether they wanted to or not. I do think he might have heard "(Not Just) Knee Deep" by way of De La, though; it has a similar drum intro. But none of these funky examples feature the bass drum syncopation that the Boston and Nirvana songs have, and "Teen Spirt" already sounds a bit like "More Than a Feeling."

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 19:38 (three weeks ago) link

Here's a clip of Grohl playing a vintage TCB/Junkyard Band-style bounce-beat on RDGLDGRN studio sessions:


citation needed (Steve Shasta), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 19:44 (three weeks ago) link

(time stamp 1m28s)

citation needed (Steve Shasta), Tuesday, 14 November 2023 19:45 (three weeks ago) link

Definitely Grohl, like a lot of DC punk dudes (like MacKaye and Rollins), was apparently into go-go:

"As I was walking down the street, a car drives by, and go-go's blaring out of it. That's how you know that you're in Washington, D.C., because it doesn't even really stretch to Baltimore, or Richmond. It is Washington, D.C. Now, New Orleans has jazz, right? Chicago's got the blues. D.C. (has) go-go music, which is like a funk-based music that was started in the early '70s, pioneered by this guy Chuck Brown. It sort of evolved into this huge local scene. When I was a kid, growing up (in Washington, D.C.), you'd get three or four go-go bands to play together: Trouble Funk, Junk Yard, Rare Essence — put 'em all together, you had a good, like, 30,000 people. You know, that doesn't happen anywhere else. I was always really proud that wherever — when I started touring as a young musician, I'd go to Europe and I'd say to people, 'have you heard go-go?' They'd say, 'what's go-go music?' And I'd play 'em Trouble Funk."

Tbf, the clip of him talking about the Gap Band, it's not really laid out as an influence on "Teen Spirit" specifically, just the album generally, which is more plausible (to me). He calls it the "disco flam." The doc does insert a clip of "Teen Spirit," but those big snare flams are all over the record, for sure.


Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 14 November 2023 19:54 (three weeks ago) link

Most of these references rested somewhere within their collective patchwork after 15+ years of active and passive listening. At the very least these "unusual" choices were indirectly influencing the arrangements. Seems weird that Grohl would be bullshitting even if he just meant it was something he realized later. Just the same, Cobain did not actively cite Boston. In fact he probably would have thrown away the song pretty quickly if he was aware early enough.

billstevejim, Wednesday, 15 November 2023 14:50 (three weeks ago) link

I could believe that Grohl only realized later where those influences came from, that makes the most sense.

Wasn't the story that Cobain almost tossed the song because it sounded too close to the Pixies? That may have been BS as well, just like Bob Mould claiming he didn't notice the similarities between "A Good Idea" and "Debaser" until much later. Sure, Bob; the song works better as an homage than it does as a false modesty stumble into brilliance.

For sure Cobain knew "More Than a Feeling," so it would be surprising to me if he didn't notice the (admittedly fleeting) resemblance. "Teen Spirit" bears more of a resemblance to the Pixies than it does Boston, but it only barely sounds like Pixies, either.

This is my fave "Teen Spirit" clip:


Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 15 November 2023 15:02 (three weeks ago) link

My college radio station was chosen to debut SLTS to the world and while the 12" was delivered in a white label, Kurt drew what the proposed artwork concept for Nevermind would be on a mailer:


citation needed (Steve Shasta), Thursday, 16 November 2023 18:42 (three weeks ago) link

Glad they didn’t go w the “H!tl3r Baby” concept.

Phair · Jagger/Richards · Carl Perkins (morrisp), Thursday, 16 November 2023 18:53 (three weeks ago) link

For sure Cobain knew "More Than a Feeling," so it would be surprising to me if he didn't notice the (admittedly fleeting) resemblance. "Teen Spirit" bears more of a resemblance to the Pixies than it does Boston, but it only barely sounds like Pixies, either.

they lampshaded the resemblance at reading '92


Kate (rushomancy), Thursday, 16 November 2023 18:58 (three weeks ago) link

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