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I was a teenager when Nevermind was released. More specifically, when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was released. I was 13 years old.

It’s interesting just how mixed feelings were and have been amongst the populace about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.

I realized two things today — first, I’ve outlived Kurt Cobain. He was a little over 27 when he died, and I’m nearly 28. I was 16 when he killed himself.

Second, I kind of understand “Smells Like Teen Spirit” now. It never was my favorite song. I always liked Nirvana, but I became a true fan when In Utero came out. That album spoke to me. Something about its raw approach to music. It was kind of gateway to other raw music, like Sonic Youth.

But I think I understand the song now. Not in any way that I can easily explain. It seems, to me, like a retrospective on teenage years. It seemed like a bunch of nonsense when I was a teenager, but it makes sense to me now. How fucking weird is that?

I remember the day I found out he killed himself. My sister had tapes or cds of early albums of theirs. She made me copies. Remember how MTV played those Unplugged videos pretty much non-stop? And I remember the following Monday. A teacher whom I otherwise liked was furious that people were comparing him to John Lennon. He went on a rant, saying he was a creepy druggie. Mr. Sheets, I think. This guy kind of looked like a hippie version of Chuck Norris. Maybe it was Mr. Hadden, I don’t know. I remember being very upset at his lack of understanding.

I remember Rush Limbaugh saying some nasty things about him too. Fuck Rush Limbaugh.

When Cobain’s journals were printed, a girlfriend gave them to me for Christmas. Around the same time that “You Know You’re Right” was released. I appreciated the gift, but I could never bring myself to read them. I read a few passages, I think.

If Kurt Cobain were alive today, who knows what I’d think. Maybe he would have given into his KISS and Zeppelin roots. Maybe he would have given into butt-rock (apologies to Led Zeppelin fans — no apologies to KISS fans). Maybe I’d wonder how he lost his way. Or maybe he would have continued to make good, enigmatic music. Who knows.

And now, some lines from one of my favorite songs by Nirvana — Lounge Act. These lyrics also make a strange kind of sense to me that they didn’t before:

Truth — covered in security.
I can’t let you smother me.
I’d like to but it couldn’t work.
Trading off and taking turns.
I don’t regret a thing.

2 Responses to “Nirvana”

  1. Erin Says:

    I saw Nirvana at The Rockin Teepee here in Santa Fe before they were “somebody”. I thought they were great but then, I was like 15 and I was thrilled to be at a club by myself seeing a show. I remember that the general consensus of the crowd was that they sucked. Weird.

    I understand what you mean about the sudden understanding phenomenon (do doooo d-do do) I love it when that happens. Movies, books and music it’s like discovering buried treasure- or something equally as sappy and sentimental.

  2. Jason Says:

    Yeah I get tired of people who say that, for whatever reason, “Cobain was no John Lennon”. They seem to be pretty short sighted about his significance. His music was very important and influential to a lot of people and it sort of grew out of the cultural climate of the time (as these sorts of people generally do). It is almost absurd to expect that children of the 90’s would identify more with Lennon than with Cobain or to argue that his music was less important.

    I also ocassionally find myself throwing on a Nirvana album (I gave a listen to Nevermind after reading the post). The interesting thing is that different songs and different albums mean more or less to me depending on when I listen to them.

    And for the record, I think Lennon would have liked Cobain and Nirvana if he had been alive to see them. I’m just sayin’.

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