I can still remember the day that I first heard Nirvana’s Nevermind. It was 1991 and I was sitting in my woodshop class, I was in the sixth grade. Our teacher at the time was really cool and would allow us to occasionally bring in cassette tapes of our favorite bands. I had never heard of Nirvana and this was their second album. The tape was cued up to “Come As You Are”, Kurt Cobain’s whinny/lazy style of lyrics drew me in and I wanted to know what he was talking about. I remember getting home and convincing my mom to take me to Sam Goody, at our mall, so that I could get this tape. I don’t think I stopped listening to it for months. Even now, if something from this album comes on the radio, I stop surfing and listen to it.
In my opinion this album created a major shift in the industry. I did not know it than, but looking back now I can see what a great impact this album has made on the music industry.
When Kurt Cobain set off to write their sophomore album he used mostly power chords and created catchy hooks with dissonant guitar riffs. Kurt would say that he wanted Nevermind to sound like, “Bay City Rollers getting molested by Black Flag”. He wanted it to be in your face, draw you in, and push you over grunge. Cobain wrote a lot of dynamic changes throughout this album. They went from quiet verses to loud choruses and back. Many artists used dynamics in their music, but not the extreme changes that Cobain used. With this album, Cobain showed us musicians that chord structures do not need to be as difficult as we try to often make them. His songs are relatively simple, but make a big impact. He is proving that less is indeed more. He also encouraged many of us to use our voices, stand up for what we believe or what we think is right. We all have something to say, Kurt Cobain gave us the bold confidence to say it. In a time when there was so much going on around us Nirvana helped us figure out what we were trying to say.
Guitar World stated that, “Kurt Cobain’s guitar sound on Nirvana’s Nevermind set the tone for Nineties rock music.” And it did, every local garage band that I knew about wanted to sound like, look like and be Nirvana. They did not just inspire my peers though, Jared Leto, lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars, was so inspired by this album that he begin a new type of music career. This was a pivotal album for Greg Gillis of Girl Talk. Flea, from Red Hot Chili Peppers, thinks that Nirvana is the greatest band in the world. And Ben Folds said after seeing Nirvana perform, “I left feeling inspired in a way I hadn’t felt before, and the next day I did the thing that punk rock was always meant to make you do. I started a band.”
Looking back, I listen and see this album in a whole new light. I try to make the dynamic changes in my music more abrupt and surprising, when it fits. I also try to write my lyrics about things I actually want to say, I do not want to simply write a song with words that rhyme. The thing that made Cobain’s lyrics great was that they were truthful, that’s what people were able to rally behind. He took what he wanted to say and said it – he was real.
My band, Circle of One is a Christian rock band and we have some opportunities right now to do some great things. I hope to take what I have learned about this album and apply it to what we do. For example, I do not want to overwrite anything or overcomplicate the music. I want to let the tracks breath and lay themselves down how they feel right. I also want everyone in my band to be who he or she is. Kurt Cobain never tried to impress anyone or be someone else. He often wore jeans and a tattered brown sweeter. I do not need my band to all have matching outfits. I would like us to be real and keep our music real.
Azerrad, M. (1993). Come as you are: the story of Nirvana. New York: Doubleday.
Cross, C. R. (2001). Heavier than heaven: a biography of Kurt Cobain. New York: Hyperion.
Cultural impact of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ still resonates today – Features – The DePauw . (n.d.). The DePauw. Retrieved May 31, 2013, from http://www.thedepauw.com/features/cultural-impact-of-nirvana-s-nevermind-still-resonates-today-1.2622475#.UagY_OC0yfQ>.
Berkenstadt, J., & Cross, C. R. (1998). Nevermind: Nirvana. New York: Schirmer Books.