Living To Music – Nirvana ‘Nevermind’




YEAR: 1991

This Sunday (Oct 2nd), at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. Full lowdown here:

Apart from the obvious singles, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, ‘All Apologies’ and a few others, I must confess to having never really explored Nirvana beyond bits I’ve randomly caught on the TV and, of course, the controversial Nick Broomfield documentary film ‘Kurt & Courtney’ (1998), which was something I picked up on more via my interest in Broomfield’s work than any belated fascination with Nirvana.

My only other point of personal reference is a photograph taken by my long-time friend, Ian Tilton, which has become an iconic image of an angst-ridden Kurt Cobain, backstage at a gig in Seattle in 1990 (Ian talks about it here: http://www.iantilton.net/nirvana_new.html).  Q Magazine would place it at #6 in their ‘100 Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Photographs’, and it was one of the photographs chosen for the prestigious Brooklyn Museum exhibition ‘Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present’, which is currently touring art venues throughout the US. I was really happy to see Ian gain this recognition, I’d first got to know him when he took some early shots of the Ruthless Rap Assassins for Sounds back in 1988, and for the next four years he’d be a valued member of the team, taking all of the Assassins’ promo shots (although he’s best-known, apart from ‘Kurt Crying’, for his photos of Manchester luminaries like The Stone Roses, The Smiths and the Happy Mondays). I can remember his trips to the States with journalist John Robb, another friend and associate from back then – they were way ahead of the curve with regards to Nirvana, things not blowing up big time until the year following Ian’s photo, when ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ became an unexpected hit of real magnitude, providing the launch pad from which ‘Nevermind’ would top the US chart, heralding the emergence of a new mutant rock genre, Grunge.

So, like ‘Forever Changes’ by Love some months back, listening to ‘Nevermind’ will be a whole new experience for me. Given that the 20th anniversary of its release (Sept 24th 1991) has just passed, and that it’s an album that numerous people have suggested to me since Living To Music began, I think that now’s as good a time as any for it to feature.

Your own memories are always welcomed, and, should you join us for Sunday’s session, it’d be great if you could leave a comment here after you’ve listened to the album sharing your impressions – how the music affected you, who you listened to it with, where you were, plus anything else relevant to your own individual / collective experience.

Nirvana Nevermind Wikipedia:

Living To Music Facebook Event Page:

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11 Responses to Living To Music – Nirvana ‘Nevermind’

  1. minibreakfast September 28, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    Hi Greg, I’m unable to join in with LTM this Sunday, but have linked to it on my blog. Hope you have an enjoyable evening! All the best.

  2. TC October 3, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    Having never heard the album in its entirety, I was looking forward to this one. Intense vocal delivery by Kurt where striking tonal quality seems more important than lyrical content. Great riffs and lots of melody coming from the bass guitar which gives the band there distinctive sound. Surprising how meditive I found it, listening to this, considering the raucousness. I enjoyed it on the whole.

  3. Dan Soulsmith October 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    We listened to Nevermind last night at a mate’s house. It made us all a bit giddy, as we were each already so familiar with the album, although several of us hadn’t listened to it for a few years.

    Personally this album is definitely in my top 5 most listened to albums ever. This is probably due to owning the guitar tablature and learning to play along to the entire album as a grungy 17 year old. I was in power chord heaven!

    ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ always takes me back to my days frequenting places like Stairways in Birkenhead and The Crazy House in Liverpool. Whenever this track was played the place would bounce with everyone jumping into each other. I don’t think any other track had quite the same effect.

    The album is incredible! I seem to remember some critics saying that Nirvana had a simple approach to writing easy power chord based rock. I can understand this statement; having on many occasions played rhythm guitar all the way through – only ever using two fret fingers (cheating). However I think every tune on Nevermind is unique in its own right. Nirvana made writing so much infectious music seem effortless.

    Back in the day, as with most Nirvana fans, the song ‘Polly’ was a firm favourite of mine. It was well documented that the song was about the rape of a young girl. A quick Google search just led me here: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2715 and http://www.lyricinterpretations.com/Nirvana/Polly where it’s been interesting to read more background on the song, of Kurt’s perspective as the writer, and the differing interpretations of Nirvana fans. All serious stuff obviously!

    Another Nirvana album worth listening to is Unplugged in New York, I still listen to, or watch the footage regularly. It’s utter Genius! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MTV_Unplugged_in_New_York

  4. cez October 3, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Never ever listened to this album before… LOVED IT. Need to listen again as I could not stop listening to the drums, therefore missed the rest! Once again LTM has given me the opportunity to get to know new stuff, even though I am only 20 years late.

  5. greg wilson October 5, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    Great to finally take the time out to listen to this album and gain a measure of understanding as to why it’s so highly rated. I’d expected the intensity / angst, it can be a real aural assault, but even the most in your face tracks aren’t just a thrash as there’s a strong sense of melody throughout. There’s honesty in the music, a no frills realness about the band, and I’m pretty sure that this is reflected in the lyrics, which I’m going to have a proper look at when I get a minute. In the meantime I’m going to get a bit more acquainted with the album, both via further plays and by finally watching the ‘Nevermind’ Classic Album TV programme that I’ve recorded, but never got round to watching.

  6. greg wilson October 6, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    Just had another listen and found myself surprised at just how familiar it sounded for such an unfamiliar album (to my ears). A surefire indicator of just how well written / crafted these tracks are – heart and head in unison. Wonderful stuff!

  7. Vicky Dutton October 6, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    20 years old eh? Can’t quite believe that! Loved this album in my angsty teenage years, didn’t know many, back then, who didn’t relate to Kurt’s sensitive skills of song writing. Simple but so intensively powerful. Listening to it again after so long was wonderful! Brought memories flooding back. They were, all in all, quite a versatile band, brought many emotions and feelings to their songs. I also loved the plugged in acoustic set they did of this album. Beautiful….. R.I.P Kurt, You will always be a Legend.

  8. Ian Tilton October 6, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    20 years later and for me, some songs on this album still haven’t been topped. This album is angry and energy-giving. It’s also about sad and delicate feelings. He was a shy, humorous, ambitious and complex man who kept so much inside, including his interest in pop stars who’d died young, about which he talked with me. We also shared an interest in tacky food packaging, which we collected from supermarkets on our seperate world travels.Krist was Kurt’s solid foundation in the band when I knew them; making light of the crazy world surrounding them and earthing Nirvana by instigating the laughter through his crazy comedy observations.

    Key pleasures are the contrast of great larynx damage vocal screams with Kurts American drawling, laid back sleepy style; Krist’s bass sound on “Come As You Are” is still a spine tingling joy to behold right from the intro: And of course that razor edged chain-saw guitar as it hurtles through armageddon, head-on into its intended target.

    No doubt about it, this album is a classic to be absorbed, enjoyed and deeply felt as we all head onward to our inevitable target. He just decided to go there before we did – something that took great courage through great pain. It still leaves me wondering.
    I saw Krist observe and rage at it all as some kind of cosmic joke and he laughed at the absurdity as if to say Nevermind eh?
    It was a pleasure to hang out with them and create amazing photographs.

  9. Mike October 6, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    I hadn’t listened to Nevermind for a while until LTM on Sunday but it all just comes flooding back! Constantly making you tap your foot or nod your head at various paces! It has re-kindled my love for this album and I have been listening to it again at every opportunity!

    This album was my one of the deciding points in my youth about the genre of music that I favoured! There is only one way to listen to this……. LOUD!! I LOVE IT!!!!!

  10. alexis October 7, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    Loved this album when it came out.

    Went to see them at Reading, where Kurt came on stage in a wheelchair.

    They were amazing!

    I love this album, even the tracks I’m not so keen on, rock and everyone’s right. The drums and the bass are amazing all the way through this album.

    My popular culture lectures were at 9am on a Wednesday morning. Our lecturer Joost Van Loon used to play this album and the Prodigy as you came in. I never missed a lecture and was always wide awake and raring to go by the time i sat down.

    Love the roughness and sincerity of his voice. I wonder would it have been as powerful without the band he had?????

    It doesn’t matter, loved them, loved this and Asha and I have listened to it twice since Sunday, in fact, she wants it in the car! Wooohoo!

    Cheers guys xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  11. jiboy tanio March 17, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    thinking of this is a free world…

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