The Road To Nevermind

Nevermind, the second album by Nirvana, released 30 years ago next week, launched an alternative rock revolution with catchy, loud songs that truly cleared the air of the morass on commercial media in a way no one saw coming. #nirvana #altrock #grunge #nevermind30

Children of the Revolution, this is a personal story.

Even for myself, who was 22 when all of this happened and already a fan of the group as an opening act for L7 in 1990, never did I realize that Nirvana’s Nevermind would become the cultural landmark that it has become.

Nirvana, backstage at the Reading Festival, 1991. (from top) Kris Novoselic, Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl. Photo by Steve Gullick, courtesy of the New York Times.

I remember seeing the band twice in 1991: at Off the Record, a small, independent music store in Hillcrest, a neighborhood in the downtown San Diego area, and then opening for Dinosaur Jr. at Iguana’s in Tijuana, Mexico. Upon hearing this new material, it hit me: this band is truly awesome.

I also remember myself thinking that they might have a career like many of my favorite should-be-huge-but-weren’t groups, such as The Stooges, Red Kross or the Velvet Underground: they would be a band I would support through thick and thin, even years down the road.

Cover of Nevermind, 1991. Art direction: Robert Fisher. Photographer: Kirk Weddle. Courtesy of Geffen/UMG.

By the time of the release Nevermind, the band, comprising of Chris Novoselic on bass and Kurt Cobain on vocals and guitar, had already cycled through several drummers, eventually landing Dave Grohl from
the Washington D.C. hardcore band Scream, and their classic line-up was cemented.

To give you an idea of what it was like, just 12 months earlier, in 1990, not a single rock album had topped the Billboard 200, only the first time since 1963 that this had occurred. The only loud records to reach the pole position in 1991 were either Hard Rock or Metal, nowhere close to punk at all.

“I told [Kurt] I want to do a parody of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ and his first thing was: ‘Is it going to be about food?’ and I said, ‘no, it’s going to be about how no one can understand your lyrics.”

Weird Al Yankovic on covering Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. 

The success of Nevermind caught everyone, including the band and their label, by complete surprise: people heard about, bought it, raved about, played it constantly and told everyone they could about the trio from Aberdeen, Washington.

The album eventually landed at the top of the chart in January 1992, displacing Michael Jackson in the process.

Cover of Bleach, 1989. Even though Jason Everman, pictured upper left, is shown, he never played on the LP. Photo by Tracy Marander, courtesy of Sub Pop.

Even alternative music stations, which shied away from extremely heavy rock, and traditional rock stations, which shied away from anything unusual, could not help but be swept up in the tidal wave of Nirvana’s impact that became the Alternative Rock revolution. 

First Part

  • Smells Like Teen Spirit (single edit), 1991, Nevermind
  • Love Buzz (live in Portland, OR), 1990, Bleach Deluxe Edition
  • Do You Love Me, 1990, Hard to Believe*
  • Pay To Play (“Stay Away” demo), 1991, DGC Rarities Vol. 1
  • Polly (home demo), 1991, With the Lights Out
  • Paper Cuts, 1989, Bleach*
  • Immodium (“Breed” demo), 1991, With the Lights Out
  • School (live in Seattle, WA), 1991, “Come As You Are” CD single B-side

Second Part

  • Come As You Are (live), 1991, Live at Teatro Castello, Rome, Italy
  • Swap Meet, 1989, Bleach*
  • Sliver, 1990, single A-side**
  • Something In The Way (rehearsal), 1991, Nevermind Deluxe Edition
  • Curmudgeon, 1991, “Lithium” cd single B-side
  • Big Cheese, 1989, Bleach*
  • Been A Son (BBC Broadcast), 1991, Incesticide


  • Lithium (live in Berkshire, U.K.), 1991, Live at Reading

NOTES: *Chad Channing, drums and **Dan Peters, drums

Love to you all.

Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr. 
Host, Show Producer, Webmaster, Audio Engineer, Researcher, Videographer and Writer

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