Saturday, September 28, 2013

Here We Are Now, Entertain Us

It's one of those "twenty years ago today" things. It does help to be more than twenty years old to make this sort of thing intriguing, but if you're sixteen it doesn't matter that much that Nirvana's last album, "In Utero" was released twenty years ago this month. A few years before that, it was Nirvana's major label debut, "Nevermind" that kicked the doors in on the music industry. If you had been alive before that, listening to music that made you feel safe and happy, this was a sound that made you wonder if what you had been listening to was what you were supposed to be listening to. It was loud. It was scary. It was angry.  It knocked Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" out of the top spot on the Billboard Top 100. It was a monster.
It was Nirvana's masterpiece. I have friends who said at the time and even years later that they prefer the band's earlier work. It's a good way to ensure your hipster cred, but I know that only a few of those people bought "Bleach." Thirty million people bought "Nevermind." What made this so amazing was that many of those people were the same ones buying "Dangerous." The evil scourge of hair metal, which had become pervasive in those late days of the twentieth century, was extinguished. Loud and angry replaced loud and pretty. For those of us without hair, this came as quite a relief.
It was also quite a relief for record companies, because it made "grunge" the next big thing. Pretty soon, there were a comparable number of bands with stringy hair and flannel shirts as there were groups wearing spandex and hairspray. Everybody made money. Everybody wanted to make the next "Nevermind."
Nobody did. Even the guys from Nirvana never matched the success of that big, angry noise from Seattle. It was a moment in time that passed just as surely as "Sergeant Pepper" and "Thriller." Kurt Cobain burned out rather than fading away. Dave Grohl went on to lead the fight against Foo. Kurt Novoselic played bass with a number of different bands, but stuck mostly to political and social activism. Twenty years later, the surviving members seem just as puzzled by their success back then as they are right now.
Oh well, whatever, never mind.

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