While the grungy ways of Kurt Cobain and the rather crisper work of The Beatles might not go hand in hand sonically, in many other they share a kinship, not least in their ability to continue to stir up the youth. Both acts have remained a central force in youth culture long after their time.
When Ozzy Osbourne first heard the Fab Four, he remarked, “When I heard the Beatles. I knew what I wanted to do,” when speaking to Blabbermouth in 2019. “My son says to me, Dad, I like the Beatles, but why do you go so crazy? The only way I can describe it, is like this, ‘Imagine you go to bed today and the world is black and white and then you wake up, and everything’s in colour. That’s what it was like!’ That’s the profound effect it had on me.”
The band have offered this same bohemian handshake to millions, and before Kurt Cobain dug into the heavier crates of aforementioned Black Sabbath, he too had his musical melon twisted by the young lads from Liverpool. He even once wrote, “John Lennon has been my idol all of my life.”
“My parents were never music lovers.” Kurt Cobain begins and, like so many, he was simply raised on the sounds of the Top 40 in America. But thanks to the all-conquering ubiquity of The Beatles, they even nudge into that scene. “At a really early age, I wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. Ever since I got my first Beatles record, I wanted to play drums. I wanted to have the adoration of John Lennon but have the anonymity of Ringo Starr. I didn’t want to be a frontman, I just wanted to be back there at the same time.”
Unfortunately, for Kurt Cobain, that mantle in Nirvana was taken up by Dave Grohl, who himself is a huge Beatles fan having recently prescribed three essential albums for any aspiring musician to listen to and championing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band among them. It was also this particular Beatles epic that continued to inspire Cobain in his musical development.
As the grunge legend once said, “I want [Nirvana] to progress. I really want to change our style of music. I want to do something different, really different. And I want to have enough guts to do that, and if it alienates people that’s too bad.” Adding, “Not to compare us to The Beatles, but they went from ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ to Sgt. Pepper y’know and that was a massive progression, and I just want to experiment.”
The first songs the future star even learned to play were Beatles numbers and apparently, he would parade around his neighbour as a child with a kickdrum chanting his favourite songs of theirs. “I’ve always loved The Beatles,” he said, “Especially The Beatles. A lot of the rip-off bands like The Hollies and Herman’s Hermits don’t really count, I’ve never gotten into that, but I like that old sixties pop kind of sound.”
It is a sound and influence that rubs off on the inherent melodic nature of Nirvana’s work.