Nirvana’s 1991 track ‘In Bloom’ is surely one of the most melodically rich songs on their seminal album, Nevermind. It also just so happens to be one of the most vitriolic. An attack on rednecks, homophobes, and abusers, the track has come to typify Kurt Cobain’s disdain for all things narrow-minded and oppressive.
Having grown up in a small town in Washington state, Cobain understood that the world was full of people who regarded difference as a threat. “For ages, I thought I might be homosexual because I didn’t like the cheerleader type of girl or want to hang out with the jock boys,” he told Melody Maker in 1992. “I chose to live the life of a recluse. I didn’t hang out with anyone else because I couldn’t handle their stupidity.”
This reclusion would eventually lead Cobain into a private world, a world where music reigned supreme. But the jocks and rednecks weren’t far behind. By the time Nirvana hit the mainstream, many of them were even coming to their concerts, standing in the front row, and singing all of band’s “pretty songs” with gusto. None of them, Cobain yells in ‘In Bloom’ have the faintest idea of the meaning behind the words they’re reciting so perfectly.
This isolated track of Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl’s joint vocals on ‘In Bloom’ are a fascinating window into how Bitch Vig was able to turn Nirvana’s chaotic brand of grunge into something with chart-chomping listenability.
Opening up about the recording process, Vig explained: “After we did the basic take and had Kurt’s basic vocal down, we had Dave come in and do harmonies in the chorus – so that was the first thing that we added to the track. Their voices sound pretty cool together; very similar tonal quality. And I thought it might sound better if they doubled it, because it’s gonna just make it fuller, a little bit richer. So we went back and Kurt did a double track.”
As Vig went on to explain, Kurt didn’t like doing things more than once. To convince him to double track the vocals, Vig pointed out that one of Kurt’s heroes used to layer his vocals in much the same way. “I had to use the John Lennon reference,” Vig said. “Every time he resisted, I’d say ‘John Lennon did it’ and he’d go, ‘Okay…'” Make sure you check out the full isolated track below.