This is why Kurt Cobain hated Nirvana song 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'
(Credit: Subpop)

Kurt Cobain’s visceral isolated vocals on Nirvana song ‘Territorial Pissing’

We’re stepping back to 1991 to a lesser-discussed element of Nirvana’s now-iconic album Nevermind, a record which would go on to define the grunge sub-genre and further propel Kurt Cobain and the band to international stardom.

While Cobain has always attempted to use his lyrical style to spread a message, on the two-and-a-half-minute song ‘Territorial Pissing’ he did so with uncompromising effect. In the early 1990s, the lack of discussion around the topic of sexism was a troubling one and Cobain wasn’t about to be one of the high-profile names to ignore it.

“In the animal kingdom, the male will often piss in certain areas to claim his territory, and I see macho men reacting towards sex and power in the same way,” Cobain once said of the song’s unusual title. “I’d like to see these lost souls strung up by their balls with pages of SCUM Manifesto stapled to their bodies,” he added in what is a clear representation of the Nirvana frontman’s mindset.

During the chorus, Cobain sings: “Come on people now / Smile on your brother / Everybody get together /Try to love one another right now” and it garnered a lot of attention from fans and critics alike. Later, when speaking to Brazilian publication named O Globo, Cobain explained: “The song speaks of people who join together to be cool and try something new, the ideal contrast to the macho men I’m portraying in ‘Territorial Pissings.’ We didn’t mean to be offensive to the guy who wrote it.”

Adding: “The idea of being positive and causing change in society and the world was appropriated by media, who turned it into something ridiculous, a caricature.”

Like so many of the songs Cobain created with Nirvana, there’s a deeper underlining message of societal change. The singer, alongside pioneering a new sub-genre of rock music, always wanted to use his platform to spread the message of change, to highlight the shortcomings in everyday life.

Here, we explore the lyrics of ‘Territorial Pissing’ through his unique vocals with this isolated recording. It the words of Cobain himself on the track, “never met a wise man/If so, it’s a woman”.

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