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The legendary band that Kurt Cobain wanted 'Nevermind' to sound like


Nirvana’s Nevermind changed the landscape of the 1990s, introducing grunge to a mainstream audience like a punch to the nose. While it felt fresh, raw, and necessary, interestingly, it was a band from the ’60s that Kurt Cobain wanted to style the band’s masterpiece on. 

It’s hard to underestimate just how important Nevermind is as an album, especially when attempting to quantify its transformative effect on culture. The LP bucked the trends of the day, and against all of the odds, it became a global sensation. While the adverse effects of their tremendous fame multiplied problems in Cobain’s personal life, conversely, it made millions of people feel accepted for the first time.

The seminal record was produced by the legendary figure Butch Vig, who went on to form Garbage, and over the years, he’s spoken at length about his memories from those sessions. Before he got on board with the group, they had acquired a cult fanbase, but it seemed unfathomable for them to hit the heights that were on the horizon.

Although Vig’s results while working with Nirvana was spectacular, functioning with the group was far from straightforward. While he found Cobain “charming”, the late singer’s mood problems also made him a demanding customer to deal with. He recalled to Rolling Stone: “Kurt was charming and witty, but he would go through these mood swings. He would be totally engaged, then all of a sudden a light switch would go off and he’d go sit in the corner and completely disappear into himself. I didn’t really know how to deal with that”.

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Vig added: “They’d stay up all night and take drugs and go to the beach in Santa Monica, then wander in at three or four in the afternoon the next day. They were really enjoying a moment of freedom, and in the back of their minds, they knew they were making a great album. Those were fun times, man, before any of the craziness happened”.

Intriguingly, Vig also recalled during mixing when Cobain brought up his love of Black Sabbath and instructed the producer to take Nevermind towards that direction. He revealed: “I’d be balancing the drums and the guitar and Kurt would come and say ‘Turn all the treble off. I want it to sound more like Black Sabbath.’ It was kind of a pain in the ass”.

This revelation won’t come as a surprise to hardcore Nirvana fans who were already aware of Cobain’s adoration for the heavy metal pioneers, and Dave Grohl previously discussed the seismic impact the group had on his former bandmate.

“Kurt really liked Ozzy [Osbourne],” said Grohl. “Growing up in a town like Aberdeen (in Washington State) and hearing a band like Black Sabbath – it’s a sweet release. Suddenly there’s something outside your small-town world you can relate to when you can hear that in someone else’s music.”

Hearteningly, Osbourne was also a fan of Cobain’s too, and in his autobiography, the singer wrote: “I was very proud when I found out that Kurt Cobain was a fan of mine. I thought he was awesome”.

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