If time travel was possible and we all took a trip back to 1989 to witness the debut of one of the most important bands the rock world has ever seen—Nirvana’s 1989 debut Bleach—the fanfare surrounding the release would be non-existent.
Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Chad Channing (later to be replaced by Dave Grohl), AKA Nirvana, put out the record for the paultry sum of $606.17 and with it began one of the most important journeys in music history.
In fact, it didn’t really cost the band $606.17, it cost local guitarist Jason Everman, who actually cut the cheque. To payback the guitarist, the group included him as a member of the band on the record even though he didn’t actually play on the album. “We still owe him the $600,” Kurt Cobain told Rolling Stone in 1992. “Maybe I should send him off a check.”
It was an album that was both daring and sturdy. Built out of songs they had been playing in live shos for months, the album feature ‘Floyd The Barber’, ‘Love Buzz’ and ‘About a Girl’. The latter of which, with it’s pop credentials, proved a risk for the group and showed their challenging nature.
“Even to put ‘About a Girl’ on Bleach was a risk,” Cobain once told Rolling Stone in 1993. “I was heavily into pop, I really liked R.E.M., and I was into all kinds of old ’60s stuff. But there was a lot of pressure within that social scene, the underground-like the kind of thing you get in high school. And to put a jangly R.E.M. type of pop song on a grunge record, in that scene, was risky.”
The album fell flat in relative terms upon its release. But soon enough, with glowing endorsements from Sonic Youth and others in the scene, Nirvana’s name was starting to be heard across the dark corners of the music industry.
Moving 35,000 copies without any mainstream attention grabbed David Geffen’s DGC spotlight and saw Nirvana go to the majors. It was a move not in-keeping with Nirvana’s ethos but Kurt was able to align it with a new project—bringing grunge to the masses.
“That’s pretty much my excuse for not feeling guilty about why I’m on a major label,” Cobain told Rolling Stone in 1992. “I should feel really guilty about it; I should be living out the old punk-rock threat and denying everything commercial and sticking in my own little world and not really making an impact on anyone other than the people who are already aware of what I’m complaining about. It’s preaching to the converted.”
While the next record from Nirvana, Nevermind would suddenly throw the group into the stratoisphere of fame, it wa son Bleach that Nirvana set out their stall. Below we’re taking a look back at this incendiary time for Nirvana as they toured the country playing Bleach for all who would listen.
Below see their stop at Chicago’s Cabaret Metro on September 30th, 1989 as they toiled away trying to make their name.
Source: Rolling Stone