Nirvana were never a band to play by the rules.
The now-iconic grunge outfit, fronted by the enigmatic Kurt Cobain and backed by his closest friends Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, smashed boundaries on every step of their meteoric rise to international fame.
Shortly after releasing their In Utero album, Nirvana were at the peak of their powers as ‘Nevermind’ shot to number one in the charts and the lyrical content of the Seattle band’s content was being belted out across the globe. Tapping into the hype, Saturday Night Live creator and producer Lorne Michaels booked the group to perform live.
At the time of recording on January 11th, 1992, Nirvana were starting to rise up the charts with an alarming rate considering their heavily-underground Seattle rock beginnings. Clipping the wings of Michael Jackson’s recent release, Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was finding its feet as the anthem for Generation X. Inviting the grunge act on to SNL was a no-brainer for the show’s producers.
There are few shows around that have such an illustrious history with music, and perhaps most notably, with rock music than Saturday Night Live. The show made a name for itself by being the punk rock TV show and it gathered incredible artists because of it. In the early-90s, that draw and mystique had begun to die off until a relatively small band called Nirvana got their opportunity.
Kurt Cobain, his hair a luminous pink after being allegedly dyed with strawberry flavoured Kool-Aid, fronts the band at a time when he was grappling the heavy consequences of heroin addiction—one which would see him reportedly overdose in a New York hotel room shortly after their set on SNL. Courtney Love, Cobain’s wife, found the singer the next morning and recalled how she “threw cold water on her fiancé and punched him in the solar plexus so as to make his lungs begin to move air,” before he was revived.
Prior to that moment, however, Cobain and his band had ripped through a barnstorming performance which had been broadcast across the world to feverish acclaim. The band took to the stage to first play their seminal track ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ before returning for the second time at Studio 8H, as is customary with the late-night weekend show, and delivered a rousing rendition of their Nevermind track ‘Territorial Pissings’. It was a performance that ended with the grunge band’s destruction of their guitars, drums and any surrounding equipment, as was becoming customary with Nirvana. It was a show of real rock and roll rebellion that had been once such a contributing factor to SNL’s success but now was on the wane.
However, the main talking point came at the end of evening when the band members made a decision to “piss off the rednecks and homophobes” by making out with each other during the closing credits.
See the clip, below.