Nirvana are such a powerhouse of a band that they have obviously been covered by a whole host of acts. While some are gorgeous, some powerful, and some downright triumphant, there’s one cover, however, which had us scratching our heads like so many puzzled cartoon characters. It’s Paul Anka’s 2005 cover of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
The 1991 song, despite not being one of Kurt Cobain’s favourite songs, is undoubtedly part of the musical lexicon we now have. Nirvana’s rise from anti-establishment grunge-stars to American idols was meteoric and ultimately destructive for both the band and the people in it, but it left them and their music very much within the ‘American Songbook’. That’s where Paul Anka found ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
Paul Anka, for those who aren’t in the know, is what one might call a lounge-singer but what others may call a legend. He has been singing his own special brand of smooth moves since 1958 and has never looked like stopping. Anka found fame with hit songs like ‘Diana’, ‘Lonely Boy’, ‘Put Your Head on My Shoulder’, and ‘(You’re) Having My Baby’. Anka isn’t just a singer though, he also wrote well-known music as the theme for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and one of Tom Jones’s biggest hits, ‘She’s a Lady’.
So when 2005 rolled around and Anka was looking to provide America with yet another collection of suave music created for moments in silk-dressing gowns smoking cigars, he felt he needed to change it up. Well, a little. Anka released his LP Rock Swings and turned a host of rock anthems into something Sinatra would be proud of.
Backed by a full band, Anka covers Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’, Jon Bon Jovi’s ‘It’s My Life’, The Cure’s ‘Lovecats’ and of course, the reason we’re all here, Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. What transpires is a jazz-swing fusion cover of one of rock’s most angsty songs ever written. We’re not sure if it’s sacrilegious if it’s brilliant or a heady combination of the two. What we do know is that if you haven’t heard it already, then you need to. Immediately.
Listen to Paul Anka’s cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ below.