Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind marked a new chapter in the life of guitar music. As the first grunge record embraced by a mainstream audience, it completely changed the game, allowing alternative-rock bands to achieve levels of fame that hadn’t been seen since the punk era.
With its lead single ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, Nevermind soon became synonymous with grunge, while the most charismatic of its creators, Kurt Cobain, came to embody a new kind of anti-celebrity. Here, some of the most prominent names in rock share their thoughts on Nevermind.
The brilliance of Nevermind is its ability to maintain two opposing musical aesthetics without giving in to one or the other. The roots of the LP lay in the dark soil of punk and hardcore, with many of its most famous tracks baring the marks of The Sex Pistols, The Ramones and Black Flag. At the same time, tracks like ‘Come As You Are’, ‘In Bloom’ and ‘Lithium’ owe their streamlined structures to classic pop groups like The Beatles and David Bowie. With the help of Butch Vig, Nirvana managed to craft an album that carried the scuzzy appeal of the underground as well as the polished production value of a chart-topping pop album.
Guy Picciotto, the frontman of art-punk outfit Fugazi, once noted how Nevermind had the same sort of impact as The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks, arguing that it marked a new ‘year zero’ in the life of rock. “It was like our record could have been a hobo pissing in the forest for the amount of impact it had,” Picciotto began.
Adding: “It felt like we were playing ukuleles all of a sudden because of the disparity of the impact of what they did.”
Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day echoed Picciotto’s assessment, observing how Nevermind suddenly made alt-rock bands hot property. “Before Nirvana, there was no way that you could be in a punk band and be famous and make money. When they came out, it just changed the landscape of everything.”
In the short clip below, you can watch Armstrong, Bruce Springsteen, and Guns ‘n’ Roses guitarist, Slash, explore the impact of Nevermind.