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The worst Nirvana cover of all time? Take That perform ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ in 1995

When you look through the mighty array of Nirvana covers you can see a full spectrum of music. Another avenue for such a view is to get even more specific and look at covers of Nirvana’s Gen-X anthem ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. From lounge singer Paul Anka all the way through to punk poet Patti Smith, the song, despite being routinely dismissed by diehard Kurt Cobain fans, has been a mainstay of the music world ever since it’s release. But what is its worst cover effort of all time? 

If, for some reason, that question has been plaguing your mind then you need fret no longer as we’ve got the answer all wrapped up with a bow on top. Below, we’re taking a look back at the simply monstrous rendition of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ brought to you by one of the most celebrated boybands of the 1990s — Take That. 

There are few things that can make a fan cringe more than seeing your favourite song, or even just a preferred track from your favourite band be given a terrible cover. Like One Direction’s version of Blondie hit ‘One Way Or Another’ or Britney Spears taking on The Runaways’ ‘I Love Rock & Roll’, turning rock into pop is not without its difficulties. But where the two aforementioned songs were polished and preened, this cover is simply intolerable. 

It features Take That, who, for a time at least, were the only band teenage girls of Britain were interested in. Originally formed in Manchester in 1990, the band were made up teenage boys Gary Barlow, Robbie Williams, Howard Donald, Jason Orange and Mark Owen, who were thrust into the limelight in the hope of seeking out financial gain from the swoons of teenagers who fell weak at the knees upon hearing a single note. It’s a tale as old as time and one which usually ends in big piles of cash for the record company. And, in regards to Take That, it largely followed suit. 

The band became a hit across the nation in the early ‘90s as the clamour for pop idols grew ever stronger. Across the pond in America, meanwhile, Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl were making their own waves and their seminal album Nevermind had become the anti-pop idols of the day. Why these two different roads ever had to cross is beyond us but we think you can blame one man — Robbie Williams. 

Bored of the identikit albums and singles Take That were releasing, Williams instead decided to pursue his own path and left the group in 1995. It meant that the four remaining members of the band were left to complete their world tour on their own. It is from that tour that the below performance came from and, in our estimation, was the result of Williams leaving a serious performer shaped whole in the group. The only way to fill it, apparently, was with a cover of the biggest rock song of the decade, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.  

There is no debate. It is, without doubt, the worst cover of the song you will ever hear. As soon as Jason Orange begins strumming his guitar, which looks about as foreign in his hand as it would in a farmyard animal’s, the scene is set for a serious downfall. Not only is the melody of the song way off but Orange seems utterly enamoured with the idea that he is a rock star, clearly not satisfied with just being a pop star he tries to urge the crowd into a frenzy. 

The ramshackle band also features Mark Owen on guitar, Howard Donald on drums and Gary Barlow as quite possibly the most ludicrous rock frontman you’ve ever seen. Despite having a singing stance similar to that of Red Hot Chili Peppers man Anthony Keidis, everything else about the performance is pure holiday camp hell. Barlow even rips his shirt off as the band begin their criminal cover. 

We say criminal because this is as close to a musical murder as we’ve ever seen. Some covers may change the sentiment of the song but balance it out with a brand new style, some may go the other way and keep the style of the track, but perform it in a new way. Take that manage to do none of these things. They perform it badly, they add nothing new and they make, we imagine, every Nirvana fan cringe with every single bit of their body.   

But, as a bit of cringing never hurt anybody, we trust that you’ll do the right things and check it out in the video below so you too can confirm that this, take That’s 1995 cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, is the worst in history.