Grunge rock’s most attractive and romantic frontman, Kurt Cobain, had a penchant for the ugly, the obscene, and the poetic. He was sort of a walking dichotomy; he hated the mainstream, he hated fame, but he also wanted both. When Nirvana started touring, Cobain took initiative and worked diligently to make music his career. Cobain didn’t really have anything else but music and, prior to the band taking off commercially, he had worked as a janitor at his old high school and was also homeless and lived under a bridge for a while.
In addition to his music, Cobain also drew and painted pictures; his art frequently incorporated themes of anorexia, death, and mental illness – all of which Cobain flirted with at some point in his life. In his worst times, Cobain was heavily malnourished and while his height was 5 feet and 9 inches, he weighed around 120 to 130 pounds. Later in his life, Cobain became a known heroin user and struggled on and off with his addiction.
These were all troubles that the enigmatic singer dealt with – despite this, he was loved by many and was considered a creative genius by some. Perhaps it was how closely Cobain walked on the edge of complete self-destruction that allowed him to touch upon these themes in his work so convincingly.
Nirvana were very active in the grunge music scene in Seattle, Washington, and went on tour with other similar rock bands, in particular the Scottish band Teenage Fanclub. The two hit the road together during a string of dates across Europe during a time when Nirvana were supporting their Bleach record.
“We did the European leg of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ tour in 1992, which was pandemonium and phenomenons like that don’t happen often,” Norman Blake of the Teenage Fanclub said about the band. “We’d know Nirvana from their Bleach period and they remained the same. They were still down-to-earth; maybe overwhelmed by what was happening.”
It was during this time when Nirvana slowly began to become huge, most notably for their smash hit ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit‘. Blake continued to reminisce: “I’ve great memories of us hanging out in a playpark eating ice cream in Stockholm after a soundcheck. Even though Kurt [Cobain] had some issues, he was generally happy and in a good space then.”
The two bands had a deep mutual respect for one another; Teenage Fanclub would cover Nirvana’s ‘About A Girl’. “Kurt was wearing heavy eyeliner and he had a real fan moment, and it was an amazing thing to witness,” Blake remembers fondly. “He had his troubles and issues with drug addiction, but behind all that was a young guy from Aberdeen who loved music, was friendly and enthusiastic and the thing I remember most about him is his lovely smile.”
One of the most memorable moments involving both bands is when Cobain claimed that Teenage Fanclub were the “best band in the world.”
“But we weren’t even his favourite band from Glasgow. That was The Vaselines,” Blake said in response to this with the NME. This would probably check out, as Cobain famously covered a bunch of Vaselines songs, more so than Teenage Fanclub.
Listen to Teenage Fanclub cover Nirvana, below.