1991: “Nevermind” – Nirvana


Yaaaaawwwn! Boring! Too obvious!

Yes, I know, but if I’d have deliberately chosen an album other than “Nevermind” for 1991 then i would have been stubbornly awkward and dishonest.

I came very close to “being there” when “Nevermind” was released, but I missed it by just over a year. In September 1991 I started Year 9 of school (8th Grade any American readers!). 13 years old and awkwardly self conscious. Secondary school was a bag of mixed emotions for me from this point on. Gone was the excitement of starting at my final school, where everyone’s pretty much all in it together in the transition from primary school. This part marked the clear development of cliques, and social hierarchies.

I didn’t particularly line up with any of them. I was a studious kid I suppose. I got on with things in lessons but although I could have been considered a nerd or swot by some, I wasn’t at the extreme end of the spectrum by any means. Me and my 4 best mates inhabited this kind of no mans land just underneath the nerdiest echelons but well away from any kind of popular group. In some respects this was good. We were mainly ignored by the main perpetrators of bullying, (unless it was slim pickings that day. I by no means got away scott free. Around this time I was about a foot shorter than most kids and thanks to a steroid inhaler for asthma my weight had shot up just at the moment when it’s the most ammunition for a passing school bully wanting to earn his stripes). Anyway, in class it was fine, outside it was a case of keeping your head down and getting through it.

I wish I could tell myself then that the popularity status in school means nothing once school finishes or that any of the bullying types are just having their moment in the sun because it’s all they will ever get, but even if i had (and obviously my parents did) it doesn’t mean anything when you are actually in that moment of your life. 3 more years of school might as well have been 20 more years at the time. As i said before though, I only got it occassionally and most of the time i was simply under the radar.

A couple of years later it would be music that would unite a lot of the kids in a similar social standing at school, which at least provided some numbers and solidarity against the components of the student body who saw your musical taste and haircut as a reason to punch you in the face or generally get up in your grill. Nirvana were one of the main bands for the “greebo” kids to latch on to almost like a shield and a uniform.

In 1991, I was still a pop kid. I wouldn’t hear Nirvana until the end of the following year when “In Bloom” was released as a single. I heard “Nevermind” in full the year after that.

So many people from my generation name this album as their musical life changing record,but for me that was really “Siamese Dream” by Smashing Pumpkins. However, it was really hearing Nirvana that provided the transition from listening to chart radio to the possibility of actually looking for different sounding music. Still catchy tunes, but noisy guitar and drums to whet your appetite for finding other sounds.

It’s unfortunate that so much of “Nevermind” has been played to death almost. Particularly “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. When it comes on the radio or the tv I never feel the need to hear it to the end. But there’s no denying the strength or impact of those singles. My favourite songs were always “Lounge Act” and “Drain You”, so I’m going to pick “Drain You” as the song to include in this playlist. So I was nearly there for “Nevermind”, but i was there for “In Utero”. It’s just a shame that there were no opportunities to be there for any more.