The crowd of Sunday shoppers were nudging around me as I bent over the bargain table. My fingers rifled through plastic CD cases, a blur of colours and names. Bright stickers declared “I’m cheap, buy me now!”
Amongst the gaudy album covers of pop princesses and a bevy of commercially failing one-hit-wonder bands I notice a familiar cover. A diamond in the rough.
With a name so nonchalant it is almost modest, Nevermind was my – and a whole generation’s – introduction to grunge music.
Years ago, I had been one of over 10 million people to own Nevermind. But, when it disappeared into some obscure black whole with all my other misplaced belongings, I never bothered to replace it. Instead, I relied upon digital duplicates.
Kurt Cobain once said that “the worst crime is faking it” so without even thinking about it, I bought the album. I wanted the real deal once more. Take two.
As soon as I could, I put it on and pumped the first track Smells Like Teen Spirit. Earlier this year, Australian youth radio station Triple J encouraged listeners to vote for their all-time favourite tracks. What won? Yep, you guessed it.
I’m not sure if Smells Like Teen Spirit is the absolute best song ever but it sure as hell is good. Listening to it, I was transported back to the beer-smelling, dark garages where high school parties happened. The pressure to be cool was high. My coolness level was not. In fact, I didn’t even know the words to the song!
In hindsight, I’m pretty sure no-one knew the lyrics. Let’s face it, Cobain isn’t the easiest singer to understand. The only reason I know the lyrics now is from a cover version. The song has been covered by a jazz trio, a beat-boxer and an acapella group among many others.
The first cover, a Tori Amos piano version in 1992 – only a year after Nevermind’s release – is beautiful and probably responsible for me screaming along with Cobain now that I know the words. My apologies. However, it is a 2007 cover from the queen of punk, Patti Smith, that I love the most. Her sultry I-drink-and-smoke-a-lot voice is dripping with attitude, just like the song itself.
Smells Like Teen Spirit has been dubbed “an anthem for apathetic kids” of Generation X. However, as its popularity today – 18 years since it was first released – proves, it is a song that can transcend time. I am Generation Y, as were all the naive, angsty teenagers dancing with me in smoky garages. Yet we grew up listening to Nirvana, the biggest band of Gen X.
Is it because some of us had older Gen X siblings that we loved a grunge band way after grunge was dead? And what about younger people now – have they heard Nevermind? Is an 18-year-old song really the best ever in their minds?
Regardless, listening to Nevermind was like catching up with an old friend. We reminisced about parties, first loves and tragic clothes. I for one loved every minute of it.
Faithfully grungy and faithfully yours,