September 23, 2011 is the twentieth anniversary of the release of "Nevermind" by Nirvana. Twenty years. TWENTY YEARS! I can't wrap my head around that. That's just... I don't even know. It doesn't feel like twenty years already, but then again a LOT has happened since I first heard that record. Or should I say cassette. Yep, the first time I heard "Nevermind" was on tape. It was laying on my best friend's brother's bed and I saw that baby going after the dollar bill and I just had to listen to it.
I am listening to it again and trying to put myself back to 1991. Jeez. Nineteen ninety one. It's a lifetime ago. But I remember it as if it was yesterday.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Just from those first few strums of the guitar I was hooked. And then when Dave Grohl started pounding on the drums-- it was over. There was no going back. Kurt's vocals were like nothing I was used to hearing. There's a reason why "Nevermind" knocked the King of Pop off the top spot in the Top 40 countdown. There was a reason why Hair Metal bands everywhere started to fade away. Everyone was tired of hearing the same old thing re-hashed and re-done. They wanted something new and this was it.
And it reflected the sentiments that my friends and I were feeling. It was loud and it was soft. It was angry and sad. It was different and unique and so totally us.
This little group has always been and always will until the end.
By the time I got to the second song on the album everything else had disappeared. I wasn't sitting in a room with my friend. I wasn't in Niagara Falls. I was somewhere else. I was completely engaged with Kurt and Krist and Dave.
We can have some more, Nature is a whore. Bruises on the fruit, tender age in bloom...
I just couldn't get over how different it was. I needed to do more with my life. I needed to be more. I needed to take this tape and run home and listen to it over and over and over again.
And that's exactly what I did.
Come As You Are
Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be. As a friend, as a friend, as an old enemy...
This was my thing. It was for me and no one else. No one else would understand this record. No one else could begin to understand how much it affected me. I cut my hair myself. I died and bleached my hair and no one understood why. I wore old jeans I found and the thrift store. I had burn marks in my sweater and didn't care. No one understood me.
Or so I thought. When I got to high school there were more people like me. When we went to local shows we met even more people like us. But it was still underground. It was... well there really wasn't a name for it. Years later the moniker Alternative was used, but we hated that term. We never used it.
Oh god. The intro to this song made me insane. Or it put me in an insane mood. Or something. It starts out so heavy and fast and full of energy and then Kurt's lyrics...
I don't care, I don't care, I don't care
I don't care, I don't care, care if it's old
I don't mind, I don't mind, I don't mind
I don't mind, mind, don't have a mind
I wanted to write songs like this. I wanted to make people feel the energy and apathy and aggression that Kurt and the boys were making me feel. I wanted to fornicate and fight. I wanted to scream. I wanted to leave this sad excuse for a home-town. I needed something else.
The way the songs are arranged on the record is perfect. Slow songs follow fast songs, angry songs are followed by sad songs. But all the songs are perfect for that moment.
I'm so happy 'cause today I found my friends. They're in my head.
I'm so ugly, that's okay 'cause so are you. Broke our mirrors.
And even the sad songs are kind of angry. And the angry songs are kind of sad. There's a fine line Kurt balanced on and as his fans, we did too. We were all adolescents anyway. We were already a mess. We were already a little manic depressive and obsessive and screwed up in the head. This music was just a mirror we could look into and see that we were okay. We were not alone. We were okay.
My buddies had a band but none of them could sing. They went through lead singers like so many cigarettes smoked in their parents' garage. I hung out and watched them play covers of our favorite bands' songs, but they still needed a lead singer. When it came time for the school talent show they weren't exactly sure what they were going to do. They didn't know which song they were going to play. They were kind of freaking out a bit. I was doing a microphone check for them and I just started mumbling the lyrics that were stuck in my head at that moment:
Polly wants a cracker
I think I should get off her first
I think she wants some water
To put out the blow torch
My friends freaked out. "You must be our singer!" "I can't believe we didn't think of it before..." "You'd be perfect!"
So we played the show and we got second place. We broke up almost immediately after winning the fifty dollar prize because two of us wanted to buy a silk screening kit and two of us wanted to go out and get someone to buy us beer.
The fact that Krist starts the song out by mimicking some hippie sentiment was just perfect. My friends and I were anything but hippie-dippie. We were angry, we were pissed off, and we broke stuff. We didn't try to love one another...
We were all trying to find something better for our lives. We were all trying to escape the lives we had in one way or another. We were miserable in a miserable town surrounded by miserable people. There was nothing here.
Gotta find a way to find a way when I'm there
Gotta find a way, a better way, I better wait
Dave's drums and Kurt's screaming and Krist's bass-line just got me so ramped up.
Oh God. If this song doesn't send me right back to the 90s, I don't know what does. This song was what I wanted out of life. I wanted someone I could spend the rest of my life with and would be like this with me.
Chew your meat for you, pass it back and forth in a passionate kiss from my mouth to yours. Sloppy lips to lips, you're my vitamins. I like you.
My girlfriend at the time, in my mind, was that person. She was perfect. She was beautiful. She was into me.
Sure she treated me like garbage and cheated on me and dumped me a couple few times, but we always got back together full of rage and emotion and bile and love and tears and I didn't even care. She was hot and she was into me. At least while she was next to me.
But things don't last. Nothing great lasts. At least not in my life.
Don't tell me what I wanna hear.
Afraid of never knowing fear. Experience anything you need.
I'll keep fighting jealousy. Until it's fucking gone.
She didn't like that I just showed up at her house unannounced. She didn't like that I gave her stuff. She didn't like that I loved her. She dumped me. And this time it was for good. And I was crushed. I thought that listening to Nirvana would help, but it didn't. All of their songs reminded me of her. I was sad and angry and full of rage. I wanted her back and I wanted to hurt her. Like she hurt me. Over and over and over.
But if she asked, I would have taken her back in a heartbeat.
Monkey see monkey do. Rather be dead than cool.
I was surrounded by a bunch of followers. Everyone started wearing flannel shirts they bought at the Gap and ripping their jeans just right to look cool. And they were everywhere. I hated it.
I hate all of you. I never want to be your friend, I don't even want to talk to you. I hate that you're sitting in the same classroom as me and living in the same city as me. I need to get the deuce out of this city, this state, this country.
On A Plain
The finest day that I've ever had was when I learned to cry on command. I love myself better than you...
The record is almost over! I never wanted these songs to end. I wanted it to go on and on and on. Sitting in my bedroom the first time I listened to this tape, I felt like I could stay in that place forever. Like freeze myself in time and be myself and be free.
But you can't be frozen in time and be free. I know that now. Twenty years later.
The "Ooo Oooo"s at the end of the song are so perfect. A harmony that you don't hear anywhere else on the record. And it leads right into...
Something In The Way
The final song on the album. And one of the saddest songs I've ever heard. Seriously. They way Kurt sings the chorus still kills me. I'm sure I cried the first time I heard this song. I remember driving in my Ford Taurus with some girl and the "Unplugged" version of this song came on. It made me so friggin' depressed. There was something in the way. There was something not right with my life. I probably shouldn't have told her I felt like just driving my car into a wall. She kind of freaked out. Looking back, that was a bad move on my part. But back then I really didn't have a filter between my brain and my mouth. I didn't say much back then, but when I did, I didn't think before saying it.
Twenty years later I still believe this is the best record front-to-back there is. Obviously I am only basing this opinion on albums that have come out in my life-time. But I am also extremely biased. I was deeply affected and effected by this record. The "Nevermind" CD I own now is the third copy that I've owned.
The first version was the cassette that I stole from my friend's brother. I wore that tape out to the point that it just refused to play any more. Then I bought the CD. But after my girl friend dumped me for the final time, I broke it into a million pieces. Along with all of my other Nirvana CDs. And my Hole CDs. A day later I mounted all the broken CD pieces to the wall of my dorm room. I used them as a mirror my entire freshman year of college.
I thought I was done with Nirvana at that point. I was going to start listening to new music. I was in the latter half of the 90s and I needed to change things in my life, starting with my music. But things don't go the way you want them to sometimes. Before the 1990s ended I had shiny new versions of all my old albums. I felt like such a poseur buying them at the record store.
I never did get the hell out of Western New York. Well not for very long anyway. And I have never lived outside of New York state. All of the things I wanted to do with my life never happened. And when a Nirvana song comes up on my iPod and I happen to be driving past an old hang-out or past my ex-girl friend's house or past where my high school used to stand, I get sad and I get angry and I am immediately transported back to the 90s.
And I kind of like that.
I found it hard. It's hard to find. Oh well, whatever. Nevermind.