I did a click-bait! Hooray for me! Now, allow me to inundate you with tons of ads and viruses.
What I’m really trying to say with that title, is that Nirvana SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN that great.
Let me start by saying, I like Nirvana. I really do think they deserve all the credit they get. They definitely did change the course of music in the early 90s, and they belong right where they are in the Rock Hall of Fame. I still believe Courtney had Kurt killed, but I digress. They were that great.
Since the passing of Cobain, many books and documentaries have come out about Nirvana and their infamous front man. I haven’t read any of the books, but I have watched a couple of the documentaries, including the one I linked to above. I already felt Courtney had Kurt killed, but that documentary added fuel to the fire.
Also, it should be noted that I am kinda sorta a conspiracy theorist. So take this all with a grain of whole wheat.
A year or two ago I saw the VH1 show Classic Albums, and it was about Nevermind, Nirvana‘s sophomore album, and the one that pushed them to world wide stardom damn near overnight. In that episode, they speak with the producer of the album, Butch Vig, and he tells of how he sometimes manipulated Kurt into doing things for the album to make the album better, such as getting him to record multiple guitar tracks to fill the sound out in a song, when Kurt only wanted the one guitar track. He would also get Kurt to sing certain parts of songs multiple times under the guise of wanting a new take, when in reality he was using all those tracks of him singing to, again, fill out the sound.
Basically, Butch Vig was doing his job. He was making the songs and the album sound the best they could. The thing is, though, is that that wasn’t what Kurt really wanted for Nirvana. He wanted them to be grungy, dirty, raw. If you listen to anything off of their first album, Bleach, you’ll hear that raw sound. It wasn’t just because that was a garage album, that’s how Kurt wanted to sound.
Then all of a sudden Nevermind was released, and it was polished to the max. It’s the kind of album any band should want to put out. Simple tricks were used to make that album go from good to excellent. Multi-tracking. Mixing. Nirvana went from a garage band to the biggest band in the world. And it put a ton of pressure on Kurt. He didn’t like the poppy sound of the album. He didn’t like the huge fan base he got because of the album.
In interviews the band would talk about how sick they were of playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and in one special live TV performance, the album version of the song played to a crowd while Nirvana acted like fools on stage and Kurt sang the song as a bored lounge singer might. Hysterical as it was, they were showing their disdain for what the song had become. Wanna see it?
On the band’s Wikipedia page, it is said that In Utero, their third and final album, and the one to follow Nevermind, was “released to critical acclaim, featured an abrasive, less mainstream sound and challenged the group’s audience.”
Kurt chose Steve Albini to produce the album because he liked his sound and that’s how he wanted Nirvana to sound. After the album was recorded, a lot of people weren’t happy with it, however, including Kurt. They took it to Bob Ludwig to clean it up and make it better while leaving the raw sound in tact. Kurt later said about the album and the label, “Of course, they want another Nevermind, but I’d rather die than do that. This is exactly the kind of record I would buy as a fan, that I would enjoy owning.”
With this album, Kurt wanted to see who Nirvana‘s real fans were. Had they only tuned in because of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” or were they there for the long haul?
Unfortunately, Kurt was found dead shortly after the release of In Utero, so we’ll never know for sure how Nirvana would have turned out. I heard that Kurt really wanted to do a blues album, which would’ve been cool. Who knows where Nirvana would have gone after In Utero. I’m sure it would have been to a much different place than if they had recorded Nevermind the way they recorded In Utero, or Bleach.
Considering how huge Nevermind was, and how it changed the course of music history, I can only assume that that was the fate it was intended to have. However, I do think if Kurt had his druthers, Nirvana would have never been the band they became.