So it’s the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” this week and everyone is reminiscing about this music that changed the industry — this grunge.
I think Seattle blogger Chris Burlingame is right from the numbers standpoint when he says, “Nirvana was hardly as ubiquitous in 1992 or 1993 as we like to remember.” Afterall, the majority of people still were buying “pop” records.
Nirvana was a big deal — a HUGE deal — to the sorts of people inclined to listen to that which went against the grain and/or teenage girls who had a jones on for Kurt Cobain’s sexy anti-swagger. I mean, honestly, if you were living in the Northwest in the early ’90s, you couldn’t really escape Nirvana-mania. Flip on one of the local rock radio stations and you were bound to hear one of the band’s tunes at any moment.
When the general populace discusses “grunge,” Nirvana is usually the first thing they bring up. Nirvana didn’t create grunge, but I suppose to some degree did make it culturally accessible. It’s a fashion as much as it is a sound. Even people who didn’t listen to Nirvana could be seen sporting roughed-up jeans, cardigan sweaters and/or plaid (often flannel) shirts. Grunge, it seemed, was bigger than Nirvana, but it probably wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t FOR Nirvana.
And there’s the interesting point. I love Nirvana. I loved Nirvana back when it first played on the radio and I love it even more now because as an adult, it’s become an affection that’s stood up through decades. I’ve even gone so far as to list Nirvana as one of my favorite bands.
However, growing up in that time when Nirvana seemed like just a natural part of life in Seattle, I’ve never given it extra attention as I have with other favorite bands, such as Led Zeppelin and ELO. It was always just there; the way Mt. Rainier is “just there”; the way thumbs are “just there.” It’s not so much a matter of taking them for granted, because there’s a deep appreciation there that you understand and recognize …
It’s a matter of something that is such a standard part of your life, you don’t have much concept of life without it. But take Nirvana away and it’d be like leaving the house without shoes on. You’d notice immediately, you’d crave it immediately.
Nirvana was not ubiquitous for the majority of the world. But for the Seattle kids and 20-somethings of the early-’90s, life couldn’t possibly exist without it. It’s just a part of who we are.