Today (September 24th) marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Nirvana‘s Nevermind. It was the band’s second full-length album, and it propelled alt music into the mainstream.
The record company only sent 46,000 copies of to record stores when it came out. That was not nearly enough. It debuted at Number 144 and hit Number One on January 11th, 1992. Nevermind was eventually certified Diamond in the U.S. for sales of more than 10 million copies. It has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.
In a recent interview with NME, Dave Grohl pointed out that no one realized what “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was going to become. “I think everyone was more focused on songs like ‘In Bloom’ or ‘Lithium’ or ‘Breed’; nobody really paid too much attention to ‘Teen Spirit’ while we were recording it. We just thought it was another cool song for the record.”
EIGHT MYTHS ABOUT NEVERMIND – via Spin magazine
1. Nevermind was Kurt Cobain’s first choice for the album’s title: Not true. His first idea for the title was Sheep. The band finally decided on Nevermind in late 1990.
2. Nevermind was recorded in 1991: Most of the album was made in 1991, beginning in April. But the band’s first album sessions took place in April 1990 at Butch Vig’s studio in Madison, Wisconsin. Five of the eight songs recorded there ended up on Nevermind, although they were re-recorded when Dave Grohl joined the band.
3. Dave Grohl is the only drummer on Nevermind: When the band recorded in Madison in 1990, Chad Channing was still the drummer. His performance on the song “Polly” made it to the final album, although he isn’t credited.
4. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was written about a deodorant: Cobain’s friend, Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna, did indeed write “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit” on Cobain’s bedroom wall, which is where the song title came from. But Cobain didn’t know there was an actual Teen Spirit deodorant until after the album came out.
5. Nirvana made a cassette demo of “Teen Spirit” to prove they had a hit: There is a rehearsal tape of “Teen Spirit” that was recorded on a boombox, but the band had no idea it had a potential smash on its hands. The band recorded that and many other songs on the boombox so that they wouldn’t forget how to play them.
6. Nevermind was written about drugs: There are references to drugs throughout the album, but that’s not what the entire disc was about. Plus Cobain’s full-scale drug addiction didn’t start until after the album was recorded. Most of the record was written about his friends, neighbors, or girlfriends.
7. The cover shot of the naked baby chasing the dollar bill in the pool was Cobain’s idea: Cobain wanted something more graphic for the cover — a shot of a baby’s head emerging from its mother’s vagina in a pool. Not surprisingly, that idea ended up not being used.
8. Cobain became instantly rich thanks to Nevermind: Most of the album’s sales came in 1992, and with record companies notoriously slow in paying royalties, Cobain made just under $30,000 in 1991, most of it from touring. In fact, after he returned home from recording the album, he found himself evicted from his apartment.