Nevermind at 25: how Nirvana's 1991 album changed the cultural landscape - Deepstash
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Nirvana

Nirvana

Nirvana was a band from Seattle. The 1991 Reading Festival spoke with awe about the band who played a no-frills set early on the Friday afternoon.

Within weeks they released one of the most influential and best-selling albums of all time. Nevermind has gone on to sell 30 million copies worldwide.

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The cultural landscape

  • Musically, Nirvana popularized a sound and a DIY aesthetic.
  • Culturally, Nirvana removed the distinction between the underground and mainstream and marked the end to the baby-boomer era.
  • Aesthetically, they spawned “grungy” fashion, while the Nirvana T-shirt - a yellow logo and a smiley face - remains a festival favorite.

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The road to fame

  • Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl, all in their early-to-mid 20s, had left independent label Sub Pop and signed to DGC Records, a subsidiary of major label Geffen Records.
  • Sub Pop was almost entirely responsible for the grunge sound of sludgy and detuned guitars, with darkly neurotic lyrics.
  • Moving to a major was grounds for "public hanging," where any push for commerciality was seen as selling out. But Nirvana wanted to break out and strive for broader recognition.
  • The frame of Nevermind's 12 tracks were recorded in a week. Nevermind joined the central tenents of the grunge sound - crunching guitars and loud vocals - with memorable tunes.
  • In covering the dual bases of noise and melody, Nevermind ensured Nirvana had crossover appeal to young and old, fans of punk and folk alike.
  • "Nevermind" sold a million copies in the US alone. The alternative was now mainstream.

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Nevermind’s success

Nevermind’s success

The success of Nevermind album can be partly attributed to Geffen's money and MTV patronage.

"Nevermind" also tapped into a new, less showy way of doing things. People, it seemed, were tired of the classic rock loved by the baby boomer generation. Nevermind gave many bands the confidence to give it a go, even if they lacked the best equipment. It took music back to the garage. Nevermind made misfits feel normal.

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Changing the music industry

"Nevermind" is an era-defining album with a timeless appeal.

  • Nevermind spent 302 weeks in the UK to 100.
  • It was number five in 2011 following a 20th-anniversary re-issue.
  • Recent research found it is the third most-streamed album ever, with 122 million global streams.

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The grunge look

The grunge look

The look that changed fashion:

  • In 2014, Vogue called Cobain "one of the most influential style icons of our time. His thrift-store look is still everywhere today.
  • Nirvana T-shirts are increasingly worn by teenagers, even though they would struggle to name a single Nirvana song.

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adeebschultz

Beer maven. Subtly charming personal development

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