Here we are now, entertain us … with trivia.
NIrvana’s “Nevermind” was released on Sept. 24, 1991. The band’s original record contract with Sub Pop only paid them $600, but this album would go on to sell 30 million copies worldwide.
Perhaps they weren’t always understood at the time — MTV even misspelled the group’s Moon Man award in 1992 as “Smells Like Team Spirit” — but over the years Nirvana has certainly captured the zeitgeist for anyone who wishes to come as they are, no matter what team spirit they feel.
Never mind Charles Barkley, here’s five things you didn’t know.
1. Teen Spirit = deodorant, but Kurt Cobain didn’t know this when a friend wrote “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit” on his wall.
Kathleen Hanna, notably of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, got drunk off 40s and Canadian Club with Kurt Cobain back in August of 1990. After spray painting a right-wing teen pregnancy center, with Cobain writing “God is gay,” the two hung out and got more drunk in Cobain’s apartment. Hanna started writing things in Sharpie on Cobain’s rental apartment walls. She would later describe the behavior as “really kind of lame that I did that.”
Months after the night, however, Cobain called Hanna to ask her for permission to use one of the lines she wrote on the wall. She thought to herself, “How the fuck is he going to use ‘Kurt smells like Teen Spirit’ in his lyric?”
Apparently Hanna’s bandmate in Bikini Kill and Cobain’s girlfriend at the time, Tobi Vail, used a now discontinued deodorant called Teen Spirit. After being with Vail, Cobain would smell like Teen Spirit. Cobain didn’t find out the line was a deodorant reference and not a compliment until afterward, at which point it is said he became mad about his mistake.
Image Left: WikiCommons.
2. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was supposed to be a joke and when Kurt Cobain pitched it, the band initially hated the song.
Kurt Cobain said the song, “is just making fun of the thought of having a revolution” and “the entire song is made up of contradictory ideas.” In an interview with Rolling Stone, Cobain claimed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was just a “rip off” of The Pixies, and that when he first showed the song to his bandmates it didn’t go over well. Krist Novoselic, the bassist, called it “ridiculous,” but Cobain forced the band to play it for an hour and a half anyway. Nirvana felt the riff sounded like Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” and even played that song leading into “Smells Like Teen Spirit” live.
Recalling those moments when Cobain pitched the song, drummer Dave Grohl said:
Just seeing Kurt write the lyrics to a song five minutes before he first sings them, you just kind of find it a little bit hard to believe that the song has a lot to say about something. You need syllables to fill up this space or you need something that rhymes.
The line, “Here we are now, entertain us,” came from a party joke Cobain would say when entering rooms. To break the ice, he’d say, “Well, here we are, entertain us. You invited us here.”
3. Nirvana got kicked out of the “Nevermind” release party for starting a food fight. They were known to pull many pranks and acts of mischief.
At Nirvana’s only Pittsburgh show, just days after the release of “Nevermind,” the band got in a fight with the venue. In response, Cobain lit the couch on fire.
This is more of a rock legend, but apparently after getting in a fight with Axl Rose at the 1992 VMAs, Courtney Love and Cobain reportedly spit, urinated and rubbed semen on what they thought was going to be the piano Rose would play “November Rain.” That night Elton John played Rose’s part instead.
Relating specifically to the “Nevermind” album, music journalist Everett True has a recount of the release party night in his book “Nirvana: The True Story” that details how things got out of hand:
Oh, there was always a food fight. It was inevitable. These guys were like children. There was egg throwing, food fighting, putting CDs in the microwave, it was just ridiculous. After we got thrown out of the ‘Nevermind’ record release party we all went over to Susie’s house and dressed the Nirvana guys up in dresses and put make-up on them and danced around the house and I think that was the night that Kurt was slingshotting eggs off of Susie’s porch at the neighbors’ cars.
4. The “Nevermind” baby was originally supposed to be a full underwater birthing scene.
Members of the band saw a television documentary about the underwater birthing process and Kurt Cobain decided, “Let’s put that on the album cover.” Of course, the image was way too graphic, so they ended up going with a baby swimming instead.
Photographer Kirk Weddle’s original photographs still exist. Weddle described the process of photographing the baby as very quick saying, “We dunked him in and, bang bang, pulled him out. We did it twice and that was it.”
5. Kurt Cobain was evicted from his apartment as “Nevermind” was released. He was forced to live in his car.
When Kurt Cobain returned home from recording “Nevermind,” his boxes were on the curb and he found out that he’d been evicted. Despite the forthcoming album release, Cobain spent many weeks living in his 1963 Plymouth Valiant.
This was not the first time Cobain had been homeless. Ever since his teens, Cobain found himself without a home on numerous occasions, whether from being kicked out of living spaces or failing to pay bills. Although it may have taken awhile, by the time of his death, it was estimated Cobain had a net worth of $100 million.
BONUS: The welcome sign to Kurt Cobain’s hometown now says “Come as You Are.”
Kurt Cobain’s hometown of Aberdeen, Washington put this sign up in 2005, 11 years after the musician’s death. Cobain’s grandfather, Leland Cobain, approved of the idea and said, “I drive by there every day and look for it.”
Image above: Flickr user jpwashere. All other images Getty unless otherwise noted.