'Nevermind' Turns 25: Our Readers Share Their Thoughts on the Iconic Album

Matthew Mahoneabout 5 years


image Somewhere in the late eighties a raw yet beautiful sound–a mixture somewhere between punk and rock music–emerged from the ethos, from the most unlikely of places, the Pacific Northwest.  I admit it, I abhor labels, but what is now considered alternative music, was formerly known by a different, less alluring name.  With its heavily distorted, reverberating guitars, war-like drums and bleak, disillusioned lyrics, grunge music–the vernacular of the time–was a powerful impetus during the last decade of the twentieth century.  And while it's not exactly clear when the grunge movement was birthed, some point to Neil Young's 1987 album Rust Never Sleeps as an early influence, one thing's for certain, it died April 5, 1994, when Kurt Cobain killed himself in his Seattle, Washington home. Many people consider Pearl Jam's debut release Ten as the breakthrough album–and it was–but it merely cracked open the door of the American consciousness.  While Nirvana's sophomore album Nevermind, released a month later on September 24, 1991, on the other hand, ultimately kicked it completely off it's hinges altogether.   No other band captures the zeitgeist of the 90's more than Nirvana, and I would argue, despite their brief existence, one would be hard pressed to find another band that shifted the American cultural and musical axis more than Nirvana since. Millions of disenfranchised youth–the nobody's, freaks, social outcasts, misfits, non-conformists–who were often marginalized by society–were now given a powerful voice, becoming the poster children–flannel shirts, ripped jeans and all–influenceing an entire generation, namely mine.  It's hard to imagine that it's really been 25 years since it was released. img_5250 When Smells Like Teen Spirit premiered on MTV officially on September 10, 1991, I was 16 years old.  To be honest, I couldn't begin to process the sights and sounds as I watched it over-and-over.  First, the video looked like the film was soaked in piss.  What did he just say?  Mosquito?  Bloody nail or a denial?  Do those cheerleaders have tattoos...is that underarm hair?  Looking at it now, it seems tame, but at the time it was scary, raw, loud, yet extremely beguiling.  I had listened to Pearl Jam and some other bands including, the Pixies and Sonic Youth, but Nirvana was different–you just got the sense that things were about to change.  And they did.  Nevermind was released weeks later, and I had to borrow some money from my parents to buy the CD (what are those?!?) at ear-X-tacy in Louisville.  Dammit, the lyrics weren't in the liner notes!  The album spent 252 weeks in the Billboard charts and sold over 30 million copies.  Nevermind's success was the rising tide that elevated Nirvana and contemporary alternative bands including, but not limited to:  Soundgarden, Mudhoney and Alice In Chains into the mainstream. Because of the nostalgic milestone, I wanted to give our readers a chance to share their perspectives on the iconic album, and also to see if Nevermind still resonates with them years later.


"I first listened to this album when I was a freshman in high school, so the album had been out for about 12 years.  I was just learning to play the acoustic guitar at that time, and soon thereafter I went out and bought my first electric guitar and began teaching myself how to play.  The first guitar solo that I taught myself to play, by ear, was the solo in 'Smells Like Teen Spirit.'  It might be cliche, but I felt awesome, and it really helped launch my interest in playing music and being the musician I am today." –Sable S. "Nothing.  Pearl Jam's Ten was the real nuance to popular alternative music in the early 90's.  The Nirvana/Cobain-Love impact on pop-culture via the alternative moniker is comparable to Brittany Spears.  The longevity of Pearl Jam and Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters is the real story.  Pop-culture likes the drama story, the rest of us like the great music." –Ben M. "It's one of my top ten fav albums of all time and had such a huge impact on me as a teenager and still as an adult.  So many aspects of the album:  the lyrics, the guitar, the drums, all of it put together was able to speak for me and convey how I felt when I wasn't able to or didn't know myself.  It helped me get through hard times, teenage angst of course, and to this day I can't hear the opening beats to any of the songs without being totally captivated.  Music is such an important part of my life, a building block, and I am who I am, in part to Nevermind." –Tiffany D. "I was about 5 years late to the party on the whole Nirvana thing.  I didn't buy that album until '96 or '97 because I didn't really get into rock until then.  It was a good album but it didn't really do anything for me personally but it did for the rock genre.  I don't think there's been another rock album more iconic than Nevermind since–and there probably won't be anytime soon." –Shannon The Dude "I was in 8th grade when Nevermind was released. That album changed the way I looked at music, the world, and my entire generation. To say it impacted me is a huge understatement." –Ashley S. "I never cared for them much.  It gave me a headache!" –My Mom "I was working at Del Taco and my friend brought in a promotional advance cassette single he got from the local CD shop.  He accidentally recorded over side A which was 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' so we listened to the B-side 'Even In His Youth' about 50 times that night.  I was hooked.  The album came out a week later and it was on constant rotation for what seemed like forever.  It had energy, felt real and was basically a collection of raw, dirty and unpolished but extremely well written pop songs that still sound fresh today. It is my favorite album to come out during the early 90's Seattle/Grunge period.  It signaled a long overdue changing of the guard in what was popular music at the time.  I think the world could use another Nirvana to shake things up but I’m probably too old to care anymore.  Oh well.  Whatever.  Nevermind." –Shawn B.


With Nevermind, Nirvana opened a Pandora's box both artistically and aesthetically for future bands, including:  Blind MelonStone Temple Pilots, Green Day, the Foo Fighters, as well as a gazillion egregious ones which I refuse to even acknowledge.  So the real question remains, does Nevermind have the same emotional effect on me as it once did after nearly three decades?  Before I can answer that, the reality is, I'm no longer the long-haired, carefree, angsty, kid I once was in my formative years–those days are long gone.  I'm dealing with middle age questions now.  Am I saving enough for retirement?  Is now the time to shop for new tires?  Should I refinance my house?  Is $15 too much to pay for a haircut?  How do I use Snapchat?  Back to the essential question.  In short, hell yeah it does!  Despite my age, Nevermind is as potent today as it was 25 years ago.  Like a virus, it imprinted itself on my psyche long ago and its familiar sounds finds a welcome host in my soul.  And while my 16-year-old self might disapprove with some of my life choices, scoff at my attire, or maybe even call me a sell-out, one thing we can agree on, Nevermind has been, and will continue to remain, one of–if not the singular album of prominence ever recorded.


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