Saturday, September 24, 2011

Nirvana's Nevermind turns 20, making me feel old and jaded

Some memories...  Growing up in the Seattle area, my friends and I were all into the local music scene.  Nirvana came along relatively later than everyone else (and no, I am not counting you, Aliz-N-Chainz!  It's not selling out if you are buying in!).  As Bleach made its rounds, one by one everyone I knew was buzzing about how great the album was, but it took me awhile to take a listen.  (Remember, this is the pre-internet days when you actually had to physically posses a cassette or a CD to listen to music.)

Finally, a bunch of us went to go see them play a show with The Derelicts, The Dwarves, and The Melvins in an old garage in Seattle, and I was convinced.

Sometime during my senior year, we published a two page spread in our high school newspaper in Issaquah, Washington about Sub Pop and the local music scene.  The other writers and I were met with open hostility in the corridors of our high school for "wasting everyone's time with that crap."  They asked us, "How come you guys don't write about bands that we've heard of and like?" We told them that, in our opinion, the bands they liked were crap and, jokingly, said that soon everyone would be hearing about these bands, but we didn't really believe it.

At the time, the big hair bands dominated popular music.  All those damn "W" bands, the Wingers and Warrents and a lot of songs about thorny roses.  While my favorite t-shirt was a Sub Pop "World Domination Regime" shirt, no one could imagine what was soon to happen...

September 1991 marked one of the most significant record release dates in years.  Guns-N-Roses was releasing not one, but two long awaited albums, the Use Your Illusion records.  This was their first real follow up to the mammoth Appetite For Destruction, which came out over four years earlier.  Many, many record stores were staying open after midnight to sell these albums and it was, at the time, the biggest record release event in history.

At the time, I was living in a dorm at Seattle University and one of the record stores on Capitol Hill, down the street from me, was, pretty much as a joke, staying open late to sell another record, Nevermind.  Sure, we all loved Nirvana and were excited to hear their new album, but not midnight excited.  Orpheum Records was open until midnight anyway, though, and they decided to stay open until 12:30 and had a funny sign out front for a couple days pretty much mocking all the hype about the new Guns-N-Roses releases.

I was up anyway so I wandered down at midnight and bought the album.  I was the only one in the store and the clerk and I joked about all the Use Your Illusion hype.

I went home and took a listen.  It was very good.  Another benefit of showing up at midnight is that I got one of the first printings, the only ones with the hidden track (Endless, Nameless) on it.  Within a year, all those people at my old high school were growing goatees and dressing in fashion magazine grunge wear.  I grew disgusted and moved on, not even buying the the next Nirvana album until about five years ago.  And, of course, at some point during the lost years of the 1990s, I lost the CD with the hidden track on it.

But that was a pretty amazing time and place to be alive, back in Seattle in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  

Here is a video of Nirvana playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" live for the first time.  I was at this show and think I even spotted myself in the audience on this tape.  The audio isn't that great, but it is fun.  Before they made it big and other issues started taking their toll on Kurt, their shows were a lot more energetic than what most people are familiar with.

Nevermind: The memories of KEXP DJs and staff: "Yesterday, KEXP’s DJ Riz shared a crazy story about DJ’ing Nirvana’s infamous food fight CD release party at Rebar (read it here). Today, as we play all local and Nirvana-related music, you can read about the memories KEXP DJs and staff have regarding the band’s landmark album, Nevermind, which was released 20 years ago tomorrow."

DJ Riz remembers Nevermind: "KEXP’s DJ Riz was the DJ of the infamous “food fight” CD release party at Rebar. Here’s his account:" 

And, of course, so as not to feel left out, another record had the 27th anniversary of its release today...

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