It goes without saying that Nevermind inspired a generation, and records like don’t come along very often. I feel that time has been kind to the record in a way that perhaps it hasn’t been to some records from other luminaries of the grunge scene, so I guess that would place it firmly in the “timeless” category.
I was a mere six year old boy when it was released, so my first experience with the record was when I heard ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ performed, or should I say mimed, at a school talent contest. I’d been into Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson and The Offspring at the time so already my brain was primed for this kind of music.
It was a song that created a surge unlike that I’d ever experienced before. Or since.
Like many teens since the release of the record in 1991 I was hooked. Unlike many of my friends I never really bought into grunge much aside from Nirvana; it seemed that I was attracted more to the punk aspect of Nirvana as opposed to the grunge aspect; nevertheless it remained a record that I played constantly from age 14 to 18.
Ironically I never owned a proper copy of it; my copy was actually a CD-R that someone in school burned for me.
Like any record one listens to excessively, eventually I went off it. Not in an “I hate it” kind of way, but as my taste changed I became more attracted to the noise of its successor, In Utero. Nevermind, even though it’s completely overproduced, spoke to me exactly the same way it spoke to a generation.
In my 25th year I rediscovered Nirvana. More specifically I rediscovered In Utero and, even with the 20th anniversary of the band’s seminal record, I only revisited Nevermind today when I heard Kevin Devine’s version of it.
What’s the point of this, I hear you cry?
In all the histrionics surrounding the 20th anniversary of this record and its re-release, it’s sometimes important to reflect on how music affects people. Nirvana, like Oasis and Green Day after them, inspired thousands of kids to pick up guitars and start their own bands and while that’s a great achievement, when people talk of “legendary” records it seems their influence is measured on how many bands sprung up in the wake of them. When you remember Nevermind, when you read about how great it is, how influential it has been, take an extra moment to reflect on the profound impact music has on us in our adolescence. Teenage rebellion always sounds good, and while I can’t relate to the transformative moment Nevermind had on rock music at the time, much in the same way I can’t relate to how Never Mind the Bollocks changed rock music in the last 70s, I’m absolutely certain that Nevermind continues to touch and change youth in the same way now as it did to me a generation ago and to others a generation before that.
It’s easy to forget that. Most people who write about a seminal record will count influence as the amount of other bands that exist because of it. Yes, that’s important, but the music of our teens will, for many people, shape their listening habits and connection to music for the rest of their lives. The best records transcend the moment where they changed the outlook of music; they continually change people for years afterwards.