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Published on September 24th, 2011 | by Alan Cross

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20 Things About Nirvana’s Nevermind on Its 20th Anniversary

Yes, kids, it was twenty years ago today.  Were he alive, Kurt Cobain would be middle-aged.

1.  DGC didn’t have much faith in the album’s potential, shipping only 46,251 copies to stores.  Some estimates put Nevermind’s worldwide sales as high as 30 million copies.

2.  Spencer Eldon, the baby on the front cover, is also 20 years old.  He was paid $200.  In exchange, he now has the most famous penis in rock.

3.  “Smells Like Teen Spirit” wasn’t supposed to be the first single.  Label bosses wanted “Come As You Are.”  A compromise had “Teen Spirit” released to the small alt-rock market and college stations.

4.  Nirvana was accused of plagiarizing Killing Joke’s “Eighties” for the opening bit of “Come As You Are.”  Everything was settled amicably to the point where Dave Grohl toured with Killing Joke as their drummer.

5.  Nevermind was essentially recorded twice.  The first time was with producer Butch Vig (the producer of the final product) over six days in April 1990 at his studio in Madison, Wisconsin.  While many of those songs from the sessions made it through to Nevermind (“In Bloom,” “Lithium,” “Polly” and “Breed,” which was originally called “Imodium”), drummer Chad Channing did not.  He was jettisoned in favour of Dave Grohl.

6.  Dave used a rented drum kit from a place called Drum Doctor for Nevermind.  It cost $1,500.

7.  Krist Novoselic was arrested for DUI during the Nevermind sessions (actually, he was a combination of Jack Daniel’s and mushrooms).  He spent the night in jail.

8.  The cheerleaders in the “Teen Spirit” video were recruited from an LA strip joint. Nirvana really wanted their friend in the band L7 for the part.  They were overruled.  (Bonus fact:  Dave was dating L7′s Jennifer Finch at the time.)

9.  The janitor was the actual janitor from director Sam Bayer’s apartment complex in Venice Beach.

10.  Kurt was worried “Teen Spirit” sounded too much like a Pixies song.  He was also worried it had too much of the same feeling as Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.”

11.  Nevermind’s original recording budget was $65,000.  They ended up spending twice that.

12.  The official release party for the album was held at a place called Re-bar in Seattle on September 13. The band is thrown out of their own party after Krist starts a food fight with some really sticky vegetable dip.

13.  Nirvana started their first North American tour in support of Nevermind on September 20 at the Opera House in Toronto.  I wasn’t there.

14.  On the day Nevermind was released, Nirvana played an all-ages show at a Boston club called Axis.  I wasn’t there, either.

15.  Kurt clashed with Butch Vig over the final mix of the album requiring the record company to step in with some alternate suggestions.  Kurt chose Andy Wallace because the first band listed on his resume was Slayer.  If he had looked further down the list, he would have seen the name “Madonna.”  Think he would have chosen Wallace had he noticed that?

16.  The vocals on “Teen Spirit” are a composite of four different takes.

17.  “On a Plain” was written during the Nevermind sessions.

18.  Dave Grohl had a real hard time maintaining a steady tempo for “Lithium.”  At one point, Kurt got so frustrated that he spontaneously ripped off into an angry guitar-and-vocal salvo that became “Endless, Nameless.”  The band eventually got “Lithium” right when Dave used a click track.

19.  Kurt wanted “Endless, Nameless” as a hidden track on the album but it was left out of the original mastering session.  The first 50,000 or so copies of Nevermind are missing that track.  All other copies have it appearing out of the silence after about 10 minutes.

20.  Nirvana thought “In Bloom” might be the first single from the album.  It ended up as the fourth.

Happy 20th birthday, Nevermind.


About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.



One Response to 20 Things About Nirvana’s Nevermind on Its 20th Anniversary

  1. Great article. It makes me sad to think of Kurt and what could have been or I should say what more could have been since he already did some much. Thinking of the DUI Krist Novoselic got makes me remember to continue to bring awareness around drinking and driving: http://zautos.com/dui-fast-facts/
    DUI Fast Facts

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