I’m writing this as someone who grew up with Nirvana, despite coming across their music a good seven years after Kurt Cobain’s death: I still can sing almost each and every line of their songs by heart and their bitterness, angst and anger have never ceased to be a part of me.
Do you remember the day Kurt died? Good for you: I don’t. Even though the date (April 8th, 1994) is now embedded in my brain. I was seven at the time. I spent most of my teen years regretting I hadn’t been born ten years earlier and witnessed the rise of my favourite bands (Nirvana, yes, but also the Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, and many more), all I know about my teenage idol’s tragic disappearance comes from a novel. And still, I miss Nirvana as much as any hardcore fan who remembers the iconic band first hand.
Hear this: one of the strangest and most gratifying things I have ever taken as a compliment came from my best friend, so many years ago that I actually lost count of the time that passed.
‘There’s no song that expresses what you are as well as Serve the Servants does’, she told me. And, guess what? I had formulated exactly the same thought, a couple of weeks before, rejoicing of it in secret, not telling anyone.
And I still remember the day I first listened to In Utero: I was fifteen, sitting on my bed, brooding over my mother’s latest telling-off about a 6/10 in a biology test – and, yeah, sobbing a little bit. (come on, 6/10 is the pass mark! What the hell, it’s so unfair!).
Nothing defeats my discontent as well as music, so I put on this new CD I had just received from a friend. I was stuck on Nevermind (which features what has become their most iconic song Smells Like Teen Spirit) and the MTV Unplugged at that time; definitely great records, I agree, but what made its way into my ears that grumpy early afternoon was destined to change my life.
I can’t decide what my favourite Nirvana song is – there are so many, and for so many different reasons. But that’s what makes them even more special to me. They cemented my friendships, gave voice to feelings I would never have the courage to express and wrote lines I would have written myself if only I had known the right words. They played my music, the music of all people who felt rejected, unwanted, weird, empty, insignificant, troubled, frustrated, confused, mellow, anxious… And they were damn good at it.
Anyone unfamiliar with the greatness of this band, I urge you to give their music a chance and you’ll realise it in no time, if you just let their songs talk to you. Get used to the distorted riffs and pain-stricken screams, repress the urge to shout ‘this is not music!’ and just let your gut feelings do the talking.
Do it once in your life and you’ll be spellbound forever. At 14, at 24… And yeah, I know myself well enough to tell I’ll still be at 40
So take a bow and pay a minute of silence to late Kurt and Nirvana, and then turn on your music player and start the noise.
I’ll definitely go for Frances Farmer, what about you?
By Federica Silvi
Ed says: I don’t confess to be an expert on the band that was known as Nirvana, but one thing I can totally and utterly claim is a total love for their biggest hit Smells Like Teen Spirit. You don’t have to a grunge or rock fan (although I am a fan of certain rock tunes and bands) to adore this track, as it is blessed to be one of those that just takes over you the moment you hear those first strums of the guitar ring out!
I’ve heard this track played in a hip hop club (random – but the Dj obviously knew what he was doing) and the place went absolutely bonkers! You had baggy-jean-wearing dudes with pulled-down baseball caps, usually refined to just nodding in a too-cool-for-school fashion in time to a rap beat, losing their mind over this song.
I’ve read and heard that Kurt Cobain was a music genius. I haven’t examined his life and work close enough to even begin to debate that fact, but like I said at the top of the show Smells Like Teen Spirit, with its right-on-the-money angst and richly deep rebellion, both in the lyrics (which are so simple, but loaded with meaning) and the way the music composition runs all over the place, with nothing to reign it in, but still manages to sound so melodic and poetic. It f****** rocks like a mother….! Go on, tell me I’m wrong.