Before Nirvana released their sophomore album Nevermind in 1991, punk rock and indie music was considered niche-- something the masses would never touch. Punk certainly wasn’t getting any mainstream airplay, and the focus was on the hair metal bands of the era: Mötley Crüe, Poison, Warrant. With Nevermind, Nirvana brought punk and indie rock into the popular music realm and made alternative music ubiquitous.
Nirvana’s success story was short-lived, as tormented frontman Kurt Cobain’s body was found at his house outside of Seattle in 1994. It wasn’t a huge surprise, as he had threatened to commit suicide for a while, but it left a young generation stunned and without a leader.
In this piece, we look back at some quotes from Cobain’s life and career.
On handling – or not handling – overnight success, as told to Rolling Stone:
“It was so fast and explosive. I didn't know how to deal with it. If there was a Rock Star 101 course, I would have liked to take it. It might have helped me.”
On what young bands he was digging before the release of Nevermind, as remembered by CA.MSN.com:
"I think the Breeders. I like the Pixies. I don't like their last album though... I like R.E.M. I like the Jesus Lizards, the Melvins, [inaudible] Shonen Knife, Bikini Kills. There are a few other bands I like. I'm kind of picky."
On Ozzy Osbourne digging Nevermind, as told to Kerrang! magazine (via NirvanaClub.com):
I can understand Ozzy liking us, because we have some similarities with his former band. Ozzy was also in the same mixing studio that we were in for our last record. There were a few times when we were coming towards each other and I had to move against the wall because he was stumbling past. He also asked us to go on tour with him, but we turned it down. It would have been kind of exciting, but we don't really wanna play in huge arenas supporting someone.
On being labeled the “next big thing,” as told to Kerrang! magazine (via NirvanaClub.com):
“I think it's embarrassing to have so many expectations of us. It's a superficial label to put on a band, because it is a big let-down if the band doesn't become the next big thing. People are putting the tag on us without really wanting to do that. … We're not going to be. We're prepared to destroy our career as it happens.”
On the success of Nevermind and “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” as recalled by Remembering Kurt Cobain:
“I think we still sound like us - unmistakably Nirvana. Having different ideas, getting the chance to talk about stuff with somebody else who's not in the band, can be good, as long as you're doing what feels right to you. … On the other hand, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is getting airplay, a lot of airplay. People are coming to shows on the strength of one song. I guess that's the way it goes. It's cool, we can deal with it. Everybody seems to be leaving smiling and sweaty.”
On the demands of doing press right before the release of Nevermind, as recounted on CA.MSN.com:
“… We’re constantly doing interviews. I mean, we don't even have any time for ourselves anymore. We just do interviews all day for some really ridiculous things too, a lot of heavy metal magazines, hard rock magazines that feature Guns N' Roses and stuff like that. So it's kind of... I don't know, it's different for us. … I don’t personally like most of the bands that are in those magazines. So it’s just kind of alien to me. It just makes me wonder why. But I'm not complaining. It’s something to do. It’s kind of fun, actually.”
On wishing he could join his wife Courtney Love’s band Hole, via RomanceIsDead.net:
“… To tell you the truth, I would rather just quit my band and join Hole, you know, only because when I have played music with them, there’s a level of connection that’s a little bit higher than with anyone else I ever played with. It’s amazing. It’s totally satisfying for Courtney and I but completely unrealistic because we’re already so inter-twined with each other and ... Most people don’t even think of the band Nirvana, they think of Kurt and Courtney and it’s just too much, it gets in the way. People would overlook the music and look into other things. It just wouldn’t be taken seriously, so... I’d like to someday but now, I can’t see anything for the next five years or so. We still jam together every once in a while. It’s such a sad situation. I really wish we could just join bands...”
On taking his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, on tour with Nirvana, as told to Rolling Stone:
I'm pretty concerned about it. She seems to be attracted to almost anyone. She loves anyone. And it saddens me to know that she's moved around so much. We do have two nannies, one full–time and another older woman who takes care of her on weekends. But when we take her on the road, she's around people all the time, and she doesn't get to go to the park very often. We try as hard as we can, we take her to preschool things. But this is a totally different world.
On the sound and inspiration behind Nirvana’s third and final album, In Utero, via RomanceIsDead.net:
“Generally speaking, I would say it’s really not as personal as a lot of people would have probably think. I’ve actually taken the time this time to be a bit more thematic. So many people would be expecting me to be writing about the last two years and my past experiences -drugs, having a child, the press coming down on us and stuff like that. I decided to just use experiences from books and other stories instead of even dealing with my life. There’s a little bit of my life, personal things in it, but for the most part, it’s very impersonal. And it’s gonna be a surprise to a lot of people.”
On being a “much happier” guy than most people think, as told to Rolling Stone:
“I still see stuff, descriptions of rock stars in some magazine – ‘Sting, the environmental guy,’ and ‘Kurt Cobain, the whiny, complaining, neurotic, bitchy guy who hates everything, hates rock stardom, hates his life.’ And I've never been happier in my life. Especially within the last week, because the shows have been going so well – except for tonight. I’m a much happier guy than a lot of people think I am.”