Entertainment & Arts

Chan k'chang: 25 years of Nirvana's Nevermind

Kurt Cobain, Nirvana Unplugged, 1993 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Smells Like Teen Spirit propelled Nirvana and Cobain from underground act to headlining festivals and performing on MTV Unplugged in 1993

Many of us can hum the opening bars to Smells Like Teen Spirit, the opening track of Nirvana's second album Nevermind, but when did you first hear them? Fans of the band have been recalling the grunge explosion of the 1990s and weighing what it means a quarter of a century later.

The album, Nirvana's first since signing to major label DGC Records, came out 25 years ago, on 24 September 1991. Together with the singles Smells Like Teen Spirit, In Bloom and Come As You Are, the band and frontman Kurt Cobain set a tone for rock music in, and since, the 1990s, and heralded the sound of Seattle's alternative music scene going global.

While earlier grunge bands like Tad or Mudhoney were overtaken by the Teen Spirit phenomenon, acts such as Soundgarden and Pearl Jam benefitted alongside Nirvana, but the attention on Cobain as an icon of youthful angst saw him withdraw into heroin use and suicide in 1994 at the age of 27.

Image copyright Tim Tucker
Image caption 'It was an instant impact,' says Tim Tucker these days (l) of his hearing Nirvana in the 1990s (r)

Tim Tucker, Nova Scotia, Canada

As a Canadian, I remember watching Much Music [music video channel on cable TV} one day when I was about 13 or 14, they had a Intergalactic Video Premiere from a band called Nirvana for the Single Smells Like Teen Spirit.

It was an instant impact. It was just so different from everything else I was listening to at the time, mainly, Guns N' Roses, Motley Crue, Poison and other bands along these lines.

After hearing the song, I purchased Nevermind on cassette tape and my interest in the band only expanded. Same with my interest in "grunge".

Teens were looking for an identity apart from the '80s hair bands and new wave pop of their older siblings and grunge defined the Gen X mood perfectly. Apathy, disinterest in anything that would be considered fitting in.

My music preference changed almost instantly. I ditched hair bands and started listening to Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Rage Against the Machine and others. A pivotal moment in my music-listening hobby. It also, for me, fuelled a specific interest in lyrics that still exists today and sparked an interest in bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle, Queens of the Stone Age...

Looking back, I still have each of the Nirvana albums and listen to them on occasion. Smells Like Teen Spirit is probably the song I listen to the least. It has been vastly overplayed throughout the years and it just doesn't have the same impact on me as it used to.

Love it or hate it, Nevermind is definitely the album that defined the '90s and, perhaps, the mindset of Gen X as a whole. It was filled with anger, but not directed at any one thing. General anger and angst at expectations from society.

Adam Sah, California, United States

Image copyright Adam Sah
Image caption In the 1990s (L), Adam was "in no mood for George Michael" - today (R) he wonders what Cobain would have to say about the 2016 US presidential election

I'm part of the generation that remembers where I was the first time I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit. It was driving in heavy traffic on the Long Island Expressway commuting to an uninspiring summer office internship. The DJ mentioned something about a new track by this punk band from Seattle, it's a little different but we think you'll like it.

I swear I saw people head-banging in their cars.

For me, Smells Like Teen Spirit, the movie Singles, Tom's Diner, they were the final nails in the 1980s' coffin.

The 1980s never felt right: the silliness, excessive everything, it all seemed pointless, and when Smells Like Teen Spirit came out, I was done with it. College graduation was on the horizon, it was a recession, nobody had jobs, and I was in no mood for George Michael.

It was the antidote and ushered in a new decade, precisely as I entered adulthood and started really questioning things about my life. I'd angrily given up my dream of becoming a stone sculptor but hadn't found a replacement. Cobain was this genius who said it's OK to question everything and accept a little anarchy in your life.

I moved to California and grunge gave way to early electronic dance music like Orbital. Then the internet swept me up and not even the crash stopped me. The music didn't stop until 9/11, when we faced real anarchy.

I wish Kurt had lived: he'd have had a lot to say about the past 20 years, and I can't even imagine the clever words he'd use to describe the presidential election.

More on this story

Around the BBC