It will be 25 years tomorrow since the single was released to the world.
Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of the release of one of the greatest rock songs of all time; Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. Their third single, it was the record that defined everything that this iconic grunge band were all about, and continues to define music to this day.
'Smells Like Teen Spirit' - released on September 10th 1991
'Smells Like Teen Spirit' became an unexpected seminal hit when it was released on September 10th 1991 as the lead single from Nirvana's second album 'Nevermind'. Noted for its catchy hook and particularly unintelligible lyrics, this Platinum certified belter is without doubt Nirvana's biggest tune and is widely regarded as a kind of 'teen revolution anthem'. Now, 25 years later, it's still just as relevant and still dwarfs many other rock songs that have attempted to supercede it.
Released on DGC Records, the song was recorded at Sound City Studios in California and produced by Butch Vig (The Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Garbage). The lyrics were written by Kurt Cobain, with music by Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, and so it's the only song in the band's back catalogue that credits all three of them.
Despite plenty of initial doubt from radio stations and even the band members themselves, it topped the US Modern Rock Tracks chart and performed highly in both the US and the UK mainstream charts. It was later nominated for two Grammys (Best Hard Rock Performance and Best Rock Song), and in 1997 it was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 'The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll' list.
The music video is just as legendary. Directed by Samuel Bayer, it sees a high school concert descend into a night of riotous revelry, teenagers leaping about in musical ecstasy and cheerleaders in black uniforms with anarchist symbols on the front.
Since the song was released, it has seen numerous cover versions and samples from other artists. Tori Amos featured a piano version on her 1992 'Crucify EP', Patti Smith included it on her 2007 album 'Twelve', Daniel Johns performed it live at Triple J's Beat The Drum party last year and Atari Teenage Riot sampled it in their self-titled 1997 single 'Atari Teenage Riot' - even The Muppets released a cover version for their movie soundtrack in 2011.
Speaking of film soundtracks, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' was notably included in the 2001 musical film 'Moulin Rouge!' as part of 'Zidler's Rap Medley', and it made for a fun anachronism in the 2015's 'Pan' when it was sung by Hugh Jackman and the rest of the cast.
So what was this inspiration for this influential composition that brought alternative rock to the mainstream? Kurt Cobain had always openly admitted he based the sound on Boston alt-rock quartet the Pixies. 'I was trying to write the ultimate pop song', he said in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1994. 'I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band - or at least a Pixies cover band.'
As for the name, it first arose when his pal Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill scrawled 'Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit' on his wall. He took it to have some meaningful anarchistic meaning, when actually she just meant that his girlfriend Tobi Vail's deodorant - of the brand Teen Spirit - was rubbing off on him.
But that was Kurt; interpretating everything around him in his own way, and finding meaning in places where others could not.
In a new clip from the forthcoming official Kurt Cobain documentary, we discover the birth...