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Nevermind

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Nevermind
A nude infant swimming in blue tinted water toward a dollar bill which is attached to a string.
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 24, 1991 (1991-09-24)
RecordedApril 1990; May 2–19, June 1991[1]
Studio
Genre
Length42:38
LabelDGC
ProducerButch Vig
Nirvana chronology
Blew
(1989)
Nevermind
(1991)
Hormoaning
(1992)
Singles from Nevermind
  1. "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
    Released: September 10, 1991
  2. "On a Plain (promo)"
    Released: 1991
  3. "Come as You Are"
    Released: March 2, 1992
  4. "Lithium"
    Released: July 13, 1992
  5. "In Bloom"
    Released: November 30, 1992

Nevermind is the second studio album by American rock band Nirvana, released on September 24, 1991, by DGC Records. Produced by Butch Vig, it was Nirvana's first release on the DGC and the first to feature drummer Dave Grohl. The album cover, which shows a naked baby swimming with a U.S. dollar bill on a fishhook just out of his reach, is one of the most famous album covers in popular music.

Frontman Kurt Cobain wrote a number of songs influenced by bands such as the Melvins, R.E.M., the Smithereens, and the Pixies. He fashioned chord sequences using power chords and combined pop hooks with dissonant guitar riffs. According to Cobain, he aimed for the album to sound like "the Knack and the Bay City Rollers getting molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath". Nirvana recorded Nevermind at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California, in May and June 1991 and it was mastered on the afternoon of August 2 at The Mastering Lab in Hollywood, California.

Nevermind became an unexpected critical and commercial success. In January 1992, it reached number one on the US Billboard 200. At its height, the album was selling approximately 300,000 copies a week. The lead single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" peaked at number six on the US Billboard Hot 100, and its video was heavily rotated on MTV. Three other successful singles were produced: "Come as You Are", "Lithium", and "In Bloom". Nevermind was voted as the best album of the year in Pazz & Jop critics' poll, while "Smells Like Teen Spirit" also topped the single of the year and video of the year polls.

Nevermind has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. In March 1999, it was certified Diamond by the RIAA. Among the most acclaimed albums in the history of music, it was responsible in part for bringing both grunge and alternative rock music to a mainstream audience and ending the dominance of hair metal.[2] In 2004, the Library of Congress added the album to the National Recording Registry, which collects "culturally, historically or aesthetically important" sound recordings, and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018.

Background[edit]

Nirvana was a rock band from Aberdeen, Washington, formed by Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic in 1987, that had signed to Seattle independent record label Sub Pop. The band released their debut album Bleach in 1989, with Chad Channing on drums. However, Channing left Nirvana in 1990, and the band was in need of a permanent drummer. During a show by hardcore punk band Scream, the group's drummer, Dave Grohl, impressed Cobain and Novoselic. When Scream unexpectedly disbanded, Grohl contacted Novoselic, travelled to Seattle, and was soon invited to join the band. Novoselic said in retrospect that when Grohl joined the band, everything "fell into place".[3]

Meanwhile, Cobain was writing a number of new songs. At the time Cobain was listening to bands like the Melvins, R.E.M., The Smithereens, and the Pixies. Cobain—inspired by his contemporary listening habits—began writing songs that were more melodic. A key development was the single "Sliver", released on Sub Pop in 1990 (before Grohl joined the band; Nirvana had recruited Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters to play on it), which Cobain said "was like a statement in a way. I had to write a pop song and release it on a single to prepare people for the next record. I wanted to write more songs like that."[4] Grohl said that the band at that point often made the analogy of likening their music to children's music, in that the band tried to make its songs as simple as possible.[3]

By the start of the 1990s, Sub Pop was experiencing financial difficulties. With rumors that Sub Pop would sign up as a subsidiary of a major record label, the band decided to "cut out the middleman" and start to look for a major record label.[3] A number of labels courted the band, but Nirvana ultimately signed with Geffen Records imprint DGC Records based upon repeated recommendations from Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and their management company.[5]

Recording and production[edit]

Vig sitting at a mixing console
Nirvana enlisted producer Butch Vig at the suggestion of their former label Sub Pop

In early 1990, Nirvana began planning its second album for Sub Pop, tentatively titled Sheep. Sub Pop head Bruce Pavitt suggested Butch Vig as a potential producer.[3] Nirvana particularly liked Vig's work with Killdozer and called Vig up to tell him, "We want to sound as heavy as that record."[6] The band traveled out to Vig's Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin, recording from April 2 to 6, 1990.[7] Most of the basic song arrangements were completed by that time, but Cobain was still working on lyrics and the band was unsure of which songs to record.[8] Ultimately, eight songs were recorded: "Immodium" (later renamed "Breed"), "Dive" (later released as the B-side to "Sliver"), "In Bloom", "Pay to Play" (eventually renamed "Stay Away" and given a new set of lyrics), "Sappy", "Lithium", "Here She Comes Now" (released on Velvet Underground Tribute Album: Heaven and Hell Volume 1), and "Polly".[9]

On April 6, the band played a local show in Madison with fellow Seattle band Tad.[10] Vig began to mix the recordings while the band hung out in Madison, giving an interview to Madison's community radio station WORT on April 7.[11] Nirvana had planned to record more tracks, but Cobain had strained his voice, forcing Nirvana to shut down recording. On April 8 the group headed to Milwaukee to kick off an extensive Midwest and East Coast tour of 24 shows in 39 days.[12] Vig was told that the group would come back to record more songs, but the producer did not hear anything for a while.[3] With the band parting ways with drummer Chad Channing after the tour, additional recording was put on hold. Instead, Nirvana used the sessions as a demo tape to shop for a new label. Within a few months, the tape was circulating amongst major labels, creating a buzz around the group.[13]

After signing to DGC, a number of producers for the album were suggested, including Scott Litt, David Briggs, and Don Dixon, but Nirvana still wanted Butch Vig.[14] Novoselic noted in 2001 that the band was already nervous about recording on a major label, and the producers suggested by DGC wanted percentage points for working on the album. Instead, the band held out for Vig, with whom they felt comfortable collaborating.[15] Afforded a budget of $65,000, Nirvana recorded Nevermind at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California in May and June 1991.[16] Nirvana was originally set to record the album during March and April 1991, but the date kept getting pushed back in spite of the band's eagerness to begin the sessions. To earn gas money to get to Los Angeles, Nirvana played a show where they performed "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the first time.[3] The band sent Vig some rehearsal tapes prior to the sessions that featured songs recorded previously at Smart Studios, along with some new ones including "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Come as You Are".[17]

When the group arrived in California, Nirvana did a few days of pre-production tightening up some of the song arrangements and rehearsing.[18] The only recording carried over from the Smart Studios sessions was the song "Polly", including Chad Channing's cymbal crashes. Once recording commenced, the band worked eight to ten hours a day.[19] Cobain used a variety of guitars, from Stratocasters to Jaguars, and Novoselic used a black 1979 and natural 1976 Gibson Ripper. Novoselic and Grohl finished their bass and drum tracks in a matter of days, while Cobain worked longer on guitar overdubs, vocals, and particularly lyrics (which sometimes were finished minutes before recording).[20] Vig recalled that Cobain was often reluctant to record overdubs but was persuaded to double-track his vocals when told "John Lennon did it."[3] Though the sessions generally went well, Vig said Cobain would become difficult at times: "He'd be great for an hour, and then he'd sit in a corner and say nothing for an hour."[6]

Vig then started to mix the album. However, after a few days, both Vig and the band were unhappy with how the mixes were turning out and decided to bring in someone else to oversee the mixing. DGC supplied a list of possible options, including Scott Litt (known for his work with R.E.M.) and Ed Stasium (known for his work with The Ramones and The Smithereens). Cobain was concerned about bringing in well-known producers and instead chose Andy Wallace (who had co-produced Slayer's 1990 album Seasons in the Abyss) from the bottom of the list.[21] Novoselic recalled, "We said, 'right on,' because those Slayer records were so heavy."[22] Wallace's mixes most notably altered the drum and guitar sounds compared to Vig's mixes.[23] According to Wallace and Vig, the band loved the final results.[24]

Nevermind was mastered on the afternoon of August 2 at The Mastering Lab in Hollywood, California. Howie Weinberg started working alone when no one else showed up at the appointed time in the studio; by the time Nirvana, Andy Wallace, and Gary Gersh arrived, Weinberg had mastered most of the album.[25] A hidden track called "Endless, Nameless", intended to appear at the end of "Something in the Way", was accidentally left off initial pressings of the album. Weinberg recalled, "In the beginning, it was kind of a verbal thing to put that track at the end. (...) Maybe I didn't write it down when Nirvana or the record company said to do it. So, when they pressed the first twenty thousand or so CDs, albums, and cassettes, it wasn't on there." Cobain called Weinberg and demanded he rectify the mistake.[26]

After the release of Nevermind, members of Nirvana later expressed dissatisfaction with the album's production for its perceived commercial sound. Cobain said in Come as You Are, "Looking back on the production of Nevermind, I'm embarrassed by it now. It's closer to a Mötley Crüe record than it is a punk rock record."[23]

Music[edit]

Cobain, Nirvana's main songwriter, fashioned chord sequences using primarily power chords and wrote songs that combined pop hooks with dissonant guitar riffs. His aim for Nevermind's material was to sound like "The Knack and the Bay City Rollers getting molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath".[27] Many of the songs on Nevermind feature shifts in dynamics, where the band changes from quiet verses to loud choruses. Dave Grohl said this approach originated during a four-month period prior to the recording of the album, where the band would experiment with extreme dynamics during regular jam sessions;[28] however; the Smart Studios recordings of songs such as "Lithium" and "In Bloom" show the band was writing songs in that style long before Grohl had joined the band.

Guitar World wrote, "Kurt Cobain's guitar sound on Nirvana's Nevermind set the tone for Nineties rock music." On Nevermind, Cobain played a 1960s Fender Mustang, a Fender Jaguar with DiMarzio pickups, and a few Fender Stratocasters with humbucker bridge pickups. The guitarist used distortion and chorus pedals as his main effects, the latter used to generate a "watery" sound on "Come as You Are" and the pre-choruses of "Smells Like Teen Spirit".[29] Krist Novoselic tuned down his bass guitar one and a half steps to D flat "to get this fat-ass sound."[15]

Lyrics[edit]

Grohl has said that Cobain told him, "Music comes first and lyrics come second," and Grohl believes that above all Cobain focused on the melodies of his songs.[3] Cobain was still working on the album's lyrics well into the recording of Nevermind. Additionally, Cobain's phrasing on the album is often difficult to understand. Vig asserted that clarity of Cobain's singing was not paramount. Vig said, "Even though you couldn't quite tell what he was singing about, you knew it was intense as hell."[3] Cobain would later complain when rock journalists attempted to decipher his singing and extract meaning from his lyrics, writing "Why in the hell do journalists insist on coming up with a second-rate Freudian evaluation of my lyrics, when 90 percent of the time they've transcribed them incorrectly?"[30]

Charles R. Cross asserted in his 2001 biography of Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven, that many of the songs written for Nevermind were about Cobain's dysfunctional relationship with Tobi Vail. After their relationship ended, Cobain began writing and painting violent scenes, many of which revealed a hatred for himself and others. Songs written during this period were less violent, but still reflected anger absent from Cobain's earlier songs. Cross wrote, "In the four months following their break-up, Kurt would write a half dozen of his most memorable songs, all of them about Tobi Vail." "Drain You" begins with the line, "One baby to another said 'I'm lucky to have met you,'" quoting what Vail had once told Cobain, and the line "It is now my duty to completely drain you" refers to the power Vail had over Cobain in their relationship. According to Novoselic, "'Lounge Act' is about Tobi," and the song contains the line "I'll arrest myself, I'll wear a shield," referring to Cobain having the K Records logo tattooed on his arm to impress Vail. Though "Lithium" had been written before Cobain knew Vail, the lyrics of the song were changed to reference her.[31] Cobain also said in an interview with Musician that "some of my very personal experiences, like breaking up with girlfriends and having bad relationships, feeling that death void that the person in the song is feeling–very lonely, sick."[32]

Title and artwork[edit]

The tentative title Sheep was something Cobain created as an inside joke directed towards the people he expected to buy the album. He wrote a fake advertisement for Sheep in his journal that read "Because you want to not; because everyone else is."[33] Novoselic said the inspiration for the title was the band's cynicism about the public's reaction to Operation Desert Storm.[15] As recording ended, Cobain grew tired of the title and suggested to Novoselic that the album be named Nevermind. Cobain liked the title because it was a metaphor for his attitude on life and because it was grammatically incorrect.[34]

"Nevermind" appears on the album liner notes as the last word in a paragraph of lyric fragments that ends with "I found it hard, it was hard to find, oh well, whatever, nevermind" from "Smells Like Teen Spirit".[35] The word "nevermind" also echoes the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, one of Cobain's favourite albums.[36]

The album cover shows a naked baby boy, Spencer Elden,[37] swimming underwater with a U.S. dollar bill on a fishhook, in front of him, just out of his reach. According to Cobain, he conceived the idea while watching a television program on water births with Grohl. Cobain mentioned it to Geffen's art director Robert Fisher. Fisher found some stock footage of underwater births, but they were too graphic for the record company to use. Furthermore, the stock house that controlled the photo of a swimming baby that they chose wanted $7,500 a year for its use. Instead, Fisher sent a photographer, Kirk Weddle, to a pool for babies to take pictures. Five shots resulted and the band settled on the image of four-month-old Spencer Elden, the son of a friend of Weddle.[38] Geffen were concerned that the infant's penis, visible in the photo, would cause offense, and prepared an alternate cover without it; they relented when Cobain said the only compromise he would accept would be a sticker covering the penis reading: "If you're offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile."[39] The cover has since been recognized as one of the most famous album covers in popular music.[40] A few months after the original baby shot, Kirk Weddle also photographed the entire band underwater for a promotional poster.[41]

The back cover features a photograph of a rubber monkey in front of a collage created by Cobain. The collage features photos of raw beef from a supermarket advertisement, images from Dante's Inferno, and pictures of diseased vaginas from Cobain's collection of medical photos. Cobain noted, "If you look real close, there is a picture of Kiss in the back standing on a slab of beef."[42] The album's liner notes contain no complete lyrics; instead, the liner contains random song lyrics and unused lyrical fragments that Cobain arranged into a poem.[43]

For the album's 10th, 17th and 25th anniversaries, Elden recreated the front cover shot for photographers. He wanted to do the 25th anniversary shoot nude but the photographer preferred that he wore swim shorts.[44] In 2003 he appeared on the cover of cEvin Key's album The Dragon Experience.[45]

Release[edit]

Nevermind was released on September 24, 1991. American record stores received an initial shipment of 46,251 copies,[46] while 35,000 copies were shipped in the United Kingdom, where Bleach had been successful.[47] The lead single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" had been released on September 10 with the intention of building a base among alternative rock fans, while the next single "Come as You Are" would possibly garner more attention.[48] Days before the release date, the band began a short American tour in support of the album. Geffen hoped that Nevermind would sell around 250,000 copies, matching sales of Sonic Youth's Geffen debut Goo.[49] The best estimate was that Nevermind could be certified Gold (500,000 copies sold) by September 1992.[50]

Nevermind debuted on the Billboard 200 at number 144.[51] Geffen shipped about half of the initial U.S. pressing to the American Northwest, where it sold out quickly and was unavailable for days. Geffen put production of all other albums on hold in order to fulfill demand in the region.[52] Over the next few months, sales increased significantly as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" unexpectedly became more and more popular. The song's video had received a world premiere on MTV's late-night alternative show 120 Minutes, and soon proved so popular that the channel began playing it during the day.[53] "Smells Like Teen Spirit" peaked at number six on the US Billboard Hot 100.[54] The album was soon certified Gold, but the band was relatively uninterested. Novoselic recalled, "Yeah I was happy about it. It was pretty cool. It was kind of neat. But I don't give a shit about some kind of achievement like that. It's cool—I guess."[55]

As the band set out for their European tour at the start of November 1991, Nevermind entered the Billboard Top 40 for the first time at number 35. By this point, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" had become a hit and the album was selling so fast none of Geffen's marketing strategies could be enacted. Geffen president Ed Rosenblatt told The New York Times, "We didn't do anything. It was just one of those 'Get out of the way and duck' records."[56] Nirvana found as they toured Europe during the end of 1991 that the shows were dangerously oversold, television crews became a constant presence onstage, and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was almost omnipresent on radio and music television.[57]

Nevermind became Nirvana's first number-one album on January 11, 1992, replacing Michael Jackson's Dangerous at the top of the Billboard charts. By this time, Nevermind was selling approximately 300,000 copies a week.[58][59] "Come as You Are" was released as the second single in March 1992; it peaked at number nine on the U.K. Singles Chart and at number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.[60] Two more singles, "Lithium" and "In Bloom", peaked at number 11 and 28 on the UK Singles Chart respectively.[61]

Nevermind was certified Gold and Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in November 1991 and certified Diamond in March 1999.[62] It was also certified Diamond in Canada (1,000,000 units sold) by the Canadian Recording Industry Association in March 2001[63] and five times Platinum in the United Kingdom.[64]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic5/5 stars[65]
Blender5/5 stars[66]
Chicago Tribune4/4 stars[67]
Christgau's Consumer GuideA[68]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[69]
Los Angeles Times3.5/4 stars[70]
NME9/10[71]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[72]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[73]
Select4/5[74]

Geffen's press promotion for Nevermind was lower than that typical of a major record label. The label's publicist primarily targeted music publications with long lead times for publication as well as magazines in the Seattle area. The unexpectedly positive feedback from critics who had received the album convinced the label to consider increasing the album's original print run.[47]

At first, Nevermind did not receive many reviews, and many publications ignored the album. Months after its release and after "Smells Like Teen Spirit" garnered airplay, print media organizations were "scrambling" to cover the phenomenon the album had become. However, by that point, much of the attention fell on Cobain rather than the album itself. The reviews that did initially appear were largely positive.[75] Karen Schoemer of The New York Times wrote, "With 'Nevermind,' Nirvana has certainly succeeded. There are enough intriguing textures, mood shifts, instrumental snippets and inventive word plays to provide for hours of entertainment." Schoemer concluded, "'Nevermind' is more sophisticated and carefully produced than anything peer bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Mudhoney have yet offered."[76] Entertainment Weekly gave Nevermind an A– rating, and reviewer David Browne argued that on Nevermind, Nirvana "never entertain the notion" of wanting to sound "normal," compared to other contemporary alternative bands.[69] Concluding his very enthusiastic review for the British Melody Maker, Everett True wrote that "When Nirvana released Bleach all those years ago, the more sussed among us figured they had the potential to make an album that would blow every other contender away. My God have they proved us right."[77] Spin gave Nevermind a favorable review stating that "you'll be humming all the songs for the rest of your life—or at least until your CD-tape-album wears out."[78] Select compared the band to Jane's Addiction, Sonic Youth, and the Pixies, stating that the album "proves that Nirvana truly belong in such high company."[74]

Some of the reviews were not entirely positive. Rolling Stone originally gave the album three out of five stars.[79] Reviewer Ira Robbins wrote, "If Nirvana isn't onto anything altogether new, Nevermind does possess the songs, character and confident spirit to be much more than a reformulation of college radio's high-octane hits."[72] The Boston Globe was less enthusiastic about the album; reviewer Steve Morse wrote, "Most of Nevermind is packed with generic punk-pop that had been done by countless acts from Iggy Pop to the Red Hot Chili Peppers," and added "the band has little or nothing to say, settling for moronic ramblings by singer-lyricist Cobain."[79]

Nevermind was voted as the best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics' poll; "Smells Like Teen Spirit" also topped the single of the year and video of the year polls.[80] Nevermind topped the poll by a large majority, and Village Voice critic Robert Christgau wrote in his companion piece to the poll, "As a modest pop surprise they might have scored a modest victory, like De La Soul in 1990. Instead, their multi-platinum takeover constituted the first full-scale public validation of the Amerindie values—the noise, the toons, the 'tude—the radder half of the [Pazz & Jop poll] electorate came up on."[81]

Legacy[edit]

Novoselic playing bass guitar on stage
Bassist Krist Novoselic at a Nevermind 20th anniversary show in 2011

Nevermind popularized the Seattle grunge movement and brought alternative rock as a whole into the mainstream, establishing its commercial and cultural viability.[82] Its success surprised Nirvana's contemporaries, who felt dwarfed by its impact. Fugazi frontman Guy Picciotto later said: "It was like our record could have been a hobo pissing in the forest for the amount of impact it had ... It felt like we were playing ukuleles all of a sudden because of the disparity of the impact of what they did."[83] Karen Schoemer of the New York Times wrote that "What's unusual about Nirvana's Nevermind is that it caters to neither a mainstream audience nor the indie rock fans who supported the group's debut album."[84] In 1992, Jon Pareles of The New York Times described that in the aftermath of the album's breakthrough, "Suddenly, all bets are off. No one has the inside track on which of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of ornery, obstreperous, unkempt bands might next appeal to the mall-walking millions." Record company executives offered large advances and record deals to bands, and previous strategies of building audiences for alternative rock bands had been replaced by the opportunity to achieve mainstream popularity quickly.[85]

Michael Azerrad argued in his Nirvana biography Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana (1993) that Nevermind marked an epochal generational shift in music similar to the rock-and-roll explosion in the 1950s and the end of the baby boomer generation's dominance of the musical landscape. Azerrad wrote, "Nevermind came along at exactly the right time. This was music by, for, and about a whole new group of young people who had been overlooked, ignored, or condescended to."[86] In its citation placing it at number 17 in its 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, Rolling Stone said, "No album in recent history had such an overpowering impact on a generation—a nation of teens suddenly turned punk—and such a catastrophic effect on its main creator."[87] Gary Gersh, who signed Nirvana to Geffen Records, added that "There is a pre-Nirvana and post-Nirvana record business...'Nevermind' showed that this wasn't some alternative thing happening off in a corner, and then back to reality. This is reality."[88]

Nevermind has continued to garner critical praise, has been ranked highly on lists of the most acclaimed albums of all time and is ranked the best album of the 1990s according to Acclaimed Music which statistically aggregates hundreds of published lists.[89] The album was ranked number 17 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time,[87] maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list.[90] In 2019, Rolling Stone also ranked Nevermind number one on its list of the 100 Best Albums of the '90s, calling it the "album that guaranteed the nineties would not suck."[91] Also in 2019, Nevermind was ranked number one on Rolling Stone's 50 Greatest Grunge Albums list.[92] The magazine ranked the album number 10 in its list of 40 Greatest Punk Albums of All Time too.[93] In 2001, VH1 conducted a poll of more than 500 journalists, music executives and artists which judged Nevermind the second-best album in rock 'n' roll history, behind the Beatles' Revolver.[94]Time placed Nevermind, which writer Josh Tyrangiel called "the finest album of the 90s", on its 2006 list of "The All-TIME 100 Albums".[95] Pitchfork named the album the sixth best of the decade, noting that "anyone who hates this record today is just trying to be cool, and needs to be trying harder."[96] In 2005, the Library of Congress added Nevermind to the National Recording Registry, which collects "culturally, historically or aesthetically important" sound recordings from the 20th century.[97] On the other hand, Nevermind was voted the "Most Overrated Album in the World" in a 2005 BBC public poll.[98] In 2006, readers of Guitar World ranked Nevermind 8th on a list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Recordings.[99] Entertainment Weekly named it the 10th best album of all time on their 2013 list.[100] It was voted number 17 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[101] In 2017, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[102]

Novoselic revealed in 2019 that Nevermind's master tapes were likely lost in the 2008 Universal fire. The fire, the extent of which was long undisclosed, destroyed a swath of Universal Studios Hollywood's outdoor lot, and nearly all the master recordings stored there in a Universal Music Group archive. Master recordings from artists ranging from Louis Armstrong to Tom Petty were also lost in the fire.[103]

Reissues[edit]

In 1996, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs released Nevermind on vinyl as part of its ANADISQ 200 series, and as a 24-karat gold CD. The CD pressings included "Endless, Nameless". The LP version quickly sold out its limited pressing but the CD edition stayed in print for years.[104] In 2009, Original Recordings Group released Nevermind on limited edition 180g blue vinyl and regular 180g black vinyl mastered and cut by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes.[105]

In September 2011, the album's 20th anniversary, Universal Music Enterprises reissued Nevermind in a 2-CD "deluxe edition" and a 4-CD/1-DVD "Super Deluxe Edition".[106] The first disc on both editions features the original album with studio and live B-sides. The second discs feature early session recordings, including the Smart Studio sessions and some band rehearsals recorded with a boombox, plus two BBC session recordings. The "Super Deluxe Edition" also includes alternate mixes by Butch Vig, and CD and DVD versions of Live at the Paramount.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Kurt Cobain, except where noted.

No.TitleLength
1."Smells Like Teen Spirit" (writers: Cobain, Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl)5:01
2."In Bloom"4:14
3."Come as You Are"3:39
4."Breed"3:03
5."Lithium"4:17
6."Polly"2:57
7."Territorial Pissings" (writers: Cobain, Chet Powers)2:22
8."Drain You"3:43
9."Lounge Act"2:36
10."Stay Away"3:32
11."On a Plain"3:16
12."Something in the Way"3:52
13."Endless, Nameless" (writers: Cobain, Novoselic, Grohl. Only included on later pressings as a hidden track)6:44
Total length:49:07

Notes

  • Later pressings include "Endless, Nameless", a hidden track which begins after 10 minutes of silence following "Something in the Way", making track 12's total length 20:35.
  • The first disc of the deluxe edition was issued individually as a Target exclusive. The deluxe edition was later issued as a special limited 4-LP set.
20th-anniversary edition bonus tracks

Disc one

  1. "Even in His Youth" ("Smells Like Teen Spirit" B-side) – 3:03
  2. "Aneurysm" (Cobain, Novoselic, Grohl) ("Smells Like Teen Spirit" B-side) – 4:46
  3. "Curmudgeon" (Cobain, Novoselic, Grohl) ("Lithium" B-side) – 2:59
  4. "D-7" (Greg Sage) ("Lithium" B-side) – 3:45
  5. "Been a Son" (Live, "Lithium" B-side) – 2:31
  6. "School" (Live, "Come as You Are" B-side) – 2:33
  7. "Drain You" (Live, "Come as You Are" B-side) – 3:53
  8. "Sliver" (Live, "In Bloom" B-side) – 2:04
  9. "Polly" (Live, "In Bloom" B-side) – 2:47

Disc two – Smart Sessions, Boombox Rehearsals, BBC Sessions

  1. "In Bloom" (April 1990, Smart Studios) – 4:32
  2. "Immodium (Breed)" (April 1990, Smart Studios) – 3:15
  3. "Lithium" (April 1990, Smart Studios) – 4:31
  4. "Polly" (April 1990, Smart Studios) – 2:59
  5. "Pay to Play" (April 1990, Smart Studios) – 3:29 (Originally released on the DGC Rarities Vol. 1 compilation album in 1994, this song was recorded in 1990 and eventually evolved into "Stay Away" on Nevermind in 1991 with new lyrics).
  6. "Here She Comes Now" (John Cale, Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison) (April 1990, Smart Studios) – 5:01 (Originally released on the Heaven & Hell: A Tribute to The Velvet Underground compilation album in 1990).
  7. "Dive" (April 1990, Smart Studios) – 3:54
  8. "Sappy" (April 1990, Smart Studios) – 3:57
  9. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (March 1991, Tacoma rehearsal space) – 5:40
  10. "Verse Chorus Verse" (March 1991, Tacoma rehearsal space) – 3:14
  11. "Territorial Pissings" (March 1991, Tacoma rehearsal space) – 2:12
  12. "Lounge Act" (March 1991, Tacoma rehearsal space) – 2:38
  13. "Come as You Are" (March 1991, Tacoma rehearsal space) – 4:12
  14. "Old Age" (March 1991, Tacoma rehearsal space) – 4:32
  15. "Something in the Way" (March 1991, Tacoma rehearsal space) – 5:31
  16. "On a Plain" (March 1991, Tacoma rehearsal space) – 3:21
  17. "Drain You" (September 1991, BBC Studios) – 4:04
  18. "Something in the Way" (November 1991, BBC Studios) – 3:23
Super Deluxe Edition bonuses

Disc three – Nevermind: The Devonshire Mixes

  1. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" – 5:02
  2. "In Bloom" – 4:16
  3. "Come as You Are" – 3:40
  4. "Breed" – 3:04
  5. "Lithium" – 4:18
  6. "Territorial Pissings" – 2:14
  7. "Drain You" – 3:41
  8. "Lounge Act" – 2:37
  9. "Stay Away" – 3:27
  10. "On a Plain" – 3:28
  11. "Something in the Way" – 3:55

Disc four and DVD – Live at the Paramount

  1. "Jesus Don't Want Me for a Sunbeam" (Eugene Kelly, Frances McKee) – 3:29
  2. "Aneurysm" – 4:49
  3. "Drain You" – 3:46
  4. "School" – 2:51
  5. "Floyd the Barber" – 2:27
  6. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" – 4:45
  7. "About a Girl" – 3:13
  8. "Polly" – 3:03
  9. "Breed" – 3:10
  10. "Sliver" – 2:11
  11. "Love Buzz" (Robbie van Leeuwen) – 3:34
  12. "Lithium" – 4:38
  13. "Been a Son" – 2:15
  14. "Negative Creep" – 2:43
  15. "On a Plain" – 3:04
  16. "Blew" – 4:09
  17. "Rape Me" – 2:59
  18. "Territorial Pissings" – 2:55
  19. "Endless, Nameless" – 6:25

DVD music videos

  1. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" – 4:38
  2. "Come as You Are" – 3:46
  3. "Lithium" – 4:15
  4. "In Bloom" – 4:59

Personnel[edit]

Nirvana

  • Kurt Cobain (credited for the "Monkey Photo" as Kurdt Kobain) – vocals, guitars, photography
  • Dave Grohl – drums, backing vocals
  • Krist Novoselic (credited as Chris Novoselic) – bass, vocals on the intro of "Territorial Pissings"

Additional musicians

  • Kirk Canning – cello on "Something in the Way"
  • Chad Channing – cymbals on "Polly" (uncredited), drums on the "Smart Studio Sessions" (Deluxe Edition)

Technical staff and artwork

  • Craig Doubet – assistant engineering, mixing
  • Robin Sloane – DGC/Geffen Records Creative Director
  • Kurt Cobain – cover concept
  • Spencer Elden – infant in cover photo
  • Robert Fisher – artwork, art direction, design, cover design
  • Michael Lavine – photography
  • Bob Ludwig – mastering on 20th Anniversary Edition
  • Jeff Sheehan – assistant engineer
  • Butch Vig – co-producer, engineer
  • Andy Wallace – mixing
  • Kirk Weddle – cover photo
  • Howie Weinberg – mastering
  • Paul Carlsen – engineering/digital editing

Charts[edit]

Singles charts[edit]

Year Song Peak chart positions Certifications
US
[168]
US Main
[169]
US Mod
[170]
AUS
[171]
BEL
[172]
CAN
[173]
EU
[174]
FIN
[175]
FR
[176]
IRE
[177]
ITA
[178]
NLD
[179]
NZ
[180]
PT
[181]
SPN
[182]
SWE
[183]
UK
[184]
1991 "Smells Like Teen Spirit" 6 7 1 5 1 9 4 8 1 15 3 3 1 2 1 3 7
1992 "Come as You Are" 32 3 3 25 15 27 15 8 12 7 8 16 3 8 16 24 9
"Lithium" 64 16 25 53 28 83 19 1 5 16 17 28 4 13 11
"In Bloom" 5 73 65 16 7 87 20 10 30 28
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Other charted songs[edit]

Year Song Peak positions
US Mod
[193]
1992 "On a Plain" 25

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[194] 3× Platinum 180,000^
Australia (ARIA)[195] 5× Platinum 350,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[196] Platinum 50,000*
Belgium (BEA)[197] 3× Platinum 150,000*
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[198] Platinum 250,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[199] Diamond 1,000,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[200] 5× Platinum 400,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[202] Gold 46,830[201]
France (SNEP)[203] Diamond 1,000,000*
Germany (BVMI)[204] 2× Platinum 1,000,000^
Italy (FIMI)[205] 2× Platinum 200,000*
Japan (RIAJ)[207] 3× Platinum 600,000[206]
Mexico (AMPROFON)[208] 2× Gold 200,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[209] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[210] 7× Platinum 105,000^
Poland (ZPAV)[211] Platinum 100,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[212] 1× Platinum 100,000^
Singapore 35,000[213]
Sweden (GLF)[214] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[215] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[217] 5× Platinum 1,807,142[216]
United States (RIAA)[220] Diamond 10,640,000[218][219]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

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References[edit]

  • Classic Albums—Nirvana: Nevermind [DVD]. Isis Productions, 2004.
  • Azerrad, Michael. Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Doubleday, 1993. ISBN 0-385-47199-8
  • Berkenstadt, Jim; Cross, Charles. Classic Rock Albums: Nevermind. Schirmer, 1998. ISBN 0-02-864775-0
  • Cross, Charles. Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain. Hyperion, 2001. ISBN 0-7868-8402-9
  • Sandford, Christopher. Kurt Cobain. Carroll & Graff, 1995. ISBN 0-7867-1369-0

External links[edit]