In something that was long time coming in the minds and lives of Generation X and Y the world over, Seattle grunge pioneers Nirvana are finally being nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It must be 25 years since a band’s first musical release to be eligible for induction, and since Nirvana’s first single “Love Buzz” was released in 1988 they are indeed now eligible. It is also worth noting that they are the first band to be nominated in their initial year of eligibility, but that should not come as a stark surprise by any measure in the rock world. The significance of their music for most born in the 1970s and 80s is almost beyond comprehension, akin to the point of someone not having a deep admiration for Nirvana is not merely relegated to having their own opinion and set aside, but they are flat out wrong and have no taste whatsoever.
The band’s first album release entitled Bleach came out on Sub Pop records who also released their first single “Love Buzz.” This record was heavily influenced by legendary bands the Melvins and Mudhoney, but Bleach had a more punk edge to it than the music of both of those bands, and even the work that followed in Nirvana’s catalog as well. It was significant in the fact that it established the band as a unit that was going to carve something musically unique out of the world for themselves whilst remaining unapologetic for their art. The album also got extremely popular on college radio stations allowing Nirvana to make a deal with a larger record label upon the advice of a band member of Sonic Youth.
Their first large label album was entitled Nevermind and a very cogent argument can be made that it is the most important rock album of the last fifty years. Even beginning with the cover art which portrayed a naked infant underwater swimming towards a dollar bill, the limitations pierced and broken with this album are countless. The album is nearly musically flawless from front to back, and in 1991 it was all anyone was listening to. “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” indisputably the most massive single from this album, not only changed the expected chord structure of rock music and overall attitudes heard and seen in the rock scene, but changed the entire image structure of what music was to the world at large. The music video for the song depicted a sort of anti-high school pep rally, with cheerleaders donned in all black and a look of dreariness and angst across the board.
Volumes can be written about how the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” set the grunge movement in motion, empowered the gothic movement, and ignited countless other anti-normalcy movements. When MTV used to count down the top 100 videos of all time, it landed in the number 1 spot almost every time. But possibly it’s most important value was capturing the mood and timbre reflected in the thoughts of those growing into adulthood at this time like no band before them had ever seemed to capture as succinctly as Nirvana. Like last year, fans are also able to vote for the nominees to help them along, but if this nomination for the Rock Roll Hall of Fame does not lead to an induction for Nirvana even the most cynical of observers would scream conspiracy.
Written by Michael Blain