As a young misguided youth, I was a raver. I cringingly remember in fact correcting a teacher in school when he said I listened to rave and I made him change it to “hardcore”. I’d always been partial to a little guitar though, but was never interested in the screaming hairy guys shouting at me and so I’d never heard much in the way of guitar based bands. Now I think of it, actual bands, not just a bloke on a computer. But one day I was handed a C90 cassette with Nevermind on it and my life was changed forever. It seems like such a cliché to say that, but in my case it’s absolutely true.
There was something about the record that immediately resounded with me. From the amazing opening riffs of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to the melancholic dirge of “Something In The Way”, the music was completely engaging and mesmerising to my young musically uneducated self. Kurt Cobain’s voice was unique and happily straddled the listenable range that I’d accept, yet with the visceral edge that I’d always said I hated and would never listen to.
Dave Grohl’s drums were loud and a bit of a revelation to me. Bear in mind the rave I’d enjoyed so much till then was all processed beats and synthesised thuds, so nothing prepared me for the clarity of sound and skill of playing of a real live drummer. But perhaps suprisingly one of the things I enjoyed most and still do to this day is Krist Novoselic’s bass sound. It was rich and warm and clearly a fundamental part of the music rather than relegated to the background and lost to the casual listener. I was a less than casual listener back then, so for it to stand out as a memory must have made it pretty special to me.
Since then I’ve always been a fan of the bass, and I think it must have been Nevermind that gave bass such a prominent place in my instrumental preference. I do own a bass guitar but really can’t play it. When I do pick it up to try and have a go, it’s the opening lick of “Come As You Are” that’s the target to try and nail. And yes, I am aware it does start on guitar but is joined by more or less the same riff on bass.
Nevermind was more than just an album to me. It was a gateway into a world as then unknown and unexplored. Without that tape I wouldn’t have went on to discover so many other bands of the time like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and then expanded the rock envelope and progressed to bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Bad Religion and Deftones. Later would come a love of metal and that gutteral vocal that I’d despised back then, but it was Nevermind that opened the door for me and paved the way to the musical consumer that I am now.
It’s incredible to think that it’s been 20 years since its release. It would be interesting to see how different things were now if Kurt Cobain hadn’t died in 1994. I wonder what he’d think of the reverence the album is treated with now? Would Foo Fighters even exist? Would Krist Novoselic have stuck with music and less to politics? Would Nirvana even still exist and what would they sound like now? It’s all academic, but you can’t help but wonder.
Over the last 20 years music has become something that I truly could not live without. I never had a troubled or unhappy childhood or young adult life by any means, but at times lyrics have rung with self interpreted meanings that helped to guide me to where I am today, a happy and balanced man (you can argue that in the comments). I’m really not sure where I would be today if it wasn’t for music as a whole, but as the catalyst Nevermind deserves its special place in my personal history.
I’ve had 20 years of enjoyment from Nevermind and intend to enjoy at least another 20+. That album genuinely changed my life, and I couldn’t possibly thank those three guys that made it enough.
And of course the girl who handed me the tape on that fateful day.