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Music

20 years after Nevermind musicians still credit Nirvana for changing the course of their development

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Happier times: Cobain, Grohl, and Novoselic just before the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind.


On September 24, 1991, DGC Records released a modest pressing of 40,000 copies of Nevermind. By January 1992, Nirvana was the biggest band in the world.

“[In 1991] rock music wasn’t really happening,” Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic told Spin. “There were these beachheads — Faith No More, Jane’s Addiction — these alternative rock bands that weren’t the Sunset Strip look and sound. They had songs on the radio and videos on MTV. They broke the ground, but Nevermind was in the right place at the right time, and the right record. It blew the whole lid off of what was called ‘alternative music,’ which is a label I never liked. Even ‘grunge’ was way better [of a label] than ‘alternative’ music.”

Call it rock, punk, grunge, anything you like. But the album’s impact is felt to this day, and the 20th anniversary Geffen/Universal reissues scheduled for September 27 are a good reason to go back to a key album that touched a nerve in the history of rock and in the lives of countless musicians in San Antonio and worldwide.

“Everyone knows about the impact that the album had at the time, but it’s cool now to just listen to it as a collection of great songs,” said Bryan Foster, from the Offbeats. “[The hooks are] something that we have always tried to incorporate in our songs, and I think it comes directly from listening to Nevermind as a kid. There’s a lot of distortion and screaming, but it’s also stuff you can hum to your children. Kurt Cobain could mix power and melody in amazing ways.”

Pop Pistol singer Alex Scheel was “afraid” of the album at first.

“I think most things I’m initially afraid of are things I love most,” he said. “For some reason, my mother adored Kurt Cobain and would tell me that I was going to play guitar just like him, but I wanted to be a paleontologist, so I rejected that idea.” He would re-discover the album at age 13, when the family would take trips and Nevermind was the only music they’d play.

“[The album] always reminds me of the dusty fields of drought and crossing the threshold of water and land,” Scheel said. “The guitars are ideal and the voice made me know that there is magic that can leap out of the throat into the hearts of anybody — mother or sister or son.”

Even those too young to understand at first were able to appreciate the album’s (and the band’s) magic later on.

“I wasn’t cool enough to listen to Nirvana in 1991,” said Nicolette Good. “I was six years old and just discovering Raffi. I did see reruns of their MTV Unplugged appearance as a teenager, though, and fell in love with Kurt Cobain’s songs that way. Nirvana reminds me that writer’s block is no excuse — people love nonsense as long as it moves you.”

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