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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.


The album also had a strong impact in Argentina, historically one of the strongest Spanish-language rock markets in the world. “Nevermind’s influence in Argentine rock transcends styles,” said Humphrey Inzillo, editor of Rolling Stone Argentina. “From La Renga’s proletarian, suburban rock, to Charly García’s dyed hair as a tribute after Cobain’s suicide, there are legions of Argentine musicians who still find inspiration in the trio.”

Nevermind debuted at number 144 in the Billboard charts, and two months later it reached number 35. Helped by constant radio and MTV rotation of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the album finally reached the number one spot on January 11, 1992, replacing Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. To date, according to SoundScan, it has sold more than 25.6 million copies in the U.S. alone and more than 30 million worldwide.

For all of its undeniable popular and cultural impact, and despite mostly glowing reviews, the music establishment took its time to embrace the album. Nevermind only got two nominations at the Grammy Awards: in 1992 the album lost the Best Alternative Music Album award to R.E.M.’s Out of Time, and the following year “Smells Like Teen Spirit” lost to Eric Clapton’s “Leyla” as Best Rock Song. Nirvana’s only Grammy award finally came in 1996, when the MTV Unplugged in New York won the Best Alternative Music Album award, beating Björk, The Presidents of the United States of America, PJ Harvey, and Foo Fighters (led by Nirvana’s drummer Dave Grohl).

True, MTV had a big part of Nevermind’s success. But, ultimately, the combination of perfect pop songs executed with raw power by a band at its prime, and great production and engineering, are the ultimate reasons for Nirvana’s explosion. The band’s success was so profound that, unlike what happened to Green Day with Dookie in 1994, with Nirvana’s first major label album no one really cared the “punks” had gone to bed with the enemy. It was just too good.

“We didn’t do anything,” Geffen president Ed Rosenblatt once told the New York Times. “It was just one of those ‘Get out of the way and duck’ records.”

Play it today and you still have to duck. •

QUOTE YOU Local musicians reflect on Nevermind

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Phanie Diaz
Girl in a Coma

“Nirvana is the reason Jenn [Alva] and I met. After Kurt’s death, I was reading a magazine about him in middle school art class and Jenn asked me if I liked Nirvana. Then we found out we both played and decided to jam together later that week. We would listen to Nirvana’s Nevermind among other records for inspiration. We still do even to this day.”

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