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Teen Spirit, Revisited

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I have a problem. You see, when I head a good song, I am overcome with an urge to sit back, close my eyes, tilt my head back, and just listen – perhaps smile blissfully, sing along, or reminisce about the time I first heard that song or the group. While this doesn’t sound like a bad thing, it’s not the best thing to do while driving.

Recently, I heard such a song on the radio during one of the rare times I turned off the CD in my car. It was a little after 1:30 in the morning. I ended up pulling over into a parking lot and just sat there, wishing I could replay the song at least two more times before driving off.

It was the newly released Nirvana song “You Know You’re Right.” I’ve waited years upon years to hear something new from them. Sure, the idea of a new song coming from a band that no longer exists due to the fact that their lead singer is dead is an odd thing, but if Elvis can do it, I certainly think Kurt can.

I sat back and listened to his raspy and powerful voice. The whole familiarity of Nirvana’s music was there, even though I’ve long lost the tapes and have yet to purchase the CD’s to replace them. Nirvana, along with much of the Seattle grunge scene, were the soundtrack of my youth.

I jumped headlong into the whole genre in the early ’90s when, on a lark while on my year end trip to Ottawa in grade 7, I purchased Pearl Jam’s Ten album at a record store. I had heard of them from a magazine I read while waiting for a dentist appointment about how Eddie Vedder came to front this band: he was “discovered” at a gas station, and after hearing a demo, was chosen to produce a tribute album with Chris Cornell (from Soundgarden at the time) for the late lead singer of Mother Love Bone. Later he and the majority of what once was Mother Love Bone teamed up to create Pearl Jam. I caught the tail end of a video on Much Music of theirs and between what little I read and what little I heard, I decided that this had to be good.

Considering the only other music that came out around that time was created by cheezy dance bands and country stars and let’s not forget that this was also near around the time of MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice, even if I was wrong, it was still far, far better than what was out there.

Pearl Jam started me. Soon thereafter, I had everything ever produced by Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, Alice In Chains, Screaming Trees, Temple of the Dog, and of course, Nirvana. All brought to me by one man who tried as he might, to run a store that sold music of the likes no one in Sudbury could find elsewhere.

I tried finding Nirvana’s first album in places like Sam the Record Man and Music World before ’93 to no avail. Couldn’t find anything other than what the mainstream considered the whole of the grunge scene – three measly albums. Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten and Soundgarden’s BadMotorFinger.

I followed the music scene as much as someone from a small town nearly across the continent could. I still stand by my views that it was a voice for my generation, even if half the people from my generation (or at least where I lived) didn’t get that. It summed up our mood, our views, our apathy, our anger, our fear… Maybe I read more into it than others (considering a good portion of my youth during this time also included “puff and beverages”), maybe I’m missing something. Maybe others are missing something, maybe no one read between the lines. But as much as I hate my past. As much as I never want to relive my youth, high school, my life when I was with Huck-Thewpth (George), or my drug and alcohol filled summer and weekends, and all the screwed up things that went along with it, I try every chance I get to relive that feeling of pure bliss I used to experience back then when I would pop a Nirvana tape into my walkman and sit in the dark, feeling the bass vibrate my head and feeling totally at peace.

Sure, things went downhill with the whole genre. Pearl Jam got too preachy. Soundgarden got all weird after touring with Metallica and then Chris Cornell left. But, the biggest downward slope was when it was announced that Kurt Cobain was found dead. I was at home when I heard about it. I can’t remember if I heard it on the news, on Much Music, or if my friend Christine called me and told me. All I know is I cried. To me, that marked the end of it all. The end of the voice of a generation, cut off way before his time.

I don’t know how to end this. Perhaps I’ve just hit a point in my life where some form of nostalgia is necessary. I can’t tell you the feeling I got when I first heard that new song… It was almost like those days when I was a dark and brooding teenager… When the only solace I could find that was legal was music. That feeling of floating when you’re completely absorbed in the sound. That wonderful bliss.

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About Veshka Valkyrie

  • Nirvana’s Nevermind was a refreshing kick in the teeth to rock and roll, but what caused so many people to treat Cobain as some kind of rock God? Maybe it’s just my personality in that I don’t put rock stars or athletes on that kind of platform. Cobain was an average guitar player, couldn’t sing very well, but could write some catchy songs with explosive punch. Was it his suicide that propelled him to mythical status where too many think Nevermind was just slightly behind anything made by the Beatles?

  • Eric Olsen

    V, Very nice story and perspective. I was too old for grunge to have that kind of impact on me, but I really appreciate you showing me why you felt the way you did.

    Sean, I agree with your empirical assessment, but that doesn’t get at what he meant to people. I don’t think V is idolizing Cobain like a rock star, but appreciating what he articulated for her and millions of others.

    Social impact counts.

  • Social impact does count. If you look at what people listen, you can get a good idea of who they are. Who the youth of my time were, were not people who could be summed up with what the music industry was pumping out at the time. I’ve never been a C&C Music Factory or a Garth Brooks gal, but at that time, it was all that was out there. I spent the majority of my music listening days going through my parent’s old records and tapes cause the radio offered nothing of interest.

    Nirvana, as well as the other grunge bands, made it half on style and half on timing. We’re talking early 90’s. Most of the hair bands of the 80’s were dead or dying. Who took their place? Bad dance bands, cheesy old school rap, and country singers. They offered a voice to the youth that was much more accurate than anything previous or present at that time.

    As much as people can say they disliked Nirvana, they were the creators of the anthem for a generation. And although I did cry when Kurt died, it wasn’t because I believed that my idol had passed away. It was because the “voice” died.