I can tell you the very first time I ever heard Nirvana. It was the high school homecoming dance during my sophomore year. Being an old person I can remember when the homecoming dance was after the football game. It wasn’t trying to be the mini-prom that it is today. We were all stripped out of or wearing pieces of our marching band uniform at the dance when Smells Like Teen Spirit started playing. We loved and were “slam dancing” (what we called it before moshing) and having a great time.
Fast forward two years later and for the most part I wasn’t a regular Nirvana listener. I was more into pop-style hip-hop music (not even good hip-hop in retrospect). I came into school on April 6, 1994 and tons of people are upset or crying. It turns out that Kurt Cobain had killed himself. I didn’t watch MTV with any regularity so I had no clue. Instead of being sensitive or sympathetic, I was one of those guys making the Kurt Cobain jokes about how he killed himself.
I still don’t really understand the despondency that everyone was going through. I can’t comprehend all the reasoning behind all the people wanting to kill themselves after Kurt was dead. That thought process doesn’t exist in my make-up. Suicide is different than other personal tragedies. I was upset when Steve Jobs died, but at the same time I knew it wasn’t going to effect my life directly. I also was nowhere near as upset as my classmates were back in 1994.
In my freshman year of college I had two roommates. The first named DJ. He had a multi-disc CD Changer and he had three musical obsessions that he regularly rotated through. The first was Gloria Estefan. I can take some Miami Soundmachine, but he only really played her spanish albums. The second was a selection of CDs that contained a lyric that said the band’s name. For some reason he acted like this was the highest achievement a lyricist could do. The last selection was all based on crows. We were all obsessed with the movie “The Crow” (it played almost non-stop in our room for a week), but DJ took it to a new level. This selection contained the Crow Soundtrack, Counting Crows, The Black Crows, and some other selections.
We now compare this to my other roommate Dan. Dan was a dyed in wool hard core flannel loving Nirvana fan. He listened to Nirvana whenever DJ was monopolizing the CD player with one of his mixes. You could almost say that I came to appreciate Nirvana just because it wasn’t Gloria Estafan singing in spanish. Whatever the reason behind it, it stuck. I started listening to the lyrics. As corny it even sounds writing it, the music spoke to me.
The following year I picked up all of Nirvana’s albums and started really listening to them pretty much exclusively. Well, Nirvana and Weezer were listened to exclusively. One band spoke to my angst of the grunge generation and the other spoke to my geek side. This are still two of the bands I listen to the most today. I ended up marrying someone who was obsessed with Pearl Jam. She loves Nirvana and all grunge, but Pearl Jam will always be her first love. I had to win her over on the Weezer side, but for the most part we work together musically.
I mentally go back to that homecoming dance in 1991 and can see the path that Nirvana has played in my life. From mad energy enjoyment, to disdain, to constant companion that will always take me back to my late-teens and early-twenties. I’ll never be one of those people that will say that I’ve always loved Nirvana, I wouldn’t have mocked Kurt’s death if I did. I am a person that learned to appreciate them with time. I’m not sure where I would be without them, but I’m glad they have been there when I needed them.