In Nineteen Ninety-One, I was a freshman in high school, living in a tiny house in small town Montana. Just me and my mom. My family, like so many at the time, had fallen apart. We had moved around a lot, I felt odd and out of place. I was angry, full of teenage angst, and generally pissed off at the world for the hand it dealt me.
Somehow I had talked my mom into letting me have a TV in my room, and I used to stay up late at night to watch MTV broadcast the videos they deemed too weird for the standard days fare. It was one of those nights I saw and heard something new, something fresh and raw,Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. It blew me away. Apparently I wasn’t the only one either, because soon after I first saw it the rest of the world discovered Nirvana as well.
It’s hard to overstate the impact Nirvana had. They really were something different, at least to me. A melding of punk and pure rock-n-roll, three guys in a garage belting their rage into the abyss. To me, the kid that I was, Nirvana was the complete opposite of the popular butt-rock of the time. I mean seriously, look at these guys.
I remember offroading in the backwoods of Montana, my friend driving way too fast in his S10 pickup, playing Lithium as loud as it would go, and the both of us howling with delight as we launched the pickup over another hill.
Nirvana led me to Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Smashing Pumpkins, Blind Melon and so many more. They opened up the world of music to me by channeling what they felt through what they created, and I got it, because I felt that way too. Of course the lyrics of Smells Like Teen Spirit didn’t make any sense, but they didn’t have to, the world we were awakening to didn’t make any sense either. All we could to do was rage, rage, rage.
But not all the time. There were times of reflective introspection, easy, hopeful times of mindless joy, quiet times with the best of friends. A few years later, after the candle had burned so brightly, the light was put out.
Nirvana spoke to me in a way that nothing else did at the time. Nowadays I never listen to grunge, I mostly prefer jazz and classical. I also can’t say that the bands message is something I believe in now. I’ve moved on.