After reading the Steve Albini letter to Nirvana about his ideas for the recording of In Utero that has been circulating the internet because we have reached the 20th Anniversary of that album I figured I would jot down some random thoughts about Nirvana’s presence in Columbus in the early 90’s.
I remember after “Bleach” dropped Nirvana came to Staches, and then a little while later they came to Staches again right after the release of “Nevermind”. I didn’t go to either show but a bunch of people I skated with did. I liked Nirvana but I was young and jealous about missing the shows so I tried to front on when people would talk about the show. I remember saying , “yeah, Nirvana is good. But really that dude sounds like Brian Adams.” And then I would sing “The Summer of 69” when people would talk about how they would never be able to see Nirvana in such a small venue again . I’d be like, “yeah, Brian Adams won’t play there either”.
After hating that I missed the shows, I would go home and listen to Nirvana. I played them for one of my older brother’s friends named Jeff who tried to teach me how to play guitar at some point. Jeff was virtuoso guitarist that could play Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption”, and was dismissive of Yngwie Malmsteem’s arpeggios. Jeff was a discerning guitar ripper. When I played him “Nevermind” and “Bleach” he kinda clowned them. He said by comparing both albums and what labels Nirvana was on for each; anyone could tell that Geffen records paid someone to sequence “Nevermind” so therefore he was tired of people saying Nirvana was real. If you ever wanted to know the hair metal response to grunge there it was: “these guys can’t play their instruments”.
Nirvana was way better than hair metal and so I kinda ignored him. I think Jeff quickly moved back to prog rock when glam rock died. Obviously the death of hair metal was a great thing. Even for dudes that played guitar.
I was a skater who wore Malcolm X T-Shirts so I pretty much was a social outcast that got called fag a lot and was a bundle of self-loathing. Nirvana spoke to that.
On a mainstream level “Smells LIke Teen Spirit” hit around the same time as “The Choice is Yours” by Black Sheep. I remember multiple conversations starting about Black Sheep with multiple black kids who normally mainly listen to rap and r&b at school that led to the kids telling me about how they liked what what Nirvana was saying in regards to being treated like shit and only welcome if they could entertain people that normally hated them. That’s the weird thing about Jay Z sampling Nirvana for “Holy Grail”. On one hand, Nirvana’s music being used on an album branded by Samsung is seems contradictory to Cobain’s anti-commercial nature. On the flip side, It’s proof that Nirvana wrote a legitimate blues song that found an audience that Kurt would’ve probably been stoked understood him. Granted the context of everything in the world is way different now.
Video showing flyers and shots from Nirvana’s Ohio Shows.