Name Nevermind by Nirvana
Album Type Studio Album
Genres Grunge, Alternative Rock, Pop Rock, Punk, Hard Rock, Acoustic Rock
Release Date

September 24, 1991

Recorded Date and Place May 2, 1991 – June 1991 at Sound City Studios, Van Nuys, California

"Polly" recorded April 1990 at Smart Studios, Madison, Wisconsin

Label DGC
Producer Butch Vig
Length *42:26
Preceded By Blew
Followed By Hormoaning

Nevermind is the iconic second studio album by American grunge band Nirvana. The album was mostly recorded in Sound Cty Studios in Van Nuys, California, and it was released on September 24, 1991 with worldwide success. It is the most iconic and notable album from the grunge scene, and is one of the many albums that introduced the mainstream media to grunge, with other albums being Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, Pearl Jam's Ten, and Alice in Chains' Facelift. The album is noteworthy for carrying the hit singlem "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which met with unexpected worldwide acclaim. The song, as well as the album, commonly appear in greatest album/song charts around the planet. The succes for Nevermind was a big surprise for Nirvana. The album has gained Diamond certifications in three countries.

Background Edit

The former Seattle band, Nirvana, was originally signed to the famed local Seattle independent label Sub Pop Records. In 1989, they had auditioned many drummers to replace thier former drummer. Dave Grihl was the one to pass the audition and he became the band's longest running drummer. Kurt Cobain, the band's frontman and lead singer/guitarist, had grown tired of overblown and heavy music, so he started writing simple and melodic tunes that could be associated with pop rock. A good example of what Nirvana's next album was to be is the song, "Sliver." Cobain stated "[it] was like a statement in a way. I had to write a pop song and release it on a single to prepare people for the next record. I wanted to write more songs like that." However, the label was experiencing financial difficulties. Rumors had spread that the label would sing to become a major label's subsidiary. Nirvana then decided to search for a major label on their own. They were called by many labels,but decided to go with David Geffen's DGC.

Development Edit

Note: the development section has been copied from Wikipedia's Nevermind article.

In early 1990, Nirvana began planning its second album for Sub Pop, tentatively titled Sheep. For the album, Sub Pop head Bruce Pavitt suggested Butch Vig as a potential producer. Nirvana particularly liked Vig's work with Killdozer and called Vig up to tell him, "We want to sound as heavy as that record." In April 1990, the band traveled out to Vig's Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin to begin work on the album. Most of the basic song arrangements were completed by that time, but Cobain was still working on lyrics and the band was unsure of which songs to record. Ultimately, eight songs were recorded: "Immodium" (later renamed "Breed"), "Dive" (later released as the B-side to "Sliver" and released on the compilation, Incesticide), "In Bloom", "Pay to Play" (eventually renamed "Stay Away" and given a new set of lyrics), "Sappy", "Lithium", "Here She Comes Now" (released on Velvet Underground Tribute Album: Heaven and Hell Volume 1), and "Polly". The band had planned to record more tracks, but Cobain severely strained his voice on "Lithium," forcing Nirvana to shut down recording. Vig was told that the group would come back to record more songs, but the producer did not hear anything for a while. Instead, Nirvana used the sessions as a demo tape to shop for a new label. Within a few months, the tape was circulating amongst major labels, creating a buzz around the group.

After signing to DGC, a number of producers for the album were suggested, including Scott Litt, David Briggs, and Don Dixon, but Nirvana still wanted Butch Vig. Novoselic noted in 2001 that the band was already nervous about recording on a major label, and the producers suggested by DGC wanted percentage points for working on the album. Instead, the band held out for Vig, with whom they felt comfortable collaborating. Affording a budget of $65,000, Nirvana recorded Nevermind at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California in May and June 1991. Nirvana was originally set to record the album during March and April 1991, but the date kept getting pushed back in spite of the band's eagerness to begin the sessions. To earn gas money to get to Los Angeles, Nirvana played a show where they performed "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the first time. The band sent Vig some rehearsal tapes prior to the sessions that featured songs recorded previously at Smart Studios, along with some new ones including "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Come as You Are".

When the group arrived in California, Nirvana did a few days of pre-production where the band and Vig tightened up some of the song arrangements. The only recording carried over from the Smart Studios sessions was the song "Polly", which included cymbal crashes performed by Chad Channing. Once recording commenced, the band worked eight to ten hours a day. The band members tended to take two or three tries at instrumental takes; if the takes were not satisfactory at that point, they would move on to something else. The group had rehearsed the songs so much before recording started that often only a few takes were needed. Novoselic and Grohl finished their bass and drum tracks in a matter of days, but Cobain had to work longer on guitar overdubs, singing, and particularly lyrics (which sometimes were finished mere minutes before recording). Cobain's phrasing was so consistent on various takes that Vig would mix the takes together to create overdubs. Vig says that he often had to trick Cobain into recording additional takes for overdubs since the singer was averse to performing multiple takes. In particular, Vig convinced Cobain to double-track his vocals on the song "In Bloom" by telling him "John Lennon did it." While the sessions went well generally, Vig said Cobain would become moody and difficult at times: "He'd be great for an hour, and then he'd sit in a corner and say nothing for an hour."

After the recording sessions were completed, Vig and the band set out to mix the album. However, after a few days, both Vig and the band members realized that they were unhappy with how the mixes were turning out. As a result, they decided to call in someone else to oversee the mixing, with Geffen Records imprint DGC supplying a list of possible options. The list contained several familiar names, including Scott Litt (known for his work with R.E.M.) and Ed Stasium (known for his work with The Smithereens). However, Cobain feared that bringing in known mixers would result in the album sounding like the work of those bands. Instead, Cobain chose Andy Wallace (who had co-produced Slayer's 1990 album Seasons in the Abyss) from the bottom of the list. Novoselic recalled, "We said, 'right on,' because those Slayer records were so heavy."[17] Wallace ran the songs through various special effects boxes and tweaked the drum sounds, completing about one mix per day. Both Wallace and Vig noted years later that upon hearing Wallace's work the band loved the mixes.[19] After the album's release, however, members of Nirvana expressed dissatisfaction with the polished sound the mixer had given Nevermind. Cobain said in Come as You Are, "Looking back on the production of Nevermind, I'm embarrassed by it now. It's closer to a Mötley Crüe record than it is a punk rock record." Nevermind was mastered on the afternoon of August 2 at The Mastering Lab in Hollywood, California. Howie Weinberg started working alone when no one else showed up at the appointed time in the studio; by the time Nirvana, Andy Wallace, and Gary Gersh arrived, Weinberg had mastered most of the album. One of the songs mastered at the session, a hidden track called "Endless, Nameless" intended to appear at the end of "Something in the Way", was accidentally left off initial pressings of the album. Weinberg recalled, "In the beginning, it was kind of a verbal thing to put that track at the end. Maybe I misconstrued their instructions, so you can call it my mistake if you want. Maybe I didn't write it down when Nirvana or the record company said to do it. So, when they pressed the first twenty thousand or so CDs, albums, and cassettes, it wasn't on there." When the band discovered the song's omission after listening to its copy of the album, Cobain called Weinberg and demanded he rectify the mistake. Weinberg complied and added about ten minutes of silence between the end of "Something in the Way" and the start of the hidden track on future pressings of the album.

Musical Style Edit

Although Nirvana's Nevermind is commonly known as a grunge album, it is also associated with pop rock. Not only did Butch Vig claim the songs were pop songs in the Nevermind episode of the documenatry series, Classic Albums, but all music sorted Nevermind under pop rock.

Cobain was the lead songwriter for Nirvana. For Nevermind, he used power chords to write riffs and sequences and wrote songs combining pop hooks and guitar riffs. His aim for Nevermind's material was to sound like "The Knack and the Bay City Rollers getting molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath". Many of the songs on Nevermind feature shifts in dynamics, where the band changes from quiet verses to loud choruses. Dave Grohl said this approach originated during a four-month period prior to the recording of the album, where the band would experiment with extreme dynamics during regular jam sessions.

Guitar World wrote, "Kurt Cobain's guitar sound on Nirvana's Nevermind set the tone for Nineties rock music." On Nevermind, Cobain played a 1960s Fender Mustang, a Fender Jaguar with DiMarzio pickups, and a few Fender Stratocasters with humbucker bridge pickups. The guitarist used distortion and chorus pedals as his main effects, the latter used to generate a "watery" sound on "Come as You Are" and the pre-choruses of "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Krist Novoselic tuned down his bass guitar one and a half steps to D flat "to get this fat-ass sound." (source: Wikipedia)

Lyrics Edit

Cobain always focused on rhythms before he focused on lyrics. Because of this, he was still writing lyrics well into the production and recording of Nevermind. In fact, many of his songs had experimental lyrics played in concerts, such as "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Cobain also wrote songs in strange phrasings, often making them difficult to interpret. But in interviews, he mentioned many of the meanings to the songs. Polly, for example, was a statement against rape. The song was inspired by a real life case, which affected Cobain when he found out. Many of the songs were also accusatory and showed how angry Cobain could be at other people. In Bloom was a song against multiple kinds of people, for example.

Many songs on Nevermind were about Tobi Vail, a founding member of Bikini Kill who Kurt Cobain had a relationship with. The most notable songs are "Lounge Act," "Drain You," and "Lithium" (which was not written when Cobain had met Vail, but he had changed the lyrics so that they would reference her). Nevermind was clearly about Cobain's feelings.

Reception Edit

The album is one of the most highly acclaimed albums of all time, but it took some time for people to see it. Originally, many critics and publications ignored it. However, the track "Smells Like Teen Spirit" gained massive success, once it became a hit, many magazines and publications rushed to cover the story behind Nevermind and rate and review the album. The magazine, Rolling Stone, had originally given the album 4 stars out of five. But over the years, their rating changed to 5 stars. Karen Schoemer of The New York Times wrote, "With 'Nevermind,' Nirvana has certainly succeeded. There are enough intriguing textures, mood shifts, instrumental snippets and inventive word plays to provide for hours of entertainment."

Now the album appears on many top 100 lists from magazines and websites around the world. The album is currently number 17 on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list.

Magazine Accolodates Edit

Magazine List Position
Consequence of Sound's Top 10) Albums Ever 32
The Guardian's 100 Best Albums Ever 4
Melody Maker's Top 100 Greatest Music Albums 4
Mojo's 100 Greatest Albums of All Time 33
NME's 500 Greatest Albums 11
Paste's The 90 Best Albums of the 90s 3
Pitchfork's Top 100 Albums of the 90s 6
Q's 100 Greatest Albums Ever 3
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time 17
Rolling Stone's 100 Best Albums of the 90's 1
Sound & Vision's Top 50 Albums of All Time 13
VH1's Top 100 Albums 2

Tracklist Edit

No. Song Title Writers Length
1. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic 5:01
2. "In Bloom" Cobain 4:14
3. "Come As You Are" Cobain 3:39
4. "Breed" Cobain 3:01
5. "Lithium" Cobain 4:17
6. "Polly" Cobain 2:57
7. "Territorial Pissings" Cobain, Chet Powers 2:22
8. "Drain You" Cobain 3:43
9. "Lounge Act" Cobain 2:36
10. "Stay Away" Cobain 3:32
11. "On a Plain" Cobain 3:16
12. "Something in the Way" Cobain 3:46

Later pressings included a hidden track within "Something in the Way," with was titled "Nameless, Endless." This track would at an addition six minutes and 43 seconds to the duration, bringing the track to 10:29.

Personnel Edit

Nirvana Edit

  • Kurt Cobain (credited for the "Monkey Photo" as Kurdt Kobain) – lead and backing vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar on "Polly" and "Something in the Way", photography
  • Krist Novoselic (credited as Chris Novoselic) – bass, voice on intro of "Territorial Pissings"
  • Dave Grohl – drums, backing vocals

Additional musicians Edit

  • Chad Channing – cymbals on "Polly", drums on the "Smart Studio Sessions" (Deluxe Edition)
  • Kirk Canning – cello on "Something in the Way"

Technical staff and artwork Edit

  • Craig Doubet – assistant engineering, mixing
  • Steven Buck– infant in cover photo
  • Robert Fisher – artwork, art direction, design, cover design
  • Michael Lavine – photography
  • Bob Ludwig – mastering on 20th Anniversary Edition
  • Jeff Sheehan – assistant engineer
  • Butch Vig – co-producer, engineer
  • Andy Wallace – mixing
  • Howie Weinberg – mastering
  • Kirk Weddle – cover photo