Does It Still Smell Like Teen Spirit?


In September 1991, I knew little about the doings of kids meandering about in Seattle.  They were a moody bunch gravitating to an alternative sound that was both dark and brightly pulsating at the same time.  It spoke to the masses.  It whispered to the individual.  It rallied the disaffected, misunderstood and mocked Generation X.  The adults called us slackers, yet they didn’t even bother to give us a proper name.

“With the lights out, it’s less dangerous.  Here we are now, entertain us.”

I bet you don’t see me as a grunge gal and I wasn’t in the sense of what the media portrayed it to be–Doc Martens, overpriced flannel shirts and knit caps, unwashed hair.  Yet the depths of grunge were more than that.  It was an emotional tug and pull from the core of the artists to their listeners.

“I’m worse at what I do best, and for this gift I feel blessed.”

In our generation, we grew up with a fear of two men, in countries separated by oceans and miles of land, having the power to push buttons and launch us into war.  While we watched the Challenger explode in public some of our families were disintegrating in private.  Pics of missing children ended up pasted on milk cartons.  We learned that greed was good, but AIDS was very bad.  Our world was not safe, and we were cynical munchkins who were not going to swallow what we were being fed.  MTV and our music were the only truth-tellers.

 “She’s over bored and self-assured, oh no, I know a dirty word.” 

Twenty years ago today, Nirvana released their second album, “Nevermind.”  It wasn’t the start of what took over the world as the grunge movement since Pearl Jam’s “Ten” had come out a month before and the pings of this alternative rock sounded as early as the mid-’80s.  Yet it helped the movement turn the corner, outstretch its arms and cradle the rest of us in tight and warm.

“Our little group has always been, and always will to the end.”

What was the musical movement of your teen years?

Did Nirvana and the grunge gang speak to you?

What are some of your favorite Nirvana/grunge genre songs?


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15 Responses to Does It Still Smell Like Teen Spirit?

  1. rddenton says:

    This is an amazing view of ideals that shaped who we all were growing up around that time. While I was never a big fan of Nirvana, they really did usher in a widespread understanding of what the hell this whole “grunge” thing was about. This post was a pleasant little blast to the past! I miss it when things were as simple as what you wore and what music you were listening to!

    • Thanks Rance! Yep, I didn’t get them at first either until I made it home on a college break and tapped into MTV (of course) and got my fill of the video. They had cheerleaders dressed in all black, a mosh pit like crowd, a crazed janitor (who didn’t have one in their high school) and were just standing there playing like they didn’t give a damn. Genius! No dancing. No sparkly costumes. Just the words (what you could make out) and the music. It hit a nerve of what I felt at times and I got it.

  2. lol, kids are still pretty moody. Only now its justified because we’re plugged in on our iPods and iDontGivaDams, and trying to unplug us is a big no no.

    • Oh yes, the masses are still quite moody. The angst from Gen X just trickled down. I think it is much worse now with the 24/7 newsfeed. Kids are hit over the head with every angle of media spin and no one ever turns it off or unplugs. I bet Gen Y is at times far more distrusting then X.

  3. I was more of a Metallica fan myself, although I have quite a varied interest in music. I did like Nirvana, and still do. My husband, on the other hand, was a HUGE fan of Nirvana…Kurt was his god, and still is. He’s constantly reading about them and watching documentaries…taking in pretty much whatever he can get his grungy hands on ;p This is an awesome post, thanks for taking me back to the days when it was all about us – no worries beyond what our friends were doing, no stress beyond having the right clothes, etc, no responsibilities beyond education….just a bunch of kids expressing ourselves any way we could and having a good time while doing it 😉

    • I’m like you Kate that my music tastes are diverse. I can rock out to some Nirvana and then move right into the disco that comes up next on my iPod. I got a little into some Metallica…need to go back and check them out more. I’m sure everyone has this feeling about the music of their youth, but I sit listening to the music and lyrics from Kurt and just marvel at how simple, honest and deep it was. The expression of how it was. Priceless stuff. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  5. Great post! I think I was most into music in my middle school years, and I loved me some Zeppelin, Rush, The Police, Cheap Trick, .38 Special, Bad Company. Still do, actually. 🙂 During my high school years, I lived in a tiny town in northern California where country music and Top 40 prevailed, and I liked that too, but nothing brings out my air guitar like some early 80’s rock-n-roll.

    • Thanks Jen! Oh I remember when my friends and I “discovered” Zeppelin and Hendrix. We would sit and rock out and think we were so in touch with music. Heh. Heh. Same thing with discovering The Beatles. And yes, early ’80s rock was still that pure music for music’s sake versus the pomp of outfits, makeup and drama. Glad you stopped by and commented!

  6. When I graduated from high school, the debut of MTV was still 2 years away. I never got into Nirvana. However, I definitely liked “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” even if my teen years were way behind me by then. When I was experiencing teen angst, it was Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Styx, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, and AC/DC that really fired up my neurons. Like others who posted, my tastes in music are pretty broad. I like baroque-period classical, heavy metal, classic rock, and alternative stuff. I even enjoy artists like Enya and a lot of what used to be called New Age music, like Yanni and Patrick O’Hearn. I’ve tried, but for some reason I can’t stand rap, or hip-hop, or whatever they are calling it this year.

    • Thanks for commenting Daniel! You do have a wide range of music likes. I liked Enya also, but missed getting into some of the bands like Black Sabbath. For rap/hip-hop, check out Tribe Called Quest if you haven’t already. They had great lyrics and did unique things with music samples. Some of their stuff feels very jazz influenced.

  7. Hartford says:

    I was/am a Guns and Roses girl. Although loved Nirvana to but I was obsessed with GnR! I just love the lyrics…the music..the sound! I still like to rock out to them any day of the week and twice on Sunday!

    • Ha ha ha Natalie! I can so see you rocking out to some GnR! 🙂 I like them a lot too, but more so their first album. That is a precious gem. “Welcome to the Jungle” is one of my life theme songs. Heh heh. GnR was another group that came out flamed out too soon.

  8. And THAT is why I love Ms. Natalie so damn much. I’m a huge, HUGE GnR fan. I so wanted to have Axl’s baby. Ah, those were the golden days of my youth. Running around Hollywood and seeing bands in teeny tiny venues. Nirvana was just getting big when I lived there and we could see them for next to nothing. It was heaven.

    I loved Nirvana because they spoke to my punk soul and yet weren’t punk, but kind of were. Confusing, I know. Back in the day, you’d find a lot of punks at their shows. Once they were labeled grunge, some of the punks I knew got mad and refused to go to their shows. Whatever!

    What a great blast to the past. I love these posts, Barbara!

    • ROFLOL Tameri! Seeing how Axl turned out, I bet you are glad that wish didn’t happen. And yes, it was interesting to see how people started turning on Nirvana once the media grabbed hold and spun a label onto them (insert dollar signs). I like music for what it is not the labels. The gritty honesty of it. The fun, happy dance feel of it. The deep lyrics. Or catchy nonsense words. Thanks for sharing your memories!

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