The last several weeks have seen a flurry of activity in the musical world of Liz. Sammy Llanas left the BoDeans, REM called it quits, and Wilco released a new album. Of course, there has also been much balyhoo surrounding the 20th anniversary of the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind, which, aside from making me feel very, very old, has kicked my nostalgia machine into high gear.
In many ways, I have long thought that Nirvana was an overrated band. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy their music. I bought a couple of their CDs. There’s no denying there was talent there, but I also think that the mark they left on the musical world was somewhat out of proportion to the quality of their music, probably because it wasn’t just about the music. Nirvana wasn’t the best band or even the best grunge band. What they were was the right band at the right time. My first memories of hearing the band were undoubtedly colored by everything else that was happening in my life at the time. I was 16 and just beginning my senior year of high school, and my thoughts were of the future and of the endless possibilities and the wide world that was waiting for me. At the same time, I felt trapped somewhere between childhood and adulthood. Nirvana’s music had a great mix of anger, dissaffection, and hard edge to fit nicely into soundtrack to my teen angst.
When I first heard Nirvana, I was watching 120 Minutes on MTV, as I had for years, back when “alternative” music was not its own genre but more of a hodgepodge of stuff that could not be otherwise categorized. I recall seeing the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and thinking it was different and kind of cool. I think it was the first time that I heard Nirvana on mainstream radio that resonated even more with me, though. This was the band that was going to put the last nail in the coffin of the hair bands that had dominated the air waves for so long. In my melodramatic teenage mind, it felt positively revolutionary. I felt like it was a pretty exciting time to be sixteen. Of course, it’s probably always an exciting time to be sixteen. Nevertheless, Nirvana secured their place in rock history and in the track list of my life.