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Nirvana Biography

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Prior to Nirvana , alternative music was consigned to specialty
sections of record stores and major labels considered it to be,
at the very most, a tax write-off. After the band´s second album,
1991´s Nevermind , nothing was ever quite the same, for better and
for worse. Nirvana popularized punk, post-punk, and indie rock,
unintentionally bringing it into the American mainstream like no
other band before it. While its sound was equal parts Black
Sabbath (as learned by fellow Washington underground rockers
the Melvins ) and Cheap Trick , Nirvana ´s aesthetics were
strictly indie rock. They covered Vaselines songs, they revived
new wave cuts by Devo , and leader Kurt Cobain relentlessly
pushed his favorite bands -- whether it was the art punk of
the Raincoats or the country-fried hardcore of the Meat
Puppets -- as if his favorite records were always more
important than his own music. While Nirvana ´s ideology was
indie rock and melodies were pop, the sonic rush of their
records and live shows merged the
post-industrial white noise with heavy metal grind. And that´s
what made the group an unprecedented multi-platinum sensation.
Jane´s Addiction and Soundgarden may have proven to the vast
American heavy metal audience that alternative could rock, and
the Pixies may have merged pop sensibilities with indie rock
white noise, but Nirvana pulled at all together, creating a
sound that was both fiery and melodic.
Since Nirvana was rooted in the indie aesthetic, but loved pop
music, they fought their stardom while courting it, becoming some
of the most notorious anti-rock stars in history. The result was
a conscious attempt to shed their audience with the abrasive In
Utero, which only partially fulfilled the band´s goal. But by that
point, the fate of the band and Kurt Cobain had been sealed.
Suffering from drug addiction and manic depression, Cobain had
become destructive and suicidal, though his management and label
were able to hide the extent of his problems from the public
until April 8, 1994, when he was found dead of a self-inflicted
shotgun wound. Cobain may not have been able to weather
Nirvana ´s success, but the band´s legacy stands as one of the
most influential in rock&roll history.
Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar) met Chris Novoselic (born Krist
Novoselic ) (bass) in 1985 in Aberdeen, WA, a small logging town
100 miles away from Seattle. While Novoselic came from a
relatively stable background, Cobain ´s childhood had been
thrown into turmoil when his parents divorced when he was eight.
Following the divorce, he lived at the homes of various relatives,
developing a love for the Beatles and then heavy metal in the
process. Eventually, American hardcore punk worked its way into
dominating his listening habits and he met the Melvins , an
Olympia-based underground heavy punk band. Cobain began playing
in punk bands like Fecal Matter, often with the Melvins ´bassist
Dale Crover . Through the Melvins ´leader Buzz Osborne , Cobain
met Novoselic , who also had an intense interest in punk, which
meant that he, like Cobain , felt alienated from the macho,
redneck population of Aberdeen. The duo decided to form a band
called the Stiff Woodies, with Cobain on drums, Novoselic on
bass, and a rotating cast of guitarists and vocalists.
The group went through name
changes as quickly as guitarists, before deciding that
Cobain would play guitar and sing. Renamed Skid Row , the new
trio featured drummer Aaron Burkhart, who left the band by the
end of 1986 and was replaced by Chad Channing . By 1987, the
band was called Nirvana . Nirvana began playing parties in
Olympia, gaining a cult following. During 1987, the band made
ten demos with producer Jack Endino , who played the recordings
to Jonathan Poneman , one of the founders of the Seattle-based
indie label Sub Pop. Poneman signed Nirvana , and in December
of 1988, the band released their first single, a cover of
Shocking Blue ´s´Love Buzz. ´Sub Pop orchestrated an effective
marketing scheme, which painted the band as backwoods,
logging-town hicks, which irritated Cobain and Novoselic .
While´Love Buzz´was fairly well-received, the band´s debut
album, Bleach , was what began the ball rolling. Recorded for
just over 600 dollars and released in the spring of 1989,
Bleach slowly became a hit on college radio, due to the group´s
consistent touring.Though Jason Everman was credited as a
second guitarist on the sleeve of Bleach , he didn´t appear
on the record; he only toured in support of the album before
leaving the band at the end of the year to join Soundgarden
and then Mindfunk . Bleach sold 35,000 copies and Nirvana became
favorites of college radio, the British weekly music press, and
Sonic Youth , Mudhoney , and Dinosaur Jr. , which was enough to
attract the attention of major labels. During the summer, Nirvana
released´Sliver´/´Dive,´which was recorded with Mudhoney ´s
Dan Peters on drums and produced by Butch Vig . The band also
made a six-song demo with Vig , which was shopped to major
labels, who soon began competing to sign the group. By the end
of the summer, Dave Grohl , formerly of the D. C. -based hardcore
band Scream , had become Nirvana ´s drummer and the band signed
with DGC for $287,000. Nirvana recorded their second album with
Vig , completing the record in the summer. Following a
Europeantour supporting Sonic Youth in the late summer, Nevermind
was released in September, supported by a quick American tour.
While DGC was expecting a moderately successful release, in the
neighborhood of 100,000 copies, Nevermind immediately became a
smash hit, quickly selling out its initial shipment of 50,000
copies and creating a shortage across America. What helped the
record become a success was´Smells Like Teen Spirit,´a blistering
four-chord rocker that was accompanied by a video that
shot into heavy MTV rotation.By the beginning of
1992,´Smells Like Teen Spirit´had climbed into the American
Top Ten and Nevermind bumped Michael Jackson ´s much-touted
comeback album Dangerous off the top of the album charts; it
reached the British Top Ten shortly afterward. By February,
the album had been certified triple platinum.
Nirvana ´s success took the music industry by surprise, Nirvana
included. It soon become apparent that the band wasn´t quite
sure how to handle their success. Around the time of Nevermind ´s
release, the band was into baiting their audience -- Cobain
appeared on MTV´s Headbanger´s Ball in drag, the group mocked
the tradition of miming on the BBC´s Top of the Pops by Novoselic
constantly throwing his bass into the air and Cobain singing his
live vocals in the style of Ian Curtis , and their traditional
live destruction of instruments was immortalized on a Saturday
Night Live performance that ended with Novoselic and Grohl
sharing a kiss -- but by the spring, questions had begun to arise
about the band´s stability. Cobain married Courtney Love , the
leader of the indie rock/foxcore band Hole , in February of
1992, announcing that the couple was expecting a child in the
fall. Shortly after the marriage, rumors that the couple were
heavy heroin users began to circulate and the strength of the
rumors only increased when Nirvana canceled several summer
concerts and refused to mount a full-scale American tour
during the summer. Cobain complained that he was suffering from
chronic stomach troubles, which seemed to be confirmed when he
was admitted to a Belfast hospital after a June concert. But,
heroin rumors continued to surface, especially in the form of a
late-summer Vanity Fair article which implied that Love was using
during her pregnancy. Both Love and Cobain denied the article´s
allegations, and publicly harassed and threatened the article´s
author. Love delivered Frances Bean Cobain, ahealthy baby girl,
on August 18, 1992, but the couple soon battled with Los
Angeles´children´s services, who claimed they were unfit parents
on the basis of the Vanity Fair article.
The couple was granted custody of their child by the beginning of
1993. Since Cobain was going through such well-documented
personal problems, Nirvana was unable to record a follow-up to
Nevermind until the spring of 1993. In the meantime, DGC released
the odds-and-ends compilation Incesticide late in 1992; the album
reached number 39 in the U. S. and number 14 U. K. As the group prepared to make their third album, they released´Oh, the Guilt´as a split-single with the Jesus Lizard on Touch&Go Records. Choosing Steve Albini ( Pixies , the Breeders , Big Black , the Jesus Lizard ) as their producer, Nirvana recorded their third album, In Utero, in two weeks during the spring of 1993. Following its completion, controversy began to surround Nirvana again. Cobain suffered a heroin overdose on May 2, but the event was hidden from the press. The following month, Love called police to their Seattle home after Cobain locked himself in the bathroom, threatening suicide. Prior to debuting In Utero material during the New Music Seminar at New York´s Roseland Ballroom in July, Cobain had
another covered-up overdose. By that time, reports began to
circulate, including an article in Newsweek, that DGC was unhappy
with the forthcoming album, accusing that the band deliberately
made an uncommercial record. Both the band and the label denied
such allegations. Deciding that Albini ´s production was too flat,
Nirvana decided to remaster the album with R.
E. M. ´s producer, Scott Litt .In Utero was released in September
of 1993 to positive reviews and strong initial sales, debuting at
the top of the U. S. and U. K. charts. Nirvana supported it with
a fall American tour, hiring former Germs member Pat Smear as an
auxiliary guitarist. While the album and the tour were both
successful, sales weren´t quite as strong as expected, with several shows not selling out until the week of the concert. As a result, the group agreed to play MTV´s acoustic Unplugged show at the end of the year, and sales of In Utero picked up after its December airing. After wrapping up the U. S. tour on January 8, 1994, with a show at Center Arena in Seattle, Nirvana embarked on a European tour in February. Following a concert in Munich on February 29, Cobain stayed in Rome to vacation with Love . On March 4, she awakened to find that Cobain had attempted suicide by overdosing on the tranquilizer Rohypnol and drinking champagne. While the attempt was initially reported as an accidental
overdose, it was known within the Nirvana camp that the vocalist
had left behind a suicide note.
Cobain returned to Seattle within a week ...
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