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John Lamb, Published September 24 2011

Lamb: ‘Teen Spirit’ still fresh 20 years later

It was 20 years ago today that Kurt Cobain taught the kids to sing, “Oh well, whatever, never mind.”

Yes, “Nevermind,” the album that put Nirvana and grunge on the map came out Sept. 24, 1991.

This makes me feel kind of old until I listen to the disc again and start air drumming and eventually throw out my shoulder, making me feel old all over again.

“Nevermind” of course gave us “Smells like Teen Spirit,” an anti-anthem for adolescent angst. Twenty years later, the song is still as raw and powerful, and it wasn’t even the best song on the album.

Cobain delivered 12 solid songs on that disc and changed the game for music fans and the industry.

But he also gave us a lot more.

The singer/guitarist was more dedicated to promoting his influences than he was to promoting himself. By covering their songs, Cobain introduced his fans to obscure groups like the Vaselines, the Meat Puppets and even lesser-known works by bigger names like David Bowie. He constantly talked up the Melvins and the Pixies, and fans tried to figure out who Daniel Johnston was when Cobain was spotted wearing the singer/guitarist/artist’s “Hi, how are you” T-shirt.

While the grunge scene will be depicted as the age of flannel, tattered jeans and chain wallets, Cobain also made it cool to mix power chords and cardigans.

Just like Metallica relaxed the heavy-metal dress code from leather and spandex to jeans and T-shirts, Cobain re-claimed the sweater from Morrissey’s closet and rocked it onstage. He proved you didn’t have to look like a rock star to be a rock star.

Speaking of rock stars, where would Dave Grohl be had Cobain not tapped him to sit behind the kit before “Nevermind”? Grohl turned out to be arguably the last great rock drummer in the line of bombastic beat-keepers like Keith Moon and John Bonham.

Sure, Grohl has gone on to play guitar and sing as the front man in the Foo Fighters, but he generates more excitement whenever he picks up the sticks.

Last and certainly not least, where would Courtney Love be if she hadn’t latched onto Cobain? Rather, where would society be without Courtney Love?

Before we were jointly outraged by “The Real Housewives of …” or any other reality shows depicting horrible moms, there was Courtney Love in all her gory, screaming, kicking, flashing and overdosing glory. She was Charlie Sheen when he was making “Hot Shots!” – the movie, not the drink.

As abrasive as she is, she is a unifying force in that just about everyone can feel good about their lives when compared to the mess she’s made of hers.

Too bad Cobain didn’t realize that. I’d rather listen to him scream than her.

Oh well, whatever, never mind.


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533