'Vana Be Adored
New Musical Express, November 23, 1991
PAGE: 2 | back
Then 'Nevermind' happened.
"I'm not sure I know how our original fans will cope," says bass player Chris Novoselic. "When I was in junior high school, my family moved from Los Angeles to screwy, bum - Aberdeen. I had these bands that were dear to me, Led Zeppelin and Devo, when everybody else was into Kenny Rogers. Three years down the road all these people that I considered to be infidels, the unenlightened, were listening to Led Zeppelin. I remember feeling angry that all of those people were grabbing a hold of my sacred cow. But that's the way things go. I'll still listen to those bands."
1991 was a bleak and piss-poor year for American rock before the release of 'Nevermind'. And it's laughable now to think that Geffen Records made an initial pressing of just 40,000 copies of the LP, currently one of the USA's fastest selling records.
But how did that happen? How indeed. Here's my theory: The 'Nevermind' LP is a meeting point for all manner of rock enthusiasts; those who like the power ideal of Metallica but can't stomach their lack of melody; Pixies fans still searching for 'Doolittle lI' who feel that Black Francis is beginning to fudge it; the grown-up Ned's appreciation society; even neurotic adolescents with shattered illusions of Guns N' Roses - Most Dangerous Rock'n'Roll Band In The World (ha!)
'Nevermind' is utterly compulsive and supremely durable. It's a record which will traverse all squabbling and snobbish rock factions - the hardcore, the subversive and the shambling clubs. Perhaps (dare I say it, rock lads?) because, with 'Nevermind', Nirvana have cut the masturbatory element out of hard, insane guitar music. Instead, the record haemorrhages with an almost female sense of calamity and vulnerability and sweet, sweet abandon.
There has not been such a fluent American rock release since Jane's Addiction's 'Ritual De Lo Habitual'.
FOLLOWING THE photo session, we split up into two cars. The band's Glaswegian road manager, Alex, cuts a shape with a crisp fiver. This will be our driver's incentive to beat the band vehicle 'cross town to the Bayswater Embassy Hotel. We lose, damn it.
The hotel is a sterile affair, newly renovated. The bar area resembles a motorway service station powder room. A legion of executive chins drop into complimentary bowls of peanuts as Nirvana settle themselves.
Kurt, Chris and drummer David Grohl are defensive people once a tape recorder has been pushed in their face. There are valid reasons for this. Nirvana are mad as f- about one journalist they had considered a friend who literally stowed away on their tour bus, then reported them as delinquent, TV-trashing cretins.
"How the f-are we supposed to comment about that?" asks Kurt drily.
"There was this one time we had a blow torch and an arc welder and some stolen dynamite. The FBI was trailing us. Lucky we had a fast Cadillac or we'd never have shaken those bastards off," mocks Chris.
"Sure we break things. We break things all the time, but that's just us compensating for the frustration of being on the road. That ain't poetry. And it's not what the band's about."
Onward, to another contentious issue. Nirvana include a song about rape on 'Nevermind', titled 'Polly'. This fact has surfaced in recent interviews, wholly devoid of examination, thus suggesting that Nirvana might indeed be a foul, violent and despicable breed.
"Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth. And it happens every few minutes," Kurt hisses. "The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there.
"I was talking to a friend of mine who went to a rape crisis center where women are taught judo and karate. She looked out of the window and saw a football pitch full of boys, and thought, those are the people that should really be in this class."
"That song 'Polly', it's a true story," says Chris. " It's about a young girl who was abducted. The guy drove her around in his van. Tortured her. Raped her. The only chance she had of getting away was to come on to him and persuade him to untie her. That's what she did, and she got away. Can you imagine how much strength that took?"
Nirvana are, in fact, very much in touch with women's rights. Chris tells me that one of the greatest performances the band has ever given was at a recent Pro-Choice benefit in Los Angeles, in support of campaigners fighting for womens' abortion rights.
"They're trying to stop abortion in America," Chris exclaims.
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