Here we are now: ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ at 20

Nirvana, pictured here in November 1991. Tune into the Lithium channel on Sirius XM at 8 p.m. on Friday for Jon Stewart’s two-hour interview with surviving Nirvana members Grohl and Novoselic and “Nevermind” producer Butch Vig.

In a few months the baby on the cover of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album will be old enough to drink. Although two decades have passed since it came out, no single album has shaken up the music industry and popular culture since. On Tuesday, Universal Music Enterprises is releasing 20th anniversary reissues such as a special 4-CD/1-DVD edition. Here we look back with some of the people who were close to the epicenter of the alterna-nation revolution — and those on the outskirts with curious reactions.

 “I had an advanced cassette of the album. I didn’t think that was the big song. I remember that. I remember thinking ‘Drain You’ or ‘On a Plain’ or something were the songs that were going to be big hits. And neither of those ended up being the single. … I probably didn’t know that there was going to be a changing of the guard in that album.”
— Stephen Malkmus

 “What I remember is, the first time I saw them play it live, which was this show at Jabberjaw, which was a tiny place. They weren’t a big band yet, but even for them, it was a tiny place to be playing in L.A. I just remember the reaction was insane. … I was on the inside, so I didn’t get to experience it publicly. I was trying to get people to experience it publicly.”
— Mark Kates, founder of Fenway Recordings (at the time that “Nevermind” came out, Kates was head of alternative promotion for DGC, the label that released the album. He went on to work A&R for Nirvana.)

 “My oldest brother and his friends would always watch MTV, and be hanging out. I remember walking in the room one day and they were all really excited about it, and I didn’t really know what it was, but they turned up the TV, and everybody got quiet, and watched it. … I didn’t know quite what to think of it, actually.”
— Bright Eyes singer Conor Oberst

 “Probably babysitting where the family had MTV, which we didn’t. I thought the title was funny because of the deodorant. And good music is good music. … Every one of my friends was very familiar with Nirvana’s music. But I think generally I felt distant from that kind of rock ’n’ roll. I was not cool, and I was probably listening to mid-‘90s Michael Jackson and the oldies radio station instead of Nirvana.”
— tUnE-yArDs singer Merril Garbus

 “My friend Dave from WERS knew that I liked to run, and I had mix tapes that I’d listen to, and he said, ‘I think you’d like this mix tape that I made you.’ And I said, ‘What is it?’ And he said, ‘It’s that band Nirvana’s new record,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ because it didn’t come out for another month.  So I remember I put it in my Walkman. Remember those? [laughs] And I just started running, and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was the first song, and I was knocked out!” — Mary Lou Lord

 “I remember I was at my friend’s house and she shared it with me and I was just blown away.” — Katie Holmes

“I remember feeling really relieved that music had that energy. Music had become so stilted. Then Nirvana emerged with this wild energy that was exhilarating.”
— Laurie Anderson

 “I loved them. I think they were just a great rock band. They had all the sort of great elements that a rock band has. They had that rebellious stance and a clandestine appeal. They were great-looking and rough and messy. And great songs. The whole package was there.”
— Blondie singer Debbie Harry

 “I remember so specifically the first time I heard Nirvana. My camp counselor — and I was like whatever age I was when ‘Nevermind’ came out, so I was like seven or eight —was really into good rock music, and all kinds of music. He was actually a great influence on me, because he gave me all those records. He gave me the first Ween album. I was like eight!  … And ‘Nevermind,’ I just put it on, and I can remember, like, where I was standing, what the room looked like, and everything. It was that memorable of an experience to hear it for the first time.”
— Jonah Hill

 “I was watching MTV in Mexico City and it came through a cable channel and I thought, ‘That sounded unlike anything I had heard.’ Because it was incredibly free and grungy, of course, but it was really sort of emotionally shattering. And I loved the video. It was pure innovation, both visually and in audio.”
— Director Guillermo del Toro

“We had this great radio station in Minneapolis, KJ104, they were kind of ahead of the curve on a lot of things… Basically I was riding around with my brother and it came on the radio. I was like, ‘I kind of like this song.’ My brother was like, ‘It’s kind of like metal.’ I was like, ‘I don’t think so.’ That was the generation gap. As a punk rock dude, I couldn’t see that, it was more like something speaking to my generation. I got to go see them like a week later. They did an in-store at Northern Lights .I didn’t get to see the show that night, it was sold out, but I  saw them with 100 people in a record store. They played an acoustic weird set, with Dave on drums. They played and smashed the acoustic. It was a cool thing to see. They signed my coat I had. I was like 16, just started liking music. I was like, ‘This is really awesome!’ That was a pretty big moment.”
— Motion City Soundtrack guitarist Josh Cain

“ I actually have an interesting story about that. I grew up in Seattle, Washington so I was a little too young to appreciate the scene and I didn’t listen to a lot of music growing up, so I didn’t actually hear the Nirvana album until I moved to Los Angeles and I think I was like 16, 17. I was kind of a late bloomer and I was in the studio with my producer and he was the one who showed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to me for the first time and it was a huge inspiration on the first album.”
— Lifehouse singer Jason Wade

“Everybody was so blown away by the single, when they heard it, that a bunch of people were standing in front of [famed NYC punk club] CBGBs at a show, and it was like the day that it had just come out on the radio and everybody was trying to figure out what the actual lyrics were. I just remember that that’s how many people were blown away by it.”
— Matt Pinfield, host of MTV2’s “120 Minutes”

Hear more first reactions of Nirvana on the Metro Monthly Music Podcast!

With additional reporting by Meredith Engel, Linda Laban, Luke O’Neil and Heidi Patalano



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.