The Real True Story of Nirvana

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The Real True Story of Nirvana

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Cassondra Feltus
It's time for a deep dive into the history of Nirvana. For this video, we'll be looking at one of the greatest bands in history, from their rise to fame to their tragic end and lasting legacy. Our video includes the band's Early Days, Kurt Cobain's Tragic Death, Legacy, and more!
Transcript

The Real True Story of Nirvana


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re discussing The Real True Story of Nirvana.

For this video, we’ll be looking at one of the greatest bands in history, from their rise to fame to their tragic end and lasting legacy.

What’s your favorite Nirvana song? Sound off in the comments.

Early Days


Nirvana’s story begins in Aberdeen, Washington, where Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic bonded over their love of music, in particular the local band Melvins. The two were still in high school at the time. Cobain asked the older Novoselic to start a band with him, but it took some convincing. Fortunately, after Novoselic listened to a demo of Cobain’s former band Fecal Matter, he was sold. With Cobain on lead vocals and guitar and Novoselic on bass, Nirvana was born…though they weren’t called Nirvana just yet.

The pair went through a number of drummers, starting with Aaron Burckhard in 1987. The next year, Melvins drummer Dale Crover replaced Burckhard, then Dave Foster took over for Crover for a few months until Burckhard briefly returned. Cobain and Novoselic put out an ad in Seattle’s “The Rocket” with no success, but eventually met Chad Channing, who played a show with them in May 1988. That November, the band released a cover of Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz” through local record company Sub Pop. In June 1989, they put out their debut album “Bleach” and went on their first tour, joined by second guitarist Jason Everman, who later left the band. “Bleach” had decent sales and was popular on college radio stations, but Cobain was upset that Sub Pop hadn’t done more to get the word out.

Nirvana began working on a second album in April 1990. Channing left, and the band recruited Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters for their single “Sliver.” Crover returned for a short West Coast tour with Sonic Youth. Finally, in September 1990, Melvins singer Buzz Osborne introduced former Scream drummer Dave Grohl to the band. Grohl played his first show with Nirvana on October 11, at Olympia’s North Shore Surf Club. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Breaking into the Mainstream


After signing with major record label DGC Records in 1990, Nirvana began recording their sophomore album. Their single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” debuted September 10, and quickly became a grunge anthem. The song was everywhere, and thanks to MTV, so was the iconic music video. “Nevermind” was released on September 24, 1991, to critical acclaim, eventually selling over 30 million records worldwide. This sudden rise to fame was jarring for the band and a lot of pressure was put on Kurt as the frontman. Nirvana never expected or sought out this level of attention and needless to say, it created some issues.

Cobain suffered from chronic stomach pain and had developed an addiction to heroin. What’s more, there was trouble within the band, as Cobain wanted a larger portion of the band’s songwriting royalties. By 1992, Cobain’s health and Nirvana’s potential disbandment were heavily speculated on in the media. Nonetheless, Nirvana delivered several notable performances that year, including “Saturday Night Live” and MTV’s Video Music Awards. They also headlined the 1992 Reading Festival in the UK, later releasing a live album of the performance.

Kurt, Courtney & In Utero


In 1991, Kurt Cobain had met Courtney Love, lead singer/guitarist for the band Hole. Love has stated that they ”bonded over pharmaceuticals.” The two rockstars married on February 24, 1992, in Hawaii. Fans and tabloids dubbed them “Kurtney” in honor of the god and goddess of grunge. On August 18, 1992, their daughter Frances Bean Cobain was born. But in September, a scathing Vanity Fair profile accused Love of drug use during her pregnancy, resulting in Child Services taking Frances from the couple. They later regained custody. Despite their legal troubles, both Love and Cobain continued using drugs on and off.

On September 13, 1993, Nirvana released their third album “In Utero,” which topped the charts. They went on their American tour the next month along with Germs’ Pat Smear as a second guitarist. In November, the band recorded their iconic acoustic performance for “MTV Unplugged” with cellist Lori Goldston. Defying the network’s wishes, they played several lesser known material and covers. Reportedly, it was Cobain who had requested the stage be decorated with stargazer lilies and candles. When producer Alex Coletti asked him “You mean like a funeral”, he responded “Exactly. Like a funeral.”

Kurt Cobain’s Tragic Death


As Nirvana’s fame grew, Cobain’s health continued to decline. According to his cousin, Bev Cobain, he had been diagnosed with ADD when he was younger and later bipolar disorder. In his final years he also suffered from depression, and continued to struggle with drug addiction.

Nirvana played (what they didn’t know would be) their last American show on January 8, 1994, in Seattle, and their final show ever on February 29 in Munich, Germany. While on a tour break, Cobain went to Rome, where Love would later join him with their daughter. The next morning, she found him unconscious in their hotel room from ingesting champagne and tranquilizers. He recovered in the hospital, and was released.

Back in Seattle, Love arranged for an intervention with his friends and colleagues on March 25, resulting in Cobain checking into Exodus Recovery Center a few days later. But he escaped shortly after, scaling a six foot wall. On April 8, 1994, Kurt Cobain’s body was found by an electrician visiting the Seattle house. He’d taken his own life with a shotgun, leaving behind a note addressed to his imaginary childhood friend Boddah, with messages for his fans, wife and daughter. The medical examiner determined he’d died three days prior on April 5, after having been missing for a week.

Fans mourned the artist’s untimely death in vigils around the world, while the media continuously reported on the incident. MTV paid tribute to Kurt by playing Nirvana’s music videos on a loop and re-airing some of the band’s interviews.

However, there were also rumors of foul play, and conspiracy theories about Love’s possible involvement endure to this day.

The End of Nirvana


Kurt’s death was the end of Nirvana. Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl went on to make music in their own bands. Grohl assembled the Foo Fighters in 1994 and released a debut album a year later. Novoselic kept a lower profile with small bands like Giants in the Trees, while also getting into political activism.

In November 1994, Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged” performance was released and earned the band a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.

In 1997, Novoselic and Grohl, along with Courtney Love, formed Nirvana LLC. Together they’d oversee future Nirvana projects including box sets, unreleased material, and documentaries. Love would later sue, with the former bandmates issuing a countersuit, both parties trying to remove the other from the company. After years of feuding, they reached a settlement, and in 2002, released a self-titled greatest hits album with a previously unreleased track “You Know You’re Right.”

Legacy


In 2014, Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Grohl and Novoselic appeared on stage with Courtney Love and Kurt’s family, showing a reconciliation between the rockers after years of drama. Kurt’s legacy also lives on in his only child Frances Bean Cobain. An artist in her own right, Frances executive produced the 2015 documentary “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.” Naturally, she’s a talented artist just like her parents, and has a career as a model and in visual art. She also has a beautiful voice.

Recent blockbusters have renewed interest in Nirvana songs, leading to increased streaming numbers. 2021’s “Black Widow” featured a dark opening credits sequence set to a cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Think Up Anger and Malia J. “Something in the Way” inspired Matt Reeves’ script for “The Batman,” so much so that it became a part of the film. Actors Robert Pattinson and Paul Dano both cited Nirvana and Kurt Cobain as a major inspiration for their characters as well.

Many credit Nirvana for having a huge impact on their personal and creative lives. The band inspired an entire generation, and their influence continues to live on in pop culture.
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