In my angstiest, angriest teenage days, I was a big Nirvana fan. Huge. Posters on my wall, staying up at night to watch the videos on Alternative Nation. I mostly kept the obsession to myself — not everyone at my school was into rock music. My alternateen existence was mainly shared with a few classmates, and the guys who ran the booth where I bought my music at the mall. Every week I spent my allowance at a so-obviously-illegal kiosk, where all of the latest albums were copied on cassette.
Yes, I was BIG into cassettes. I’ve still got quite a collection.
Anyway, at this particular kiosk I got everything I wanted. All of the music I saw on cable TV and in my Sassy magazines, the music they totally weren’t playing on the radio in Trinidad. I bought albums by Green Day and Bjork and Soundgarden. And I got every Nirvana album from Bleach to Unplugged, all on cassette. I practically burned a hole in those tapes, rewinding songs just to hear Kurt Cobain’s yowl, so filled with pain and emotion.
I remember his death very clearly, even though I was somewhere hot and bright, so far away from bleak Seattle. I was at my friend Carys’ house. My brother called, because he’d seen it on the news and he knew about the posters on my wall and my tape collection. I cried for Kurt, and I wanted so much to be in a place where fellow Nirvana fans were sharing their grief.
That was in 1994. Today, February 20, would have been Kurt Cobain’s 43rd birthday. To give tribute to him, I present my top 5 favorite Nirvana songs.
5 — In Bloom.
This was one of Nirvana’s most amusing videos, and gave a glimpse to a side of the band that was less angry and tormented. Dave Grohl hamming it up in costume was just a foreshadowing of Foo Fighters videos to come. And the song is everything I love about the band — biting lyrics, rock n roll attitude, unexpected harmonies, and great songwriting.
4 — Dumb.
If you’re allergic to hard rock, yowling vocals and screeching guitars, you’ll probably love Nirvana’s Unplugged album. In my opinion it is hands down the greatest Unplugged album out there. The band took the opportunity to intersperse their original songs with some truly inspired covers. It’s a must have for any music collection. Click here to treat yourself. This is one of my favorites, stripped down to beautiful effect. “I’m not like them, but I can pretend…”
3 — Lithium.
Behind Smells Like Teen Spirit, this is one of those quintessentially popular Nirvana mosh pit type of songs. Their traditional quiet-loud song structure is in full effect, and the lyrics are classic Nirvana. Dark and introspective and troubled.
2 — Love Buzz.
My first Nirvana album was Nevermind, and then I absolutely had to get everything they’d made. First I got Incesticide, then I got Bleach. Early Nirvana was so primal and quirky, less despondent than some of the later material on In Utero. Love Buzz rocks. Point blank, period.
1 — About a Girl.
One of their earliest songs — originally released on Bleach — stripped down and made acoustic on what would turn out to be the band’s final album. If you remember MTV in the Nineties, this song may be as engraved on your mind as it is mine.
RIP, Kurt Cobain, and happy birthday. You left this world too soon.
Were you a Nirvana fan? What are your favorites?