The story of how the foundations for Nirvana’s global success were laid in the UK is to be revealed in a new BBC TV documentary made with the full co-operation of Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic.
When Nirvana Came To Britain tells the story of how between 1989 and 1994, Nirvana introduced a new and exciting brand of rock music to the UK, changing the musical landscape of the time and influencing a generation of British youth.
The programme charts the band’s rise from their very first British tour, during which they performed in pubs and tiny venues, through to their legendary and infamous TV appearances on programmes such as The Word and Top of the Pops, moments that helped to cement their status as one of the biggest rock bands on the planet and brought grunge culture to the mainstream.
Featuring unseen archive as well as home movie footage shot by the band themselves, the film revisits the little-known British locations that played a surprising role in Nirvana’s story. These include the London guest house they regularly stayed at, the Dalmacia Hotel on Shepherds Bush Road, outside which NME photographer Martyn Goodacre took his famous shots of the band in 1990, to the small Edinburgh pub where they once played a surprise acoustic gig to just 30 people.
There are contributions from Nirvana’s surviving members, Dave Grohl (now fronting Foo Fighters) and Krist Novoselic, as well as BBC Radio 2’s Jo Whiley, 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq (both of whom were present to chart band’s meteoric rise), members of Nirvana’s British tour crew, their UK publicist Anton Brookes and booking agent, Russell Warby.
“The UK definitely responded to Nirvana much more, before America,” says Dave Groh. “You guys were the first with everything…we cut our teeth there. After touring the UK I remember going back to America to the same bars and clubs where we were playing to 99 people…150 people…it was definitely not like what it was in the UK. It really is like a second home.”
Speaking of Nirvana’s first UK tour in 1989, bassist Krist Novoselic says: “I’d never been to Great Britain. We got off the plane and we were in this different world.”
Mark Robinson, Executive Producer of When Nirvana Came To Britain says: “Nirvana’s relationship with Britain really was a two-way trade-off. Nirvana were inspired by bands like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and championed British groups like The Raincoats and The Vaselines – but their brand of rock was to have a huge influence on the sounds coming out of the British music scene in the 90s. This story has never been told on TV before, so it’s been fascinating to hear it from Dave and Krist themselves, as well as the people who literally went on the journey with them, as they toured the UK.”
The documentary is airing as part of the BBC’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of Nevermind. Highlights include:
6 Music’s Deep Dive into Nevermind, which sees BBC Radio 6 Music celebrate music of the album, playing tracks from it throughout the day.
Teen Spirit: Nevermind at 30, a new Radio 4 documentary, hosted by author Doug Coupland.
Another chance to see Dave Grohl in conversation with Dermot O’Leary in Reel Stories: Dave Grohl on BBC Two as well as Classic Albums – Nirvana: Nevermind on BBC Four
BBC Radio 2 programmes including Jo Whiley, Sounds of the 90s with Fearne Cotton and The Rock Show with Johnnie Walker will mark the anniversary
Lorna Clarke, Controller, BBC Pop says: “Nirvana’s Nevermind was an album that had a huge impact on music at the time – both for the industry and for fans. The longevity and influence of Nirvana as a band is undeniable, with their music holding a special place in the hearts of audiences across the board. So, it’s fitting that BBC Radio and TV are coming together to celebrate this iconic record, thirty years on.”