Watch Soundgarden cover Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit at Lollapalooza 1992

(Image credit: Getty Images/Geffen)

Just days into Soundgarden’s stint on the second-ever Lollapalooza in 1992, the Seattle four-piece surprised fans with a cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.

On July 22, 1992, the band played at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds in Bremerton, which is a short hop over the Puget Sound from their Washington hometown. The bill featured headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Ice Cube, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Pearl Jam and Lush. Temple of the Dog – the grunge supergroup for which Cornell sang on their self-titled debut – and Rage Against The Machine performed on the side stage throughout the tour. 

Towards the end of their set, Soundgarden peeled out the grinding riff to Slaves and Bulldozers before giving the nod to their former Sub Pop label mates with a blast of Nirvana’s 1991 game-changing single.

“I saw somebody throw their pants in the air,” revealed late frontman Chris Cornell before singing a verse from Teen Spirit. “You can all take your pants off and throw them in the air. I think that would be fucking cool. Everybody, remember you’ve got to take your shoes off first.”

Watch the clip below. 

In an interview with Rick Beato on his YouTube channel Everything Music, guitarist Kim Thayil remembers the first time he heard Smells Like Teen Spirit after being given an advance copy of Nevermind. 

“We always believed in Nirvana,” says Thayil. “I tried to get our A&R guys to pay attention. Loved it from the beginning. To this day, Bleach is probably still my favourite album. But, we had a pre-pre-release of Nevermind, and I think we were at Avast [studio] probably demoing something [and] someone brought it in.

“We just stopped,” he adds. “I think the first thing we heard was Smells Like Teen Spirit. I mean we listened to the whole thing, but I sat there and kept rewinding the cassette and listening to [the single]. 

“Everyone went back to rehearsing. I had to hear this again. I had to hear those two notes- the arpeggios. It was kind of something that we loved doing from the onset. chorus... I heard [the chorus] and was like, 'this is so hypnotic'. It wasn’t just visceral. It was hypnotic and visceral. They did it. It’s in your heart. It’s in your nuts. It’s in your head. This song does it. 

"And Ben [Shepherd, bassist] started laughing and said ‘oh my god, that’s their hit.’ Those guys go back to jamming and I’m like, rewinding. I’m trying to hear this again, like, fuck! I wish I wrote that. That’s so cool.”

In other Soundgarden news, seven unheard tracks recorded in 2017 will now be released after a legal dispute has been resolved between Chris' widow Vicky and his bandmates

Simon Young

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.