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Nirvana's Nevermind: still incendiary after all these years

Nirvana's game-changing Nevermind, now available in a range of wallet-busting formats

Nirvana - Nevermind cover art
(Image: © Geffen)

“Is Nevermind such a big deal?” a friend asked on Facebook. “Should I give it a listen?” Up to you, mate. If you’ve come this far without hearing it, it seems a bit pointless to start now. Another asked why people aren’t talking about (crazed NYC psych-heads) Bongwater. Or Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger? Or Hole (whose debut Pretty On The Inside was released at the same time as Nevermind). 

I don’t know, maybe people like to have some form of communality, an intimate connection with the outside world. Maybe Red Hot Chili Peppers would have gained the same iconic status as Nirvana if Flea had killed himself after the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

Or maybe Nevermind is just an amazing rock record, full stop. There was plenty of talk around the time of its release that the sheen given to it by producer Butch Vig and remixer Andy Wallace was tantamount to bogus commerciality; that it didn’t reflect the band’s raw power and spontaneity live.

Point one: before Nevermind, Vig was not known as a ‘commercial’ producer. Nirvana brought him in cos he’d worked with former Sub Pop labelmates Tad, and the mighty churning hardcore of Minneapolis band Killdozer. Point two: Wallace was brought in cos he’d worked with Slayer

Is there any – and I mean any – rock record that matches the sheer power of the live experience? Motorhead, perhaps? The Who? Nah. The Clash? Nah. Thin Lizzy, Ramones, Runaways?

No. What Vig (and to a lesser extent Wallace) did was to allow Kurt Cobain’s tumultuous, agonised scream – the scream that seemed to sum up the hurt and rage of a generation – ample space to be heard, and those powerhouse drums from Dave Grohl to thunder on through (all due credit to original Nirvana drummer Chad Channing), particularly on In Bloom.

They made real Cobain’s vision of mixing the pop sensibilities of the Bay City Rollers with the rock thunder of Black Sabbath, and in a way that reached millions upon millions of listeners. 

Back to that initial question: Is Nevermind such a big deal? Should my friend give it a listen? I reckon he should. 

This being the 30th anniversary of Nevermind’s original release, the reissues come in a bewildering array of formats ranging from Super Deluxe Editions (eight LPs or five CDs plus Blu-ray) to standard digital, CD and single-disc vinyl with bonus seven-inch. All deluxe reissues feature four complete live shows that are absolutely incendiary stuff.