On this day in 1991, Nirvana release ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ as a single, changing the face of alternative rock as we know it.
In April of 1991, Nirvana appeared at the OK Hotel in Seattle to perform a gig as they usually did. However, this gig was set to be one for the record books, as it happened to be the first time that the band would perform their track ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Conceived as an attempt to write the perfect pop song, named after a piece of graffiti, and taking influence from the likes of the Pixies, the track was brash, loud, and angry, and it was soon set to to become a phenomenon. The very next month, Nirvana headed into Sound City studios in California to lay down tracks for their next album. One of the songs recorded in this session was a studio version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Now that the track had been professionally recorded, the band had themselves a song worthy of releasing as the first single from their upcoming album.
On September 10th, the band released ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ as their next single, and failed to chart, though copies did sell well in record stores around the US. However, when Nevermind finally dropped just two weeks later on September 24th, the track started to pick up steam. Having been added to alternative rock radio and supported by a now-iconic music video, the track was slowly but surely becoming a major hit. Before too long, the tune was becoming an anthem for young rock fans everywhere, and served as the moment which alternative-rock was brought into the mainstream. Despite the track’s massive success, the band grew tired of how popular it became, and began to resent playing it live in concert. While ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was the moment which saw alternative-rock considered a proper genre in its own right, these days it is considered to be one of the greatest songs of all time, and was enough to bring Nirvana from being a young up-and-coming band into overnight sensations.