Fun Facts About Nirvana
Nearly thirty years ago, the music world mourned the death of Kurt Cobain, the Nirvana frontman, who died by suicide at the age of 27. Despite his death, however, their joint legacy has survived. Today, we take a look at 25 facts about Nirvana and Nirvana band members.
Wether you are a rock music fan or just a fan of other genres of music like hip hop, you most certainly have heard of Kurt Cobain who is a legend of alternative rock, and his fabulous band known as Nirvana. This popularity and fame of Nirvana is all thanks to their awesome works that have left a mark in modern music till date. Not only did their music leave an impressive mark, a lot of other facts about Nirvana that made them stand out is something quite a number of people are unaware of. Bringing these Nirvana facts to you and everyone else is what aim to achieve with these compilation of Nirvana fun facts. If you are a fan of this band for decades you most certainly would appreciate the impressive collection of facts on this.
Interesting Facts About Nirvana You Probably Never Knew
- Kurt Cobain worked as a janitor at the same high school he dropped out of.
Despite being thought of as a ne’er-do-well by everyone after he dropped out of Weatherwax High School, Kurt Cobain returned to work in the same school as a janitor not long after. He would later make an inside joke of his old job, with the dancing janitor in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video.
- The title for “About a Girl” came rather suddenly.
Chad Channing, one of Nirvana’s drummers, takes credit for the hit classic. According to him, he asked Cobain what a song they were working on was about. “About a girl,” Cobain replied. To which he responded, “Why don’t you just call it that?” The girl in question was Cobain’s girlfriend, Tracy Marander, who had once wondered why he wrote about everything but her.
- There were at least five different drummers in the band before Dave Grohl.
Finding a permanent drummer for Nirvana was even harder than coming up with a permanent band name. Aaron Burckhard was their first – but he only lasted until got on Kurt Cobain’s wrong side, by getting his car impounded for fighting with a police officer.
After him, Dale Crover came up, who pounded the skins for Cobain and Novoselic on their first demo tape before moving to San Francisco.
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Dave Foster followed – only to get himself arrested for assaulting the son of the mayor of Cosmopolis, Washington.
Finally, in August 1990, Dave Grohl’s band Scream broke up; and Buzz Osbourne introduced Grohl to Cobain and Novoselic, helping them finally end their prolonged search for a drummer.
- Nirvana’s first single was a cover.
Nirvana’s first official release was a cover of “Love Buzz” by Shocking Blue – a Dutch rock band best known for their hit song “Venus,” which reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in February 1970, selling 7.5 million copies alongside. Unfortunately, the Nirvana cover, however, did not achieve anywhere near this level of success for them.
- Nirvana’s first album cost $606.17 to make.
Guitarist Jason Everman didn’t play on Bleach, Nirvana’s first album, but was added to the band to add a second guitar to the mix soon after. It was agreed that he would bear the album cost — a total of $606.17 —being the only band member to have an actual paying job.
- “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was inspired by Kurt Cobain’s girlfriend’s deodorant. And alcohol.
After drinking themselves to stupor the previous night, Kurt Cobain and then-roommate Dave Grohl were joined by Bikini Kill songwriter/vocalist Kathleen Hanna and drummer Tobi Vail at their then home. They continued having fun, and eventually Hanna spray-painted Kurt smells like teen spirit on the wall, a reference to the deodorant Vail— Cobain’s then girlfriend — used to smell pleasant, with no ‘white residue’ common to other deodorants. Cobain reportedly loved the phrasing, and wrote the song without knowing of the Teen Spirit deodorant’s existence until after it was recorded.
- When Kurt Cobain saw himself on TV for the first time, he called his mother.
The music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” premiered on MTV’s alternative music show 120 Minutes on Sunday, September 29, 1991. Cobain watched himself in a hotel room at The Roger Smith Hotel in New York City and called his mother to tell her, “There’s me.”
- Nirvana was accused of plagiarism.
From 1989, when Nirvana’s “Negative Creep” featured the chorus “Daddy’s little girl ain’t a girl no more,” which sounded too much like Mudhoney’s “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More,” plagiarism accusations haunted the band.
Cobain apparently thought of this, when he warned the band’s Nirvana’s co-manager Danny Goldberg about making “Come As You Are” the next single after “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
“Kurt was nervous about ‘Come as You Are’ because it was too similar to a Killing Joke song [‘Eighties’], but we all thought it was still the better song to go with,” Goldberg told Rolling Stone. “And, he was right, Killing Joke later did complain about it.” But that’s all they did—complain.
Killing Joke never actually took the band to court over the similarities to their 1984 song due to “personal and financial reasons,” and possibly because “Eighties” itself sounds an awful lot like The Damned’s 1982 song “Life Goes On.” Shrugging and muttering to themselves that good artists borrow and great artists steal, Killing Joke welcomed Dave Grohl behind the drum kit to play on their 2003 album.
The only time that someone actually sued Nirvana was director Kevin Kerslake, who alleged that Cobain used some of his ideas for the “Heart Shaped Box” music video. The case was settled out of court.
- The original music video for “In Bloom” is from 1990 and set in New York City.
“In Bloom”—along with other Nevermind songs “Breed,” “Lithium,” and “Polly”—was a song intended for a 1990 album with Sub Pop, the band’s initial record label. At first, Sub Pop seemed to be up to the task, paying for a recording session and releasing a music video showing the band performing the intended first single at a couple of different shows, traversing around David Dinkins-era lower Manhattan. Because nobody told Novoselic about continuity, he appears in parts of the video completely bald—the bassist thought his playing was so bad at one gig that he shaved his head to appease the bass gods.
Sub Pop, however, would prove to be on the verge of bankruptcy, and would only be saved by the deal they made with Geffen Records to receive some royalties from Nevermind. Helping to keep the cash flowing was “In Bloom,” the album’s fourth single, promoted by a much more professional looking and thought out video with the band performing on an old Ed Sullivan Show type of program.
- The original “Lithium” video concept was a cartoon.
Initially, Cobain and director Kevin Kerslake agreed on Cobain’s idea for the “Lithium” video: an animated story about a girl named Prego who discovers some eggs that hatch. Unfortunately, the two discovered—a bit too late—that the animation would take four months to produce and decided to just use footage from a couple of live performances. Kerslake did his best to make things interesting by using video of the band at its most vibrant, manic moments during the quiet parts of the song, and vice versa.
- Nevermind’s “candy-ass” sound was thanks in part to John Lennon.
Nevermind producer Butch Vig really wanted Cobain to double track his vocals to make the songs sound “fuller,” “richer,” and not have the record label spend a lot of money to purposely sound lo-fi. Cobain thought that would just be another indication of the band losing its indie, punk credibility (even though he was already recording a major label album). Vig knew that Cobain was a big John Lennon fan, so whenever Kurt would initially not agree to sing along with himself, Vig would tell him, “John Lennon did it.” It worked, every time.
Cobain would later claim to resent the mainstream, radio-friendly production of the hugely successful album, poetically and timelessly describing it in 1993 as “candy-ass.”
- “Drain You,” “Lounge Act,” and several songs on Nevermind are reportedly about Tobi Vail.
Author Charles R. Cross—backed with access to Cobain’s private journals and pages of unrecorded lyrics—theorized in his 2001 Kurt Cobain biography Heavier Than Heaven that Nevermind is full of references to Tobi Vail, who broke up with Cobain months before the album’s recording. The “Smells Like Teen Spirit” lyric that talks about a woman being over-bored and self-assured was likely to be about Cobain’s ex. “Drain You” begins with the line, “One baby to another said ‘I’m lucky to have met you,'” quoting what Vail had once told Cobain. “Lounge Act” in particular was unequivocally about the Bikini Kill drummer, confirmed by Novoselic and by Cobain himself in an unwritten letter to Vail that Cross read. Cobain wrote: “Every song on this record [In Utero] is not about you. No, I am not your boyfriend. No, I don’t write songs about you, except for ‘Lounge Act,’ which I do not play, except when my wife is not around.”
- “Polly” was based on a true story.
Kurt Cobain wrote “Polly” in 1987 after reading an article about the torture and rape of a 14-year-old girl. Cobain chose to write the song from the perspective of the girl, inventing the name “Polly” to aid in a consistent, innocent-sounding bird metaphor. After hearing the song, Bob Dylan said of Cobain, “That kid has heart.”
- Nirvana was thrown out of their own record release party.
On a Friday the 13th, Geffen threw the band a record release party with invitations that read, “Nevermind Triskaidekaphobia, Here’s Nirvana.” Cobain started a full-fledged food fight when he threw ranch dressing at Novoselic, and a bouncer responded by grabbing the two and Grohl and throwing them out. The band then stood in the alley behind the club and talked to their friends through the window, before moving the party to a friend’s place, where Cobain shot a fire extinguisher and the place had to be evacuated. At the next venue, Cobain completed the destruction trifecta by tossing a gold record plaque by the group Nelson into a microwave after proclaiming it an “affront to humankind.”
- “Weird Al” Yankovic asked for Nirvana’s permission to write “Smells Like Nirvana” in their Saturday Night Live dressing room.
Three events on January 11, 1992 proved that Nirvana had completely made the unprecedented transition from underground punk band to universally beloved supergroup: Nevermind was #1 for the first time on that day’s Billboard 200 albums chart; the band made their SNL debut performing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Territorial Pissings” on the Rob Morrow-hosted late night show. To the joy of Cobain, Novoselic, and Grohl, they got a phone call from “Weird Al” Yankovic.
“That was the craziest weekend because we get there, and the first time you see the SNL studio, it’s tiny,” Grohl recalled in 2011. “You imagine it being this big thing but honestly it’s tiny, it’s so small. The energy is crazy and people are running around and it goes so quickly, and one of the cast members comes up and says, ‘Hey I’m friends with Weird Al Yankovic and he wants to talk to you about doing one of your songs.’ And so I think we talked to him in the dressing room of SNL. He called the phone. You know you’ve arrived when Weird Al … it was pretty huge. And he did a good job.”
- In Utero was initially going to be titled I Hate Myself And I Want To Die.
Nirvana’s album titles tended to evolve over time: Nirvana’s first album was recorded under the operating title Too Many Humans, until Cobain saw a sign in San Francisco that said to “Bleach Your Works”; Nevermind started out as Sheep, married to artwork of rows and rows of identical houses. Even though it was intended as a joke, Novoselic pointed out to Cobain that he was opening himself up to tons of potential lawsuits, and the idea was dropped.
- The song “I Hate Myself And I Want To Die” features a Jack Handey “Deep Thought.”
Even though the threat of lawsuits stopped the band from naming an album “I Hate Myself and I Want to Die,” it didn’t stop them from recording a song with the title “I Hate Myself and I Want to Die,” although it might be the reason that it was left off of the In Utero album. Instead, the song with the misunderstood title (it was supposed to be a joke) found a home as the opening track on The Beavis and Butt-head Experience compilation album. But in the middle of the song, after helping to promote one television show, Cobain acknowledged a different, more mainstream show when he mumbled, “Most people don’t realize that large pieces of coral, which have been painted brown and attached to the skull by common wood screws, can make a child look like a deer,” an SNL “Deep Thought” from Jack Handey.
- Elton John suffered collateral damage due to Nirvana’s war with Guns N’ Roses.
Kurt Cobain considered Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose to be a homophobe and a racist, an opinion that other people agreed with thanks to the lyrics of the GNR song “One in a Million.” At the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, two pianos were set up on stage for an epic performance of “November Rain.” Thinking Axl was going to play on it, Cobain spit on the keys of one of the pianos. To his horror, Kurt later found out that he had given a coat of saliva on the piano played by special guest Elton John.
- MTV really did not want Nirvana to play “Rape Me” at the VMAs.
Nirvana was causing nothing but trouble at the ’92 VMAs, and naturally their choice of song was one big issue. MTV told the band that they would like to hear “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The band responded by saying that they were respectfully going to remember the clout they had earned over the past year and premiere a brand new song called “Rape Me” instead (a song that actually made its premier at a Santa Cruz concert one year earlier).
The network was not only scared by the title, but somewhat correctly surmised that the song was somewhat about them. The network countered that if the band played “Rape Me” on the live telecast that they would fire Amy Finnerty, an employee Cobain was close friends with, and would stop playing the band’s videos. Although both parties agreed on “Lithium,” MTV didn’t trust Cobain, and for the second consecutive time, their paranoia proved to be well founded: When the band launched into the first few chords of “Rape Me,” the control room was ready to go directly to commercial. At the last possible moment, Nirvana stopped the sneak preview to play the memorable version of “Lithium” which ended with Novoselic hitting himself in the head with his bass and Cobain and Grohl sarcastically saying hello to Axl Rose.
- Krist Novoselic played a Nirvana gig at the Seattle Center Coliseum, even though he was banned from the premises.
Before performing at a Washington Music Industry Coalition Benefit on September 11, 1992 (two days after the VMAs), Nirvana couldn’t help but notice that a photo of Novoselic was on the wall backstage, indicating that he was banned for life due to his behavior at a Sonic Youth concert one year before. They opened the show discussing it. Novoselic has yet to be punished for the crime.
- “Heart Shaped Box” was originally titled “Heart Shaped Coffin.”
Even though the song was inspired by an actual heart shaped box sent by Courtney Love to Kurt Cobain during the early days of their relationship, the initial lyrics read that the narrator was “buried” in the box (as opposed to “locked”), with the “Heart Shaped Coffin” title.
- “All Apologies” originally sounded like a Beatles song.
The group wrote one third of 1993’s In Utero in 1990. During an informal recording session on New Year’s Day 1991, Cobain, Novoselic, and Grohl put down an early, jangly version of “All Apologies.” Some of the verses didn’t have words yet, but the refrain “Married/Buried” was more or less set, a little over one year before Cobain’s wedding to Love.
- Dave Grohl wrote the riff to “Scentless Apprentice.”
Grohl had been writing songs on his own since he joined Nirvana, even releasing a cassette album of his work in 1992 called Pocketwatch, under the pseudonym Late! It was understood that Cobain was the lone songwriter of Nirvana, but Grohl couldn’t help himself and presented the group with the guitar riff and drum parts of what would turn out to be “Scentless Apprentice.” Cobain said in an interview that he initially thought Grohl’s riff wasn’t very good but tried it out to not hurt his feelings (which of course was a nice thing to do until he revealed his thought to a reporter for Grohl to later read). Aside from “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Scentless Apprentice” was the only song from a Nirvana album that was given a “Cobain/Novoselic/Grohl” writing credit instead of Cobain receiving sole recognition.
- Kurt Cobain embellished the Leadbelly guitar story by about $445,000.
Before his classic cover of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” on MTV Unplugged, Cobain was provoked by Novoselic to talk about Leadbelly’s guitar. “This guy representing the Leadbelly estate wants to sell me Leadbelly’s guitar for $500,000,” Cobain said. “I even asked David Geffen personally if he would buy it for me. Wouldn’t do it.”
It’s possible that Cobain was trying to pull a fast one on the CEO of his label, because a few months earlier he wondered to a New York Times reporter if buying the guitar for $55,000 was a “punk move” or an “anti-punk move.” Separating $445,000 from David Geffen would of course be both.
While the above list of fun facts about Nirvana and Nirvana band members like Kurt Cobain were able to feature a whole lot of unknown information about the band(Nirvana), there are still some generic questions being asked by the general public and fans of the Nirvana band, these questions can unfortunately not be answered by mere collection of information and facts about Nirvana but rather carefully culled answers for these frequently asked questions. In the following section we would be answering these popular frequently asked questions about Nirvana.
Nirvana Band FAQs
How did Nirvana get their name?
Nirvana band got their name from Kurt Cobain wanting the band name to be beautiful and more appealing to the general public and not one that sounds too generic like other rock bands.
Why does Nirvana have a smiley face?
Nirvana has a smiley face because Kurt Cobain wanted to show the facial expression won by the Nirvana fans, that is why the smiley face was chosen against other popular alternatives.
What is the nirvana logo?
The Nirvana band logo is a smiley face that has letter ‘x’ for eyes.
What do Nirvana stand for?
Nirvana doesn’t stand for anything since it is not an acronym. But the word Nirvana has its roots traced back to Buddhism and the meaning of Nirvana is: the final beatitude (see beatitude sense 1a) that transcends suffering, karma, and samsara and is sought especially in Buddhism through the extinction of desire and individual consciousness.
What was Nirvana’s first song?
Nirvana’s first song is known as Love Buzz which was released in the year 1988.
Who inspired Nirvana?
Nirvana was inspired by punk rock band Black Flag and Black Sabbath.
Who was Kurt Cobain’s favorite band?
Kurt Cobain’s favorite band was The Frogs.
Who made the Nirvana shirt?
The Nirvana shirt was made by Robert Fisher a graphic designer/artist that worked with the band in the early more than 20 years ago.
Who created the Nirvana smiley face?
The Nirvana smiley face logo on the shirt is rumored to have been made by Robert Fisher.
What year did Nirvana start?
Nirvana band started officially in the year 1987.