Remembering Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ Live at the Paramount in 1991

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Submitted by karajayne on Fri, 09/10/2021 - 15:16

Remembering Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ Live at the Paramount in 1991

Posted 10 Sep 2021
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Nirvava, 1991. Photo by Peter Pakvis/Redferns/Getty Images. 

We’re marking 30 years since Smells Like Teen Spirit ushered in the age of grunge with a look back to one of Nirvana’s most legendary performances of the anthemic mega-hit!

Smells Like Teen Spirit was more than a hit single, it was a cultural revolution, creating an alt-rock sonic blueprint that would define a generation, an era and even a way of life. For grunge fans around the world, it marked the moment that “anti-authoritarian ventilation” became the hot topic of the popular lexicon. 

In 1991, Nirvana had been together for four years and earned themselves VIP cult status with the debut album Bleach – a classic in its own right – but the blistering lead single from their follow up LP Nevermind would launch them into a stratosphere of fame the trio surely never dreamed possible. Whether it was the song’s sentiment or timing, or even Cobain’s vaguely sexual lyrical themes, it resonated with listeners on a mass global scale and wrote its writers – incidentally Smells Like Teen Spirit is the only Nirvana song credited to all three members – into the history books of rock. 

Even the origins of the song’s title is a priceless slice of rock history! It was born from the phrase “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit” which was scribbled on Cobain’s bedroom wall by his friend, and fellow grunge superstar Kathleen Hanna, of riot grrrl heroines Bikini Kill. She was referencing a girl’s deodorant brand Teen Spirit worn by her bandmate and Cobain’s then-girlfriend, Tobi Vail; but he seemingly took it as an invitation to revolution.

A few months after Smells Like Teen Spirit was released, that revolution was in full swing when Nirvana gave one of their most legendary live performances at the Paramount in their hometown Seattle. Watch them tear through song that turned them into a global phenomenon below.

Nirvana | Smells Like Teen Spirit [Live At The Paramount, Seattle, 1991]

Cobain had his own ideas about the secret to the song’s success, admitting in 1994 that he was trying to emulate the sound of one of his favourite bands, Boston alt-gods, the Pixies.

“I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it.” Cobain said. “When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.”

Earlier this year, we marked the 27th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death with a look back to their blistering rendition of their first single Love Buzz at the legendary Paramount show. Check it out below!

READ MORE: Watch Nirvana Tear Through ‘Love Buzz’ Live at the Paramount in 1991

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