Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Twenty years ago this month, Nirvana released its Teen Spirit-anchored major-label debut, Nevermind. Expectations were modest; only 45,000 copies were pressed. To date, 30 million have sold worldwide.

"Nobody saw it coming," says Dave Grohl, 42, who founded Foo Fighters after drumming in Nirvana. "Not the label, the band, the management. Some of our friends said, 'You're going to be huge.' We said, 'Like Sonic Youth? Awesome! Woo!'"

With a sonic vibe and video look that few expected to go mainstream, Nevermind ushered in a grungy era that saw rock's creative envelope pushed to new extremes. "You can hear where we come from, American hard-core music," says bassist Krist Novoselic, 46. "On Nevermind, we were promoting bands we liked."

When Nevermind exploded into earshot in the autumn of 1991, it was startling: a grenade detonating in your car radio. It sounded like the end of something (the 1980s? hair metal?), or maybe the beginning of something ("alternative rock"? "Generation X"?). Today, the album has become so encrusted with myth, that it's hard to wrap your ears around it, to really hear it. In 2005, the Library of Congress added Nevermind to its roll call of the world's most significant recordings.

Wikipedia says:

Nevermind is the second studio album by the US rock band Nirvana, released on September 24, 1991. Produced by Butch Vig, Nevermind was the group's first release on DGC Records. Frontman Kurt Cobain sought to make music outside the restrictive confines of the Seattle grunge scene, drawing influence from groups such as the Pixies and their use of song volume dynamics.

Despite low commercial expectations by the band and its record label, Nevermind became a surprise success in late 1991, largely due to the popularity of its first single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit". By January 1992, it had replaced Michael Jackson's album Dangerous at number one on the Billboard charts. The Recording Industry Association of America has certified the album Diamond (over 10 million copies shipped), and the album has sold over 30 million copies worldwide.  Nevermind was responsible for bringing alternative rock to a large mainstream audience, and critics subsequently regard it as one of the best rock albums of all time.

As the band revealed, the recording of the album was similarly scrappy with a strong work ethic throughout; with Kurt Cobain, they rehearsed the album uninterrupted for three months and then decamped to the shabby Sound City studios in Van Nuys, California, for 16 days. They recorded live in the same room and only one studio altercation occurred when Cobain became so frustrated during the recording of "Lithium," he launched into the deranged jam that became Nevermind's secret track ("Endless, Nameless") and then smashed his guitar. "Kurt could be really mellow and sweet, and then he would flip and be really intense. That's what a lot of Nevermind and Nirvana's music is: Kurt's intensity captured," Novoselic explained.

The Nevermind sessions were rigidly focused and the downtime was inversely giddy: each night, the band hit the beach, frequented one liquor store with a sinister clown on its sign and goofed off constantly in the studio complex. "There's a popular misconception that the band traveled with this black cloud over our heads all the time, and it was so not that way," Grohl said.

Recalled Vig of one mixing session, "We were enamored with the fact that Ozzy Osbourne was in the studio next to us. We would stand outside the studio and listen to him while he sang –"

Grohl finished: "So one time, we got trashed at our hotel and wrote OZZY on our fingers. I was playing pool with Kurt when Ozzy walked in, gave us this dirty look and walked out, and we realized we all had OZZY on our fingers. It was so fucking embarrassing."

This Saturday evening I had to hang out with Nirvana, playing their live performance at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago, IL on October 12, 1991, two and a half weeks after the album was released.  As always the recording is excellent, Kurt's performance phenomonal.  We can only wonder what music he would be producing today.  But his star burned brightly for the short time he produced some really great music.

Download it here:

Hand prints on cave walls
Longing for some permanance
Gods that disappoint

Rules to be followed
Feeling like we must obey
Wearing the handcuffs

Love that has no bounds
Friendship that lasts forever
Buried underground

Public Image Limited started off the evening, with a rousing performance at the Provinssrock Festival in Finland on June 6, 1992.  More songs from their last album released in 1992, That What Is Not.  Sounds like an incomplete recording of the show, but still well worth a listen.  It certainly put me in a good mood for what followed.

Download it here:

Monday, September 26, 2011


Wednesday night in downtown Denver.  After darting through traffic, I meet up with The Beat Girl and The Bean Counter for a sumptuous dinner at a restaurant less than a block from the theater. We killed a little time before we joined a dozen other people standing at The Summit’s entry door. A light rain began to fall minutes before they opened up. We grabbed our spot at the very front, left of center.  Alot of waiting is involved if you want a front row position.

On tap this evening were the Tom Tom Club and the Psychedelic Furs, two bands that peaked back in the 1980's and are now on the road satisfying people with nostalgia for the good old days.Tom Tom Club is an American new wave band founded in 1981 by husband-and-wife team Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, both also known for being bandmembers of Talking Heads, enjoying early success in the dance club culture of the early 1980s with the hits "Genius of Love" and "Wordy Rappinghood."

The Psychedelic Furs are an English rock band founded in 1977.  Led by singer Richard Butler and his brother Tim on bass guitar, the Psychedelic Furs are one of the many acts spawned from the British post-punk scene. Their music went through several phases, from an initially austere art rock sound, later touching on new wave and hard rock.  They scored several hits in their early career, but were launched to international attention in 1986 when the film director John Hughes borrowed their song title "Pretty in Pink" for his movie of the same name.  The band has spent most of 2011 on the road, celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of their first studio album release Talk Talk Talk.

The three of us enjoyed both shows, recalling hit after hit that was played repeatedly on the radio way back when.  The crowd reacted in a very positive way, their music proving that "Who needs to think when your feet just go?"  I just wish I hadn't noticed the wrinkles gracing Tina's and Victoria's faces, time taking its toll on all of us.

Download their show here:

The Psychedelic Furs were the reason why we were here tonight. At 54, Richard Butler was more active on stage than people half his age. He and his brother, bassist Tim Butler, are the only ones who remain from the initial group, but this current six-piece has been touring together for well over a decade, so all the songs came off as good as the originals, although Richard's voice was described as "a little rough around the edges."

Age had nothing on Richard Butler Wednesday night. In front of his lifelong band the Psychedelic Furs, Butler gleefully bounced, danced (even preened) as they played a 90-minute set at Summit Music Hall. Under a pair of hip, thick-rimmed glasses, he and brother Tim (on bass) and Mars Williams (on a particularly satisfying saxophone) filled the hall with energy throughout the set, and a largely older crowd responded in kind.

The band, rounded out by three other musicians on keys, drums and guitar, traveled through a history of their post-punk material that included seminal hits like “Pretty In Pink,” “Heaven,” “Heartbreak Beat” and “Love My Way” to name a few. When the band played “Easy Street” it felt as if they’d reached a turning point, after which the rest of the set relaxed into a long release. They followed with an encore that unleashed a strong, heartbreaking “All of This and Nothing” and a rousing “Only You and I,” after which they begrudgingly left the stage for good.

Read it all here: here

What they were like back in the day:

Download the entire show here: