In 1991 I was 30 years old, married, had a one year old child, a suit and tie job, a house, a mortgage and a dog. In short, domestic bliss, the American dream, conformity, what was expected of me, a sale out. Eight years earlier, in college, I was a long hair, ear-ring wearing, shaggy beard, dope smoking, non-conformist. How I got off-track, or for some, got on track in eight short years I no longer remember. I could blame it on a girl, or maybe maturity, or some self-realization that came over me passing a bong around. Whatever happened, it happened, good, bad or indifferent.
The one “edge” that I kept was music. I didn’t succumb to listening to the benign country music that my friends were listening to, a bland mix of three simple chords. Songs about heartache, trucks, drunks and trains. I found new music, new artists singing songs about restlessness, chaos, turmoil, and anarchy. I decided if I couldn’t live it I could at least listen to it.
Finding this music 25 years ago was difficult. It required work, research and hours spent in the “Cool” record shop in my white shirt and tie amongst the dirty t-shirt and blue jean skateboard crowd. Our community had eight FM radio stations, three country, one soul/rap, one gospel, one educational, one religious, and one lame ass rock station. None of these stations played my music so the most important piece of equipment in my car was the cassette player, when it died it was time to trade the car in.
During this time Washington state, specifically Seattle, seemed to be the epicenter of a developing new music scene, a genre entitled Grunge by the media. It was an alternative sound that harkened back to the simple days of rock before electronic synthesizers dominated the top 40. The music was raw, loud and emotional, strip down to the basics, a guitar, bass, and a drum. 2,700 miles away I had found a sound to fill the hole in my music soul.
I had heard rumblings about this group, three guys lead by a quirky singer-songwriter- guitar player that could make a lot of noise. Late in 1991, Nevermind was released and the speakers in my car never recovered from the strain. From Nirvana I learned about Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Stone Temple Pilots music I still listen to as a 55-year-old with a much better stereo system, and sub-woofer, in his car.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Nevermind. The tributes have poured in about how this record changed music, some have gone so far as to say changed the world. I am not sure about that but 25 years ago, a 30-year-old, wrapped up tight in a world expected of him got a little break, a little respite from all of his obligations and responsibilities driving around town in his Honda Accord with the stereo turned up as loud as it would go.
“I’m worse at what I do best, And for this gift, I feel blessed, Our little group has always been, And always will until the end” – Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit“