Nirvana Had To Hide Their Incompetence As Musicians, Desmond Child Explains


In a recent interview with Songfacts, Desmond Child stated that grunge musicians including Nirvana, looked down while performing out of necessity rather than style, due to their limited guitar skills.

This observation was made while discussing how the emerging grunge scene had overshadowed Ratt’s 1990 album ‘Detonator,’ which Child co-wrote and co-produced. After stating that this period was difficult for the band due to member Robbin ‘King’ Crosby’s substance abuse issues.

The producer went on to explain, “At the same time, that type of music was overshadowed by Nirvana. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,‘ and the overall Seattle sound introduced grunge. It was the polar opposite of the extroverted presentations: chest out, reaching out, and looking upward. The new generation was what we’d call ‘ shoegazers’. They just looked down because they had to. Because they weren’t guitarists and couldn’t play.”

The Contrast of Nirvana In Musical Styles

Child went on to describe the musical style of shoegazers. “They could play three or four chords and struggled with it. They weren’t virtuosos like Joe Perry, Richie Sambora, Eddie Van Halen, or Steve Vai, who could light up the stage with their incredible performances. Shoegazers were more conceptual. “Some of them were art students who took up guitar.”

The Visual Identity Of Grunge

When discussing the cultural impact of grunge, Desmond emphasized the physical appearance of the artists. He said, “Their hair was in their face. They looked down, their chests were sunken in, and their clothes were baggy rather than tight. Everything was the polar opposite. That’s how it works: things swing one way, then suddenly the other. Styles can’t change like that unless you have a star, and Nirvana had one that captured everyone’s imagination.”

Differing Opinions On Kurt Cobain’s Abilities

However, Child’s viewpoint is not universally accepted. In a 2023 interview with Rolling Stone, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins stated that Kurt Cobain intentionally played dumb. It indicates a more deliberate approach to his music and public persona.

In a March 2023 interview with Howard Stern, Brian May praised Cobain as one of the greatest guitarists. He emphasized emotion and expression over technical ability. Similarly, Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen praised Cobain’s guitar playing, describing it as a pure expression of feeling.

  1. It‘s a real musical skill to writes and play music that resonates with a whole generation and sells millions of Albums

  2. Actually, that doesn’t make sense. The legacy of their music is still relevant, unlike Ratt’s.

    So, 1 + 1 =2, figure it out.

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