The classic Nirvana song Kurt Cobain called “a mistake”

Kurt Cobain

Over the course of their careers, all artists will make at least one creative error. These roadblocks may ultimately prove beneficial in the lessons they impart or, conversely, they may present a barrier that is so difficult to overcome that it proves to be their downfall. Nirvana was one band that was very used to making mistakes, which ended up being crucial to their development.

Nevermind was the biggest mistake the band felt they had made in their entire career. Their late frontman Kurt Cobain especially believed this. Their breakthrough release and big label debut launched them to the top, heralding the arrival of grunge. This has always been a contentious topic among fans. Nevermind not only became a huge crossover hit but also revitalized the idea of a band with a guitar as the main instrument. It reset the cultural zeitgeist, establishing Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl as the quintessential Generation X act.

Cobain’s blend of pop melody and fury, drawing inspiration from The Beatles, Pixies, and hardcore punk, essentially created the blueprint for alternative rock that is still in use today. A group had not been as successful and influential in advancing music as the Fab Four and Led Zeppelin. Far from the stuffy dive bars the three played at the close of the previous decade, they were just another cult Sub Pop group. Nevermind found an audience.

Interestingly, Butch Vig’s slick production on the 1991 album was what really irritated Cobain and Nirvana. They especially grew tired of the songs that had become instantly popular. They hired punk legend Steve Albini for their third album, In Utero, because they absolutely detested stardom and the intense spotlight that their well-produced record had thrust them into. Steve Albini helped them return to the murky fuzzy days of their early years.

Kurt Cobain claimed that more than just Nevermind was a mistake in his opinion. Speaking to DIRT in 1990, Cobain referred to a pivotal early moment as “a mistake” in reference to the period that transpired between their 1989 debut Bleach and its revolutionary follow-up.

When asked if the group would be releasing another album soon, Cobain replied that Vig had recorded it. He went on to talk about the new album’s sound. He stated that while the majority of the songs were still in the vein of Nirvana—that is, raunchy and heavy. There were a few more melancholy tracks and even what he wryly referred to as “the token reggae song,” which of course was never released.

Then, the band released a version of Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz” as their Bleach debut single. There was talk of a cover appearing on the second Nirvana album. Cobain disclosed that the group had recorded an unidentified Velvet Underground song, hinting that they might not release it. However, he assured that the remaining songs would primarily be more pop-oriented. This undoubtedly became the case once the song hit the airwaves. Kurt Cobain insisted that this new direction wasn’t an attempt to get on the radio. He just always liked pop music.

At that point, Cobain called “Love Buzz” a mistake. In his opinion, it was their greatest song at the time and far superior to the original. We made a mistake with ‘Love Buzz,’ because in my opinion, it’s our best song. Nothing is worse than when a band performs an original song better than the cover. We basically rewrote that song using the rim, or the bass line. We dismantled it.

“Love Buzz” was a fantastic cover, but what came next soon eclipsed it. Nirvana’s penchant for straightforward pop would forever alter the music industry.

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