The Nirvana song Kurt Cobain called an embarrassment to play

Kurt Cobain

Nirvana is the band that best embodies grunge, and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the song that best embodies grunge. The song debuted in 1991 as the first taste of their sophomore album Nevermind. It combined subtly ominous verses with a booming chorus and nonstop “Hello” repetitions. It was catchy and cool at the same time, drawing in young people who were looking for something more grungier and more substantial after growing weary of hair metal.

However, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” wasn’t limited to critics and college students in the early 1990s. With a riff that still draws aspiring guitarists to the song, the single has grown to become one of the most beloved and well-known songs of all time in the decades since its release. It would be difficult to locate a grunge playlist without “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on it.

Although “Smells Like Teen Spirit” would go on to become a Nirvana staple and the soundtrack of choice for grunge and 1990s youth, the band itself soon became weary of it. They became so enamoured with the song and its success that they had a complex relationship with it. At one point, Kurt Cobain even called it “an embarrassment to play.”

The front man for grunge talked about leaving “Smells Like Teen Spirit” off of their set list that evening in an interview with Rolling Stone. He said, “I would have to sit in the catering room for five minutes to learn the guitar solo on “Teen Spirit.” I don’t even remember the solo. He continued by expressing his distaste for the song’s popularity, especially the way it came to eclipse his other works.

Kurt Cobain remarked, “There are so many other songs I’ve written that are as good, if not better,” using the song “Drain You” as an illustration. “Drain You,” had grunge-inspired guitars and oddly romantic lyrics. It was just as catchy as its iconic Nevermind song “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Cobain sings, “You’re my vitamins; I like you.”

Drain You” may have been equally deserving of recognition and a spot in their repertoire. However, its release didn’t have the same impact as “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Cobain speculated that he might not have enjoyed it as much if it had. This seems to imply that the frontman’s embarrassment about “Smells Like Teen Spirit” had more to do with the response the song generated than the song’s actual quality.

It makes sense that Cobain’s and his bandmates became resentful of “Smells Like Teen Spirit“‘s success. Having a single that outshines all others in your repertoire can be quite frustrating. This single can overshadow the rest of your work with unbeatable success levels.

Smells Like Teen Spirit” is still Nirvana’s signature song after 30 years. However, it’s also only one example of the high calibre of their discography. Nearly every song on Nevermind’s album or throughout their discography could have become popular in the same way. Throughout their seven-year career, they released a tonne of songs that were just as catchy and just as cool. These songs were just as deserving of the reputation that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” had. They were also just as likely to elicit disapproval from the band.

Even though Kurt Cobain might have felt embarrassed performing the song live, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was only a portion of the accolades their entire discography deserved.

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