Monday, May 03, 2021

"I could feel history happening"

I've written several times before about the profoundly revelatory experience that was hearing Nevermind, and in particular 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', for the first time - most prominently in this 2003 post. It was absolutely everything: the single most important gateway musical drug I've ever encountered, leading to a wealth of amazing discoveries; a Year Zero for my CD collection; and the catalyst for an obsession with music that endures to this day.

So I fully understand how Nabil Ayers felt on witnessing the first ever public performance of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', at the OK Hotel in Seattle on 17th April 1991: "The more I thought about 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', the more it felt as if the three everyday people I hadn't even intended to see that night had just rendered my entire previous musical life useless. Nothing I'd heard or seen was as meaningful as what I'd seen that night. Nothing ever would be again."

That he was only there by a quirk of fate makes his story all the more remarkable.* By winding up at that show rather than at the oversubscribed Alice In Chains gig being filmed at a secret location for inclusion in Cameron Crowe's Singles - a portrait of the Seattle scene that was horribly outdated by the time of its release in September 1992, thanks largely to the way Nevermind had exploded - Ayers can claim to have ended up somewhat serendipitously on the right side of history.

(*Although perhaps not quite as remarkable as the tale of what Mark Lanegan was doing before witnessing his first Nirvana show. If you've read Sing Backwards And Weep, you'll know...)

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