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 Everett True

Everett True revisits Nevermind (reprint from eMusic)

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In 1991, I was living in a one-man bachelor pad in Cricklewood, London. I was a staff writer for the U.K. music paper Melody Maker. During any given week, I would either be drunk in America, drunk on a plane to America or writing up my experiences, drunk in America.

I’d been at Melody Maker for a couple of years, and already had one notable story to my credit. It was my two-part cover article on Seattle label Sub Pop Records in February 1989 that was credited with breaking “grunge” – Nirvana, Tad, Mudhoney, Soundgarden – to the world. (I remain unconvinced. Wouldn’t I be, like, a multi-millionaire if that was the case, instead of a student struggling to support three kids and a wife on a research grant?)

At the start of the ’90s, I was closely associated with music coming from the Pacific Northwest of America, be it grunge (Seattle) or Riot Grrrl and the International Pop Underground (Olympia), and wrote countless articles around it. One such article was a review of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that appeared in i>Melody Maker, Nov. 9, 1991, a couple of weeks before its official U.K. release date.

I thought it might be interesting to go back through this review, and pick it apart in an attempt to explain what was going through my head as I wrote it. First, we’ll have the review and then, the breakdown.


“Pull up a chair, there won’t be a warmer sound for years,” I wrote in Melody Maker. “Heck, I know this is a week early and everything, but I couldn’t resist. I rushed out and bought this on import like it was the very first time.

“The part I like best for tonight occurs third time through when Kurt sings, ‘I found it hard/ So hard to find/ Oh well/ Whatever…never mind’ and nearly gives up, sounding all bruised and little-boy hurt, like a favourite toy truck battered and chipped, hidden ‘neath your brother’s bed. He’s this close to chucking it all in, but then the inexhaustible chorus breaks through, the bravado guitars rush in, and you start wondering if the world’s turned mad, that people like Axl Rose and Perry Farrell and Motley Crüe can dig something as poppy, as puritanical, as passionate as this. The metal world must be yearning for credibility real bad if they’re willing to embrace such avowed anti-rockers.

“Single of the year, in case you were wondering how to fill in those Readers’ Polls.”

“Pull up a chair, there won’t be a warmer sound for years,”

I believe the choice of words is deliberate. At the time, grunge was everywhere. Grunge = dirty = noisy = messy = belligerent. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was all of this, but it sounded like far more. The words “cleaned up” never entered my lexicon, but it was always clear that this song was going to appeal to a greater section of the population than just me and my Sonic Youth-loving friends. I figured it had to be down to the way the drums came crashing in, and the main refrain. I knew this song was the big one, even though “In Bloom” was way superior, and “Lithium” would reduce me to tears every time I saw it performed live. I’d been sent a pre-release tape of the album, months earlier, and thought it a right wheeze to put the “hello, hello, hello, hello” section on my answer phone. Man, I was sick of that song even before it was released.

I wrote in Melody Maker.

I met Nirvana on my first visit to Seattle: They told me they were competitive tree-climbers and fishermen and Satan-worshippers back in their adopted hometowns of Tacoma and Olympia. I believed them. Why wouldn’t I? I was experiencing more alcohol and loud heavy music and colored vinyl than I’d experienced my whole life. And I collected colored vinyl.

“Heck, I know this is a week early and everything, but I couldn’t resist. I rushed out and bought this on import like it was the very first time.”

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but music critics just do not behave this way. It’s not cool to exhibit a passion for music. I have no idea why. A few months before this review was written, I’d bumped into Nirvana in the throes of recording Nevermind. I was at a Hollywood Palladium show, rolling around the floor with Courtney Love; we were drunkenly punching one another, trying to roll underneath the velvet rope that separated the VIP area from the common herd, though I think security had us pegged. I’d never met her before. Kurt Cobain saw us, raced over, and joined in. It was clear we were having more fun than the rest of the place combined. He’d never met her before, either. I woke up the next morning in Nirvana’s rented L.A. apartment, naked underneath a glass coffee table, the entire place smashed to smithereens, my photographer and Krist Novoselic still awake, surrounded by a thick cloud of dope smoke. I raced out into the street, and flagged down a taxi.

“The part I like best for tonight occurs third time through when Kurt sings, ‘I found it hard/ So hard to find/ Oh well/ Whatever … never mind’ and nearly gives up, sounding all bruised and little boy hurt, like a favourite toy truck battered and chipped, hidden ‘neath your brother’s bed.

Credit where credit is due. Before Courtney “made it” with Kurt, we would discuss him – among many other topics. She was the one who fed me the “little-boy hurt” line (a facet of his persona that was obviously crucial to his whole appeal). He sounds battered, figuratively, on Nevermind, and especially on this song. No amount of polishing can hide that. The “favourite toy truck” line is mine. I come from a family of six children, four boys. We had to share everything.

He’s this close to chucking it all in, but then the inexhaustible chorus breaks through, the bravado guitars rush in,

I love music that sounds on the edge of perpetual breakdown, which is certainly what Nirvana’s live shows felt like during 1990-92, which of course is why they were so enthralling. Spontaneity! It’s at the heart of most great rock ‘n’ roll music.

and you start wondering if the world’s turned mad, that people like Axl Rose and Perry Farrell and Motley Crüe can dig something as poppy, as puritanical, as passionate as this.

I didn’t have much respect for these people and neither did Kurt. Can you tell? And I didn’t differentiate between shit I didn’t like and shit I didn’t like. Harking back to that previous note, that night at the Hollywood Palladium…Kurt and I ended up back at the same apartment, by a circuitous route (and only after Krist Novoselic had hooked a plastic bag over my ears to catch the vomit). Courtney drove away on the back of Dave Grohl’s motorbike.

The metal world must be yearning for credibility real bad if they’re willing to embrace such avowed anti-rockers.

And MTV, too! And MTV, too…

“Single of the year, in case you were wondering how to fill in those Readers’ Polls.”

I’m still shocked at how long the song is. Five minutes! Hardly the Ramones. As to the album it heralds…I like pretty much all of it still. I don’t give a fuck about the polish and the gloss because it’s hard to experience it any other way, still find “Lithium” nearly unbearably moving, “Teen Spirit” irritatingly familiar, “Drain You” underrated, the whole of the second side wonderfully droll. I can’t help thinking about my friend Tobi Vail (Kurt’s second Olympia girlfriend), whom many of these songs were directed at; and I can listen to it, 20 years on, without wanting to punch walls anymore.

Well, mostly.

Read more: http://www.emusic.com/music-news/spotlight/everett-true-revisits-nevermind/#ixzz1r7GkFTat

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