Flashback 1991: An Alt-Rock Classic Is Born

Twenty-five years ago this week a little-known band from Seattle called Nirvana their released their second album, Nevermind.

During a recent interview with Michael Azerrad, author of the 1993 Nirvana biography Come as You Are, CBC Radio’s Candy Palmater’s recalls: “Their label wasn’t expecting huge sales—they only shipped a few thousand copies—but then MTV and [the Canadian channel] Much Music started playing the video for its first single ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.' And they started playing it a lot.”

Those were the days when MTV was a powerhouse, driving radio airplay and record sales around the country. By January 1992, Nevermind had snowballed into a monster hit, claiming the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart and replacing Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. It went on to sell more than 20 million copies and transformed pop culture along the way.

Why did the album strike such a huge chord at the time?

“Kids were kind of hungering for something like this," Azerrad said. "Before there were the so-called hair farmer middle bands, a lot of fluffy dance pop, and a lot of stuff that was pretty cynically calculated to appeal to younger audiences by a baby boomer music industry. And, meanwhile, all throughout the ‘80s, there was this underground movement, an indie scene bubbling under making music that was by, for, and about this very audience. People really hungered for something that spoke to them and then Nevermind came along and…bang—there it was.”

Listen to the CBC Radio podcast of the interview here (click the arrow on the top right of the page.