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In search of Nirvana

20 settembre 2011

Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic e Kurt Cobain (6 marzo 1991)

scritto da Lauren Spencer per The Observer

Twenty years ago on a hot, smelly mess of an August day, the kind New York City does so well, I crossed the lobby of a swanky hotel in Manhattan to interview a band. They were in town to promote their first major-label release, Nevermind, and because I worked for Spinmagazine, I’d been sent an advance of the music. It had caused me to miss my stop on the subway so confused and smitten was I by the soft and hard edges of the tunes and lyrics coming through my headphones. So I was heading up to meet these guys who called themselves Nirvanaand find out for myself how they put heaven and hell into each of the songs.

When I stepped into their closet-sized room – twin beds, one chair, one table – I was met by Kurt Cobain, singer- songwriter, guitarist, and David Grohl, the man of drums. Bassist Krist Novoselic had a prior engagement and was not able to join us. That they looked not so much like up-and-coming rock stars as kids whose parents had left them to their own devices – and whose activities may have included bouncing on the beds and making prank phone calls – was heartening, as I was thoroughly sick of the slick interviews I’d been encountering with top-40 rock outfits. Our conversation encompassed homemade tattoos and why Cobain chose the K symbol for his, representing the Washington indie label of the same consonant; that night’s free-for-the-fans Metallica party at Madison Square Gardens that they were eager to get into; and how much they loved the trailblazing Sonic Youth.

The fact that within the next few years Nirvana would pave the way for Sonic Youth and other like-minded alternative groups to find a larger audience, as Nevermind toppled pop giant Michael Jackson from his number one spot on the US Billboard charts, was impossible to forecast from this early 90s vantage point, where Bryan Adams’s “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” had been dominating both British and American airwaves for weeks. There was something in this Seattle-based band’s songs, live performance and attitude that quickly set the rock ‘n’ roll industry on its ear, so that what had once been considered an underground sound would emerge to wreak havoc on conventional record chart rankings and traditional music business models.

When I left to go on holiday to Greece the next week, I took Nirvana’s music with me. The band imprinted my vacation with incongruities: the clear blue beauty of the Aegean sea and the fuzz-fest mayhem of “Territorial Pissings”, a hot shimmering Mediterranean sun infected with the chilling strains of “Polly”. It all clashed so beautifully that it woke me up from the Guns N’Roses/Mötley Crüe-like torpor I’d been sunk into of late.

I certainly wasn’t alone in responding to that call, as I witnessed on 24 September 1991, the day of Nevermind’s release, when I went to Boston to see Nirvana live for the first time. The show was at a club called the Axis, which was apt, since the earth really did seem to shift during their performance. The energy was palpable from the first notes of their cover of the Vaselines’s “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” and through to their own single “Dive”. The notes screamed and bounced off the walls, sweat flew from onstage and off, all combined with incredible melodies while hundreds of kids shook the foundation of the building in their abandon.

There was a sense that the wall separating so-called mainstream music from what was real and raw was being pounded into rubble in front of our eyes by Nirvana’s aural celebration and rage. That it all blew completely apart three short years later on 5 April 1994 when Cobain put a shotgun to his head was both inconceivable and, strangely, almost inconsequential, because though both his life and the band came to a tragic and much-too-early end with that trigger pull, Nirvana’s legacy had lodged deeply in the public’s consciousness and changed music for ever.

(continua su The Observer)

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