Smells Like Teen Spirit

It was 1991 and I had just turned 14.  Junior high is some of the worst years for any kid and I was certainly not outside the norm.  Awkward, unsure of myself, wanting so badly to fit in but finding it impossible…..I think we all know those feelings.  And then one band came along and gave me and my friends something we could Identify with.

Up to this point I had been fed a dose of Credence Clearwater, Moody Blues, The Beatles, Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass and an even bigger dose of Christian music like Maranatha Praise and Amy Grant.  How can any teenager identify with love and war and God?

I was walking the half mile home from the bus one sunny afternoon in early October with my friend, Cort.  Cort had his Discman and was excitedly telling me about this band I had to hear.  I pulled the headphones over my ears as we walked and he played the first track on the CD, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  With the assault of the first chord I knew I was listening to something that would change me.  And it did.  I couldn’t put it into words then but I was finally listening to something I could connect with.  The music, the words, the angst.  I stood there not wanting to relinquish Cort’s headphones.  I listened as we flipped through the songs on Nevermind and then very reluctantly walked the rest of the way home in silence.  At my next guitar lesson I begged my guitar teacher to show me how to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come As You Are”.  I wasted no time teaching the songs to my friend and drummer, Mark, and we played them for hours (even incited a couple police visits for noise violations).  I wrote new songs that emulated Nirvana’s sound.  While everyone else was busy listening to MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice and Metallica I had found a soundtrack for my teen years.  Something that I could identify with.  Something that made me feel a little less awkward.  Something that made me feel like I wasn’t the only one that was lost.

I spent part of the day walking through the Nirvana exhibit at EMP in Seattle and it took me right back to that day I walked home and found a piece of myself in music.  Nirvana forged a new trail in music and found a way to create the soundtrack of a generation.  My generation.


~ by Stephen Baker on September 18, 2011.

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