More Than Just Grunge: My 20 Favorite Nirvana Songs

12.8 nirvana

From August 1986 through June 1990, I live in arguably the greatest college town ever, Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University of the Mid American Conference and known as the “Cradle of Coaches”. During that time period, Oxford, which normally has a population around 3,000 people with an extra 15,000 students who call the university home for nine months of the year, was the home to one of the nation’s legendary radio stations for alternative music, WOXY-FM, also known as “97X, The Future of Rock ‘n’ Roll!” Hands down, that station remains my all-time favorite radio station since it refused to be gobbled up by corporate radio and remained steadfast in its effort to expose the music of the underground, which was especially exciting to me.

During those years, hair metal was all the rage, but even a discerning listener as I try to be honestly could not discern whether I was hearing Motley Crue, Poison or Cinderella, let alone Warrant, Firehouse or Vixen. To me, they all sounded similar and that made the whole hair metal scene boring to me who loves diversity in his music. So, naturally, I migrated to the burgeoning alternative rock scene as described by 97X’s playlist.

During those years, I got to hear and fall in love with the music of the Replacements, Husker Du, The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pixies and so many others that I continue to listen to today. Back in 1988, two new bands who both had just released their debut albums caught my ears. The bands were the little power trio from Seattle called Nirvana and a guy who played all of his instruments but gave himself a band’s name, Nine Inch Nails. I distinctly remember hearing these bands in the old 1978 Chevy Malibu Classic that we bought from my wife’s cousin who rebuilt cars as a hobby/business. This car had a 350 engine in it and could fly. But, since it was something of a back-up family car, the carburetor rarely got blown out. Her cousin had put this powerful stereo in the car, so they would nothing like hearing Nirvana or Nine Inch Nails blaring from those speakers. That’s my memory of hearing those bands back in the day.

Now, I have remained a fan of both bands, but like most Gen X-ers, I too love Nirvana. Yes, Kurt Cobain’s lyrics spoke to me. But, being a huge fan of the Pixies, I loved Nirvana’s application of the Pixies’ signature use of soft verses alternated with loud choruses. Then, throw in Nirvana’s ability to do this to songs with strong pop melodies and we are listening to a power pop band with the emphasis fully placed on the power. In other words, this was absolute manna to my ears.

And, as good as Nirvana’s debut album, Bleach, was, and it IS a terrific album, nothing prepared me for the sonic onslaught of their Nevermind album. The songwriting was impeccable, as well as the playing. Everything was perfect. And, still I cannot add anything new to the whole status of this very album within the context of the rock world as well as what it means to a whole generation of people who were in their teens and twenties when the album was released in the Fall of 1991. It’s as if “Smells like Teen Spirit” marks a point in time where you can describe music as being pre-“Teen Spirit” and post-“Teen Spirit”.

Like I said earlier, I really cannot give you any more insight into Nirvana nor the significance of Nevermind or “Smells like Teen Spirit” except they all represent a moment in time where music went through a seismic shift, not unlike the aftermaths of TV appearances of Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Instead, I prefer to honor Nirvana with a list of My 20 Favorite Nirvana Songs. Let the countdown begin!

  1. “All Apologies” (In Utero, 1993)
  2. “Smells like Teen Spirit” (Nevermind, 1991)
  3. “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” (MTV Unplugged in New York, 1994)
  4. “Come as You Are” (Nevermind, 1991)
  5. “Lithium” (Nevermind, 1991)
  6. “About a Girl” (MTV Unplugged in New York, 1994)
  7. “Pennyroyal Tea” (In Utero, 1993)
  8. “Heart-Shaped Box” (In Utero, 1993)
  9. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” (MTV Unplugged in New York, 1994)
  10. “In Bloom” (Nevermind, 1991)
  11. “Rape Me” (In Utero, 1993)
  12. “Love Buzz” (Bleach, 1989)
  13. “You Know You’re Right” (Nirvana, 2002)
  14. “Serve the Servants” (In Utero, 1993)
  15. “The Man Who Sold the World” (MTV Unplugged in New York, 1994)
  16. “Aneurysm” (Incesticide, 1992)
  17. “Sliver” (single, 1990)
  18. “Verse Chorus Verse” (With the Lights Out, 2004)
  19. “Negative Creep” (Bleach, 1989)
  20. “School” (Bleach, 1989)

Here’s to Nirvana! And, here’s to hoping you have a great weekend! Peace out!

Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

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