Nirvana was an American rock band originating from Aberdeen, Washington. With the lead single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" from their 1991 album Nevermind, Nirvana exploded into the mainstream, bringing along with it a subgenre of alternative rock called "grunge". Other Seattle grunge bands such as Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden also gained in popularity, and, as a result, alternative rock became a dominant genre on radio and music television in the United States during the early-to-middle 1990s.
As Nirvana's frontman, Kurt Cobain found himself referred to in the media as the "spokesman of a generation", with Nirvana the "flagship band" of "Generation X". Cobain was uncomfortable with the attention and placed his focus on the band's music, challenging the band's audience with their third studio album In Utero. While Nirvana's mainstream popularity waned somewhat in the months following its release, their core audience cherished the band's dark interior, particularly after their 1993 performance on MTV Unplugged.
Nirvana's brief run ended with the death of Cobain in April of 1994, but the band's popularity expanded in the years that followed. Eight years after Cobain's death, "You Know You're Right", an unfinished demo that the band recorded two months prior to Cobain's death, topped radio playlists around the world. Since their debut, the band has sold more than sixty million albums worldwide (see also Best selling music artists), including more than ten million copies of Nevermind in the US alone. Nirvana remains a consistent presence on radio stations worldwide.
Cobain and Krist Novoselic met in 1985. Both were fans of The Melvins, and often hung out at the band's practice space. After a couple of false starts at forming their own band, the duo recruited drummer Aaron Burckhard, creating the first incarnation of what would eventually become Nirvana. Cobain later described the sound of the band when they first started as "a Gang of Four and Scratch Acid ripoff." Within a few months, Burckhard was fired from the band. He was temporarily replaced by Dale Crover of The Melvins, who played on the band's first demos. Dave Foster then began a brief tenure as the band's drummer.
During its initial months, the band went through a series of names, including Skid Row, Pen Cap Chew, and Ted Ed Fred. The band finally settled on Nirvana in early 1988, playing their first show under the name that March. A couple of months later, the band finally settled on a drummer, Chad Channing.
Nirvana's first official release was the single "Love Buzz/Big Cheese" in 1988. In 1989, the band released its first album, Bleach, on Sub Pop Records. The record had a limited first pressing of 1000 white vinyl records that were sold at the Lamefest in Seattle on August 8, 1989. Bleach was highly influenced by The Melvins, by the heavy dirge-rock of Mudhoney, and by the 70s rock of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Novoselic noted in a 2001 interview with Rolling Stone that the band had played a tape in their van while on tour that had an album by The Smithereens on one side and an album by the black metal band Celtic Frost on the other, and noted that the combination probably played an influence as well. Bleach became a favorite of college radio stations nationally, but gave few hints of where the band would find itself two years later.
The money for the recording sessions for Bleach, listed as $606.17 on the album sleeve, was supplied by Jason Everman. Everman was introduced to Cobain by Dylan Carlson, but had known Channing since the fifth grade. Everman began hanging out with the band, and offered to loan the money to them for the recording. Though Everman did not actually play on the album, he was credited for playing guitar on Bleach because, according to Novoselic, they "wanted to make him feel more at home in the band." After the album was completed, Everman had a brief and contentious stay with the band as a second guitar player, but was sacked following their first US tour. Not long after, he briefly played bass with Soundgarden before joining the band Mind Funk.
In early 1990, the band began working with producer Butch Vig on recordings for the follow-up to Bleach. During the sessions, Kurt and Krist realized that Chad was not the drummer the band needed, and he was let go after the sessions were complete. After a few weeks with Dale Crover of The Melvins filling in, they hired Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters, with whom they recorded the song "Sliver". Later that year, Buzz Osborne of The Melvins introduced them to Dave Grohl, who was looking for a new band following the sudden break-up of D.C. hardcore punks Scream.
* 1989: Bleach
* 1991: Nevermind
* 1993: In Utero