With Nevermind’s huge commercial success, Nirvana had shattered the glass ceiling: it was finally possible for alternative bands to be successful and make a living out of their music. Without it, most of us would have never heard of bands like The White Stripes or The Foo Fighters.
But after Kurt Cobain’s death, grunge fans could only sit and watch in horror at what “alternative” american music was becoming. Greedy and impatient record labels were pushing unimaginative bands to replicate Nirvana’s success. Even metal hair bands – grunge’s nemesis – were dropping glitter for flanel shirts in order to join the bandwagon. Nickelback, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park… Were they all Nirvana’s fault?
As the drugged up Seattle grunge scene was growing bigger, it started to gather interest on a national level. Gigs were now attracting clean and normal kids who were turning their backs on heavy metal, the press was becoming hysterical and record labels were fighting to find out who was going to be the next big thing: Soundgarden? Mudhoney? Alice in Chains?
The answer became obvious at the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind and their Generation X anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit. They became the first ever alternative american band to become massively successful, quickly becoming triple platinium and even beating Mickael Jackson in the charts.
This is the second part of The Road to Nirvana, a BBC 6 documentary series about the roots of Nirvana and the grunge scene. Listen to the previous part here: Part 1: The Birth of College Rock.
America, mid-80s. College rock bands are budding all around the country. But something different seems to emerge from the northern city of Seattle. Plagued by hard drugs, high suicide rates, dirty hair and plaid shirts, its a dismal place to form a band. But it’ll soon become the home of one of the biggest rock’n roll movement ever.
Local bands Green River and Screaming Trees are among the first to define that mix of punk and heavy metal that will form the characteristic sound of grunge. They’re soon followed by others, like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Mudhoney. The newly created Sub Pop record label promotes the city’s very active scene. But it’s a bunch of guys from the small town of Aberdeen who’ll be the first to really make it and achieve world domination: Nirvana, and their charismatic singer Kurt Cobain.