Five surprising facts about Nirvana

Nirvana, one of the best-selling bands of all time, was instrumental in bringing the grunge movement to mainstream music. With songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come As You Are”, they pioneered a genre that welded pop with noise, featuring lyrics that contained themes of nihilism and alienation. Nirvana disbanded after Cobain’s death in 1994. Drummer Dave Grohl formed the Foo Fighters and bassist Krist Novoselic devoted himself to activism.

Here are five surprising facts you might not know about Nirvana: 

 Kurt Cobain worked as a janitor at the high school he dropped out of 

“‘Twilight’ meets Nirvana” by quinn.anya is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain dropped out of Aberdeen High School a few weeks before graduation, but briefly worked there as a janitor to help finance Nirvana’s first demo. The dancing janitor in the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a nod to that job.


Dave Grohl was not the original drummer. 

“Dave Grohl 1989” by Tobby Holzinger / Agentur Spirit is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Even though pre-Foo Fighters Grohl is an iconic member of the grunge band, he wasn’t the group’s original drummer. Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic were in the band since its inception, but the band had at least five drummers, including fellow grunge pioneers The Melvins’ Dale Crover. Melvins frontman Buzz Osbourne introduced Grohl to Cobain and Novoselic in time for the band’s 1991 album, Nevermind.


The band went through some interesting names before deciding on “Nirvana”…

…including Skid Row, Pen Cap Chew, Bliss, and Ted Ed Fred. 


Their first single was a cover 

Nirvana’s first official release was a cover of “Love Buzz” by the Dutch rock band Shocking Blue, who are best known for their 1969 song “Venus”. 


The title for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came from a joke Cobain didn’t get 

“With the lights out, its less dangerous, here we are now, entertain us” by dullhunk is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The title for Nirvana’s 1991 grunge anthem came from a graffiti scrawl that Kurt Cobain’s friend and Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna put on his wall, “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit”. Hanna meant to make fun of Cobain for wearing his girlfriend’s Teen Spirit deodorant, but Cobain didn’t know what “Teen Spirit” meant and took it as a compliment.



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