I often find it fascinating to look back at the transition periods in pop culture, and they often come about from over-exposure.
When Saturday Night Fever was the biggest album in the country for six months, a lot of people were ripping their hair out in frustration, and things had to change in a hurry.
The dividing point came in the summer of 1979, when The Knack had the #1 song for six weeks, My Sharona, and an enormous anti-disco rally was held in Chicago’s Komisky Park, where tons of disco albums were rounded up and blown to smithereens on the field. Nirvana’s Nevermind album was the dividing point for the ’90s.
People got sick and tired of the arrogance of the hair bands, and again, things had to change, quick. There was the feeling that change was coming, but it was hard to predict what would be next. According to the Kurt Cobain biography, Heavier Than Heaven, Nirvana’s label, Geffen, was hoping Nevermind would sell as well as Sonic Youth, in the 50,000 copy range.
The runaway success of Nevermind caught just about everyone by surprise, and again, many credit them for destroying the hair bands, but there were other factors that did them in, mostly their own stupid, self-destructive behavior. Many of them cursed Nirvana and their Seattle brethren for bringing their careers to a crashing halt, which they now apparently have collective amnesia about.
Case in point, with Spin magazine celebrating the anniversary of Nevermind, they wisely also talked to a number of hair band mavens who Seattle put out of business, and Nikki Sixx told the magazine, “I never understood bands saying Nirvana had anything to do with derailing their career. Maybe those bands just didn’t have the goods. You can’t pee like a puppy if you wanna run with the big dogs.”
Mr. Sixx must have forgotten that throughout most of the ’90’s Motley Crue had probably the hardest downfall of any hair band post-Seattle, and they couldn’t give their albums or concert tickets away.
Phil Collen of Def Leppard was a lot more candid when he told Spin, “At the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, we were the sacrifical lamb – it was Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Chili Peppers, and Def Leppard. People were quite hostile towards us…So when Nirvana came on, it was like, ‘Yeah, it’s gonna f*ck us a bit,’ but it was also great music.”
Reading about the Nirvana anniversary on one of my favorite websites, Blabbermouth.net, I found several fan postings that I think can finish up this story much better than I can:
“I argue with my metalhead friends all the time about this. They want to blame Nirvana for what happened to music in the 90’s. I’ll take the raw power, the enegery, the no-bullshit / no frills image and stage show, and real lyrics about real life over the prissy pansy-ass watered down bullsh*t Coors Light pop-metal of the late 80’s / early 90’s.”
“Rock had become so polished and poppy and boring, people needed something to kick them in the ass again.”
“Nevermind still sounds like it was released yesterday. That’s the true test of an album.”