My little brother is turning 30 this week which makes me feel old. Nirvana's 1991 album Nevermind celebrates its 20th anniversary this September, which makes me feel old on a number of different levels. I was a little kid when my brother was born, but sometimes I still feel like the same person I was when Nirvana broke big. And twenty years have passed. Whoa, scary.
Free association or my spontaneous, logically unconstrained and undirected association of ideas, emotions, and feelings related to this milestone:
* I turned 15 in September of 1991. Sophomore year. I met my boyfriend’s best friend at the Sam Goody in Headquarters Plaza after a movie. He told me that I had “Mariah Carey hair” which I took as a great compliment. We went to Pizza Hut. He later introduced me to the guy that would become my boyfriend. The boyfriend worked at Alwik Records at The Livingston Mall. This was perhaps the coolest job in the world to a 15 year old.
* That boyfriend made me a lot of mix tapes. Some I still have. One was a recording of Nirvana’s Bleach. I loved 'Love Buzz' and played it on my Walkman all the time. I also “danced” to it in our basement, meaning I ran back and forth across the room and punched the walls.
* That song was later featured in the opening sequence of the craptastic Drew Barrymore movie, Mad Love. I did not think it was craptastic at the time. It was sooooo real because you know, she was crazy and all, and suicidal people are so cool. And deep.
* I bought Nevermind on cassette at Alwik. Or more likely, I may have stolen it. Either way, it was a cassette that I later replaced with a CD when I got my first CD player for Christmas. My Aunt Joanie bought it for me, along with L7’s Bricks are Heavy. I like to think of her, in her preppy Lands End gear, asking for that at the record store. ‘Shitlist’ still plays on heavy rotation on my commute.
* With Nevermind came “alternative,” and suddenly there was a word for me. Still weird, but now with a marketing term. I ate that up. I had combat boots and flannels and concert tees and fishnets and lots of Converse sneakers. My boyfriend always wore two different colored Converse All Stars. I was grounded for trying to dye my hair pink with Kool Aid. I was in Hot Topic’s target market before there was probably a Hot Topic.
* Lots of popular girls suddenly wanted to be “alternative.” This is probably when I first really, and truly, became a pretentious asshole because I loved that I had found that music first and was all, ‘oh, Nevermind is okaaaaay, but Bleach was so much more independent and raw. Oh, you've never heard of it? Interesting.’ I think I have out grown this trait, but probably not really?
* ‘Breed’ was my favorite song on the album.
* They started to play ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ at school dances. Or they would play the first few chords and everyone would freak out and mosh, and then the lights in the cafeteria would come up and the assistant principal would warn against the school’s strict ‘no moshing’ policy.
* You know the story: Kurt Cobain came up with the song's title when Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill (also had multiple cassette tapes) spray painted "Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit" on his wall. Kathleen Hanna came to a Take Back the Night rally at Syracuse. She played Yoko Ono records on a Fisher Price record player. Holy shit, she was cool.
* I was on a school trip to Europe in April 1994. My dad ran it and the boys from his school couldn’t believe that the strict assistant principal’s daughter was “alternative.” I was really jet lagged when we got home and watched the MTV News Breaking report that Kurt Cobain had died. I cried. My mother rolled her eyes.
* I felt like Nirvana was yelling with me when I listened to their music. I didn't know what I was so angry about, but I was angry at everyone and everything.
* I went to a wedding in 2003 and after everyone got drunk, the DJ played 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' and EVERYONE rushed the dance floor, moshing and beating the crap out of each other. One of the brides tore her dress. All these parents and corporate workers were sweating like pigs. We probably talked about how we couldn't believe it was ten years since Nirvana broke big.
* I am equally thrilled and embarrassed to play 'Lithium' on Guitar Hero.
* My musical tastes really haven’t evolved that much since the early 90s. Or they have a little, but every time someone asks me who my favorite band is, it’s always someone that I discovered during that time – the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Pavement, etc.
* That said, I would never, ever want to be 15 again. Even though I was kind of cool. Comparatively speaking, of course.