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Dave Grohl on writing Smells Like Teen Spirit: We just thought it was another cool song for the record…”

Dave Grohl recalls that people were more focussed on the likes of In Bloom, Lithium and Breed when working on Nirvana’s Nevermind…

With Nirvanas iconic second album Nevermind turning a whopping 30 years old this Friday (September 24), Dave Grohl has reflected on the writing of the record’s legendary opening track and classic single Smells Like Teen Spirit, admitting that it wasn’t a song the band were hugely focussed on at the time.

Speaking to NME, the Foo Fighters frontman says the song was written at Nirvana’s rehearsal space, recalling that of how it started to come about: I liked the riff that Kurt [Cobain] came up with because it’s percussive. Those muted, stabbing strums in-between the chords really leant to the pattern of the drum riff. 

To be honest, at that point, we were listening to a lot of Pixies – it was Bossa Nova [era]. And we were just having fun, really. We were just coming up with new song after new song every day. Krist Novoselic, I believe, has boombox recordings of all of these – riff ideas that were never used, songs that were shaped into songs for Nevermind – some of them.”

Read this: The 50 best albums from 1991

Going on to discuss Teen Spirit’s colossal impact, Dave continues, Of course, no-one had any psychic foresight to imagine that the song would go on to do what it did. We just fuckin’ rocked it in a little rehearsal space that was like a barn. I didn’t know what the lyrics were; Kurt’s melody pattern changed every other time we played it and it wasn’t really until we got into the studio to record it that I realised the power of the song. And not just lyrically or musically, but the groove of the song – it was really powerful. 

I think everyone was more focused on songs like In Bloom or Lithium or Breed,” he admits, nobody really paid too much attention to Teen Spirit while we were recording it. We just thought it was another cool song for the record.”

Imagine writing Smells Like Teen Spirit and thinking that it’s just another cool song’… damn.

Read this: 11 bands and artists who wouldn’t be here without Nirvana

Posted on September 22nd 2021, 11:45a.m.
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