Nirvana's surviving members — drummer Dave Grohl and bassist Kris Novoselic — along with producer Butch Vig commemorated the 20th anniversary of the release of the classic “Nevermind” with a Town Hall meeting at SiriusXM headquarters last night, moderated by Jon Stewart. It was a loose, free-flowing night that offered plenty of insight into the album that led the alternative rock revolution of the '90s. It also made a lovely memorial to the late Kurt Cobain.
Here are 10 highlights:
1. Jon Stewart proclaimed his love of “Nevermind” and its “sonic menace.” As he described it, “It was like The Beatles swallowed Black Flag.” That's pretty accurate.
2. Even though “Nevermind” was Nirvana's major-label debut, it was still a pretty low-budget affair. Vig said the studio was rented for $600 a day. Grohl said he recently learned Vig stayed at a $90 a night hotel while Nirvana stayed at a $70 a night hotel. “$70 divided by 3,” Novoselic quickly pointed out. And even in those meager surroundings, they still felt lucky. “It didn't really seem like this would happen,” Grohl said. “It was almost like a scam.”
3. Also staying at the Oakwood Corporate Apartments with Nirvana: Europe (Grohl delivered a bit of “The Final Countdown”), various child actors and rappers Kid 'n Play, whom Grohl met at the free breakfast buffet.
4. Grohl said its success was in its simplicity. “By today's standards, it's a very simple record... That's why it sounded so huge. It was as simple as we could possibly make it.”
5. Vig asked Grohl to use a click-track (a metronome to guide his drumming) on “Lithium.” “It was like getting stuck in the heart with a rusty fork,” Grohl said. They did use the click-track, though, on “Lithium” and “Something in the Way.”
6. The finalists for “Nevermind” producers: Vig, Neil Young producer David Briggs and the great Don Dixon, who produced R.E.M. and The Smithereens. They went with Vig because of his work with new artists.
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7. The idea for the album cover came from Cobain's late-night TV watching, Grohl said. One show was a special on underwater child birth and Grohl said that after Cobain saw it, he became fascinated with images of kids in water.
8. They struggled with the idea of being so successful in the mainstream while being products of the counterculture. Novoselic said they tried to inoculate themselves from criticism by saying, “We're promoting the revolution.” (Grohl said they knew things were changing when they started seeing “people that just looked normal” at their shows.)
9. Vig said there's an unfinished song called “Song in D” from the “Nevermind” recording sessions that has no lyrics. (“Sounds like another box set!” Grohl joked.)
10. They still miss Cobain. “I wish Kurt was here,” Novoselic said. “There's a big hole here.”
(The SiriusXM Town Hall will be part of Nevermind Radio (Channel 34), a channel dedicated to the album reissue that runs on the networks through Wednesday. The Town Hall itself will be rebroadcast at noon and 6 p.m. today, 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday and noon on Tuesday.)
The 20th anniversary remastered edition of “Nevermind” will be released Tuesday as a four-CD boxed set, which includes demos, alternate mixes, BBC radio sessions and a DVD of the band's 1991 homecoming concert at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, and in a two-CD version and four-LP version.