Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a big deal, as it’s not only the band’s defining song, but one of the signature songs of the ’90s overall. When Nirvana was recording the song, though, they didn’t think it was a big deal, as Dave Grohl reveals.
NME recently ran a feature where they got different artists to share their thoughts on a song from Nevermind, and for “Teen Spirit,” they got Grohl. First, he reminisced about the recording process of the song, saying:
“I remember writing ‘Teen Spirit’ in our rehearsal space, and I liked the riff that Kurt came up with because it’s percussive. Those muted, stabbing strums in between the chords really lent 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 boom box recordings of all of these — riff ideas that were never used, songs that were shaped into songs for ‘Nevermind’ (some of them).”
Then, he revealed that “Teen Spirit” wasn’t high in the band’s pecking order while making Nevermind:
“Of course, no-one had any psychic foresight to imagine that the song would go on to do what it did. We just f*ckin’ 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 realized 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’; 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.”
Check out the full feature — which also offers insights from St. Vincent, Ronnie Vannucci of The Killers, and others — here.