Friday marks the 25th anniversary of the song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Written by Nirvana and its inimitable front man Kurt Cobain, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was featured on the band's second studio album, Nevermind. What became known as the anthem of Generation X, the song’s infectious lyrics and unforgettable melody continue to inspire legions of musicians and epitomized the ‘90s grunge/alternative rock music scene.
In honor of the single’s quarter-of-a-century anniversary, here are eight quick facts about the song that helped to define the grunge movement.
Kurt Cobain was attempting to write a hit song that was similar in style to The Pixies. In a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone, Cobain said: “I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first times, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band – or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.”
When Cobain first played the song for band mates, it was just the main riff and the chorus melody for vocals.
In August 1990, Cobain and Kathleen Hanna of the band Bikini Kill were hanging out when Hanna wrote “Kurt smells like teen spirit” in sharpie all over the wall of a motel. The slogan is what inspired the song's title, UpVenue reported.
As the story goes, Hanna’s slogan was in reference to the Teen Spirit deodorant Tobi Vali -- who dated Cobain at the time – wore.
Nirvana recorded the song at Sound City recording studio in California with producer Butch Vig in May of 1991.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the radio in August 1991 and was later released as the lead single on the band’s album Nevermind.
The song reached certified platinum and climbed to number two on Rolling Stone’s list of best singles of the year. It hit number six on Billboard singles chart the same week Nevermind was listed as number one on its albums chart, according to Billboard archives.
Cobain later grew uncomfortable with the meteoric success of the song and its being labeled as the anthem of the generation. In the interview with Rolling Stone he said, “I still like playing ‘Teen Spirit, but it’s almost an embarrassment to play it […] Everyone has focused on that song so much.”
Watch the original music video below for Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."