The details have been lost in history. Back when the internet was young and mash-ups were a thing there was a creepy choral version of Nirvana’s biggest hit doing the rounds on the MySpace Pages and mixtapes of many a post millennial indie kid.
I confess I used it as intro music for an epic set I played at a friends 30th birthday party and literally a dozen people asked me what the hell I played at the start of the set? How did I get it? Why was I such a creepy DJ? Was I really going to eat all that cake? Etc. The Birthday boy? Well he loved it.
*For the record trivia fans I cross faded it with the demonic intro on Gene Simmons Solo Kiss album hit Radioactive*
You’d have loved it too.
This song doesn’t get to be objectively listened to anymore. The original that is. It’s become a totem. The Smells Like Teen Spirit Story isn’t even about the 90’s in this day and age. The track represents so much to so many it’s an anthem of defiance, a portrait of alienation, It’s a place, a time, a mood, a perennial. It’s new to every teenager since 1991 at some point. It’s Smoke On The Water or Stairway To Heaven or American Idiot to first timers with guitars.
It takes a serious reinvention of it to hear a lot of what is in there. I was going to lead with Tori Amos stellar piano version from one of her early “contemporary to the original” B-Sides. Before I did, I realized I would be putting it in comparison with the Patti Smith bodhran and stomp cover version I posted a very long time ago in one of the first ever theme weeks on this site (Right here!). That and Lana Del Rey’s take on Heart Shaped Box earlier in the week (see “Scandalous Update!” for all the latest news) seemed ‘of a similar ilk’ so I zigged when I should have zagged.
Of course really famous songs get quite a lot of cover versions. so we’ll start with the Scala version.
Then I’ll post Tori’s excellent version because I feel I’d have short changed you if I don’t
Beyond that there are countless versions. Like the Joan Jett and Nirvana Tribute from the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (reprised at CalJam18 with Brody Dalle On Bass!!!)
There’s cash grabbing whatthefuckery for people who seem to like musicianship but know sweet FA about music with 2Cello’s
And there’s the hideousness of homogenized mass product grasping for credibility by striking the pose and missing the point like you would not believe
Asshats on award shows cover this song now if their hair is styled louder than their vocal ability or if they are doing ‘rock week’.
I’m spiraling here so I’m going to pull it all back into the light before I leave you for the day.
I’m going to leave you with one of the greatest things to come from the grunge era. Weird Al Yankovic went to a lot of effort to get Smells Like Nirvana as accurate as he did. HE even hired the same venue and extras to appear in his video that are in the original.
Whenever anyone accuses the Grunge Era of being humourless cry babies who spoiled all the fun in rock music I remember mosh pits thrashing to Nirvana in alternative clubs but kids yelling at each other
‘It’s hard to bargle nawdle zouss! With all these marbles in my mouth’