When Nirvana released their breakthrough album Nevermind on Sept. 24, 1991, it set in motion a massive shift in music and culture, as the world embraced the grunge revolution. Still, there were many vital elements that preceded the landmark LP.
The 1987 stock market crash, followed by the Gulf War, rendered a generation of young adults questioning what kind of future they were stepping into. Disillusioned with what was in the mainstream at the time, artists searched for new ways to express their inner turmoil. In Seattle, a perfect storm of attitude, adrenaline and experimentation was fostering a new sound.
“You always had the dream of being a rock guy, but it didn’t seem real, because you’re not living in a town where that’s where you see people that happening to,” Alice in Chains drummer Sean Kinney recalled decades later to CBS News.
With so much talent bubbling up in one place, it was inevitable that Seattle would eventually spawn rock’s new big act. Nevermind and its hit single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” would bust the dam wide open, leading to a tidal wave of grunge across the world.
“When Nevermind comes out,” explained Mark Yarm, author of Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge, “it’s sort of a dividing line between the old era and the new.”
Still, the elements of grunge didn’t form overnight. Many things had to fall into place for Nevermind to become a generation-defining release. We take a look at the bands, companies, places and trends that paved the way for Nevermind below.
Grunge Pre-Nirvana: 20 Things That Set the Stage For ‘Nevermind’
The bands, people, places and trends that paved the way for grunge’s landmark album.