When Music Defines A Chapter In Your Life
Over the weekend I read a New Yorker magazine feature about the history of Nirvana and their breakthrough album “Nevermind”. The article is part of the New Yorker’s Touchstone series, which explores the cultural significance of major moments in music history. If, like me, you’re a child of 80s and a young adult of the 90s, this one’s for you. As I read this particular article I was struck by two of my own transformative moments which both happened courtesy of Nirvana.
The first instance occurred in my junior year of college. As a music-loving 20-yo I was perusing my local record store in Oxford, OH. (Yes, those were a real thing back in the day.) This particular store would feature the top 20 albums from the Billboard Charts in rank-ordered bins. When I visited the store in mid-January 1992 bins 2-20 were overflowing with CDs ranging from Michael Jackson to Poison, but bin #1 was completely empty. When I asked the clerk what was in that bin she just said Nirvana. I actually didn’t even know if Nirvana was a person, plant or mineral, so I just pretended to understand what she was talking about with a blank stare. Then I rushed back to my off-campus apartment and turned on MTV (also a thing back then), just in time to catch the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video. I instantly knew I was witnessing a rock revolution first hand.
My second Nirvana moment happened on Friday, April 8th 1994 at 2:45p EST. I know the exact time because I was sitting in my car in a Farmington, CT parking lot, preparing to go into a local business for a sales call. I was a young radio seller in my first real job out of college – I loved music (my product!) and had become a huge grunge fan thanks to Nirvana and similar “Seattle Scene” groups. At that moment the DJ came on the air to announce Kurt Cobain’s death from a suicide three days earlier. Even though everyone knew Cobain was deeply trouble by heroine and depression, the news still hit me hard. It wasn’t just the sadness of losing Cobain. It was the shock of abruptly ending the coolest chapter of my musical fandom, which lasted just 28 months for me.
So there you have it – the musical heartbeat of a young adult me, book ended on either side by touchstone Nirvana moments. As I look back a quarter century later I still love anything grunge, and am proud to have stayed professionally connected to my passion for music. I think I can safely thank Nirvana for this.