The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #406 …In Bloom by Nirvana.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #406: In Bloom by Nirvana.

“In Bloom” comes from the most successful and influential album of the last quarter century, “Nevermind”. “Nevermind” was the second album released by Nirvana. It was released in 1991. It contains such stellar hits as “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Lithium”, “Come As You Are”, “Polly”, Territorial Pissings” and “In Bloom”.

When Kurt Cobain was writing the songs for “Nevermind” he did so in a way that drew from punk bands such as “Black Flag” and “Bad Brains”. The album, also, was influenced by Alternative groups such as “The Pixies”, “The Melvins” and early “R.E.M.”. Finally, many of the power guitar chords used can be traced back to rock icons such as “Black Sabbath” or more radio-friendly rock groups such as “The Smithereens”. While some may dismiss Nirvana as simply a “grunge” band from Seattle, the fact was that much of the reason for the enormous success of their album, “Nevermind” was because it was such an amalgam of genres; all brought together in a manner that had never truly been done before. It had universal appeal. However, it was because of that universal appeal that Kurt Cobain feared its success and loathed the price he felt obligated to pay.

“In Bloom” is a song that chronicles the price of success for those who care about the craft of creative expression. Even before Nirvana became a headlining act, Cobain was distrustful of the music industry, as a whole. He was very much enamoured by the purity of creating songs that were expressions of his inner thoughts and feelings. He truly liked the feelings that came with playing in front of a tightly packed, sweating, madly thrashing crowd. He admired other bands who eschewed the limelight and stuck to their core belief system. He respected fans who stuck by those bands because they recognized the integrity with which their conducted their musical affairs. But, sometimes, talent being what it is, it is hard to stay small and remain ensconced in the humbleness of one’s family. Sooner or later, word seeps out and a newer, larger audience becomes aware of your existence. Mathematics being what it is, eventually, your visibility starts to grow exponentially until it reaches the point when you no longer recognize yourself in the faces of your audience. That was the point that Nirvana had reached by the time Kurt Cobain wrote the lyrics to “In Bloom”.

By the time he was writing the songs that came to fill out “Nevermind”‘s track listing, Nirvana’s audience began including jocks, preppy-types and all sorts of other folks who were simply there to have fun and sing and bop mindlessly along with the songs being played. The chorus to “In Bloom” captures Cobain’s disgust perfectly.

“He’s the one

Who likes all our pretty songs.

And he likes to sing along

And he likes to shoot his guns

But, he knows not what it means.

He knows not what it means.”

It isn’t easy to be creative and remain creative over the full course of one’s career. There is tremendous pressure to “just play the hits”. Some artists accept that deal with the Devil and become very successful and well known as a result. But, for Kurt Cobain, that was a deal that he could never quite reconcile himself to accept. At his core, he was a musician, a writer or words and a singer of songs that had deeper meanings than his new audience could have ever imagined. Their unwillingness to accept him for who he felt he was contributed to inner, mental turmoil which, eventually, led him to take his life a few short years later. Being under-appreciated and misunderstood is a tough cross to bear for anyone. It certainly was for Cobain.

The official video for this song won awards for Video of the Year when it was released. It draws upon the old “Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show” motif for its inspiration. The idea was to highlight the endless screaming and adoration being heaped upon the band regardless of the content of their lyrics. The band always found it somewhat amusing that the very people being mocked in “In Bloom” for mindlessly singing along were, in fact, always mindlessly singing along with the song (as seen in the video). If you watch this video, you will see that it opens with an announcer on screen. His voice will sound familiar if you close your eyes and are of a certain vintage. He is Doug Llewellyn, the announcer made famous on “The People’s Court” TV show. Anyway, enjoy “In Bloom” from Nirvana.

As you read this post, know that when I finished with this post, I was off to Walmart, of all places, to have my life-saving first dose of Covid vaccine. The irony of this song and of Walmart saving my life are simply too rich. Have a safe, meaningful day, everyone!

The link to the music video for In Bloom by Nirvana can be found here.

The link to Nirvana’s website can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for always understanding good music when they hear it. A link to their website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: Song #499…About a Girl by Nirvana.

Tom MacInnes  June 5, 2021 2 Minutes

Intro: 

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #499: About a Girl by Nirvana

As much as Bob Marley may be the face of Reggae music, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana were the face of 90s music and, more specifically, the musical genre named, for better or worse, as Grunge. Nirvana consisted of Cobain as lead singer, Krist Novoselic on bass guitar and Dave Grohl on drums. Nirvana’s roots were in the punk rock scene around Seattle (which also spawned Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains to name but a few). One of the characteristics of Punk Rock, in general, is a fierce sense of independence, an anti-establishment-ism, if you will. Nirvana possessed that attitude in spades. They cut their musical teeth thrashing about in basement clubs and private homes. Their concerts were hot, sweaty, crowded affairs that earned them a bit of a cult following and encouraged them to decide to release their own LP. That album was entitled, “Bleach”. On that album was a song called, “About a Girl”.

Kurt Cobain was a talented songwriter. This was evident even before the Nevermind album that broke Nirvana and made them headlining superstars. “About a Girl” is a song about his girlfriend at the time and how he viewed their relationship. A guy writing songs about a girl is nothing new, I know. But, for Nirvana, this song was a big risk in their minds because it was how the mainstream world was introduced to the band. Cobain always wrestled with the commercial aspects of his music and often felt that he was betraying his Punk Rock roots with songs like “About a Girl” which he considered to be more of a Pop song.

Nirvana will appear several more times on this list before we are through so there is plenty of time to discuss the many aspects of what helped to make this band one of the best of all time. But, for now, know that success and popularity brought Nirvana to be recognized everywhere from the US Library of Congress, to Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of top bands of all time (at #29), to selling millions of albums and song downloads, to being inducted into the most mainstream of institutions, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility in 2014.

Kurt Cobain saw none of this. He died by his own hand in 1994. Kurt Cobain led a complicated, often conflicted life. He died young, as so many do, living in the crazy world of Rock n’ Roll. But, in his wake, he left behind a catalogue of songs that stand among the best ever written and recorded. “About a Girl” was the first that Nirvana released.

The video for About A Girl can be found here.

Thank you to KEXP for inspiring me to do this blog series. The link to their live music website is here.

Thanks to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana for creating some of the best music of all-time. The link to their official website can be found here.