Here’s Kurt Cobain’s isolated vocals from “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

What was it about Kurt Cobain’s voice that made Nirvana so special? He had the perfect amount of gravel. There was a certain world-weariness. And you could tell that the guy had seen pain.

You can’t teach any of this. Kurt had a once-on-several-generations type of voice that once heard cannot be forgotten.

When Nirvana went to Sound City Studios in the spring of 1991, “Teen Spirit” was a recent composition in which all three members of the band shared in its writing. Kurt’s original motivation was to write a pop song in the LOUD-quiet-LOUD-quiet style of the Pixies. Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic helped him shape things into the final product.

When Kurt sang the vocals, he was only about to run through three takes before his voice was shredded. What we hear is a composite vocal put together by producer Butch Vig.

(Via FarOutMagazine)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Here’s Kurt Cobain’s isolated vocals from “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

  • June 14, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    I have a thing against grunge in general. It heralded in the death of my music, generally speaking (industrial, new wave, goth (to many extenses), post-punk) and the entire dance scene in my area just went away – seemingly overnight. I can appreciate Nirvana to a certain extent and I do think you are right about Kurt’s certain amount of gravel. I don’t mind his voice at all. I can’t stand most of the generally gravelly, (or maybe growly?) voices like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and I’m sure there’s more that I could think of if someone fed me names. I’m most definitely a fan of wailers like Siouxsie, Savages, a bit of Karen O (although her technique could be better) and the like. I liked listening to that track. For what it was, I (almost!) enjoyed it. It’s hard to get over my deeply imbedded bias on the genre and those associated with it.


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