Ongoing History Daily: The “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video

One of the most famous videos of all time is “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. You know, the scene in the gym where things quicky disintegrate into destruction? But did you know that things were originally supposed to be even more destructive and violent?

Director Sam Bayer found inspiration in a 1979 movie called Over the Edge, which was all about a bunch of teenagers who get back at their parents by getting into some serious vandalism. The original treatment of the “Teen Spirit” video had a group of young people taking over a school, kidnapping the principal in the gym, and then burning the whole place down. But because Nirvana and the record company were worried that such a violent video might be banned by MTV, they re-wrote the script so it was set at a pep rally.

By the way, the janitor in the video? A real janitor at the apartment block where Sam Bayer lived.

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 “Ongoing History Daily: The “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video

  • November 3, 2021 at 11:10 am
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    A bunch of apathetic, bored, butthurt teenagers, at the dawn of their burgeoning adulthood, set out on a destructive bender… sign me up!

    Over The Edge was an overplayed HBO movie! Here in the states, in the early 80’s, it was on almost as much as Beast Master. Highly recommend watching it. It’s the epitome of 70’s film making. It just has this gritty detached dirty visceral vibe – Something that was only really captured in movies made in the 70’s. That decade really is this wonderfully bizarre gone-by era of our lifetime.

    Plus, a kick ass soundtrack! To this day, “Surrender” reminds me of Over The Edge! The Cars, Van Halen, Ramones, but the icing on the cake was the song that inherently belonged only to this movie… Valerie Carter’s version of Ohh Child. She certainly didn’t top The Five Stairsteps, but she took the song for a walk in the suburbs and it just nails the spirit of this film.

    Funny talking about Valerie Carter, I just Googled her. I didn’t realize she passed in 2017. She was the real deal! If you wanna go down a Wikipedia rabbit hole, go read her page. The list of albums this woman sang on is legendary!

    An homage to that Over The Edge in the Teen Spirit video would have been pretty cool.

    Reply

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