Pondering Nirvana’s Legacy

With the 20th anniversary of the release of In Utero, the BBC wonders exactly what Nirvana has left behind.

A lot was at stake when Nirvana went into Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, in 1993 to record their third album, In Utero. The Seattle band had stormed the pop charts, toppling even Michael Jackson from his usual number 1 spot, when they released Nevermind two years earlier. Since then, singer Kurt Cobain had become the poster child for conflicted rock stars, a songwriter who coveted fame even as he embraced the noisy, underground sound of the indie ‘80s.

In Utero was the album that tried to bring those two worlds together. The cynical punk rocker had crashed the MTV party, and now what? Cobain kicked off his most scrutinised album with the words “Teenage angst has paid off well/Now I’m bored and old.”

Twenty years later, those lyrics have proven at least partially prophetic. Cobain never got old; he killed himself in April 1994 at the age of 27. Nirvana imploded and the ‘alternative rock’ era started coming undone almost as quickly as it began. But the business of Nirvana continues to pay off. For example, this year, a new box set, In Utero: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Reissue chronicles the album’s evolution – from demos to live performances – in exhaustive detail.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

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