Single by Nirvana
from the album Nevermind
"Sliver" (live) / "Polly" (live)
November 30, 1992
CD, cassette, 7", 12"
May 1991 at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California
Nirvana singles chronology
"Puss" / "Oh, the Guilt",
Nevermind track listing
"Smells Like Teen Spirit",
"Come as You Are",
"On a Plain",
"Something in the Way",
"In Bloom" is a song by the American grunge band Nirvana. Written by frontman Kurt Cobain, the song addresses people outside of the underground music community who did not understand the band's message.
Nirvana made its first music video for an early version of "In Bloom" in 1990; however the song did not appear on a commercial release until the release of the group's second album, Nevermind, in 1991. "In Bloom" became the fourth and final single from the album in late 1992. It was accompanied by a new music video which parodied musical performances of 1960s variety shows. The music video for "In Bloom" won Best Alternative Video at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1993.
1 Background and recording,
3 Release and reception,
4 Music video,
5 Track listing,
6 Chart positions,
9 External links,
Background and recording:
Nirvana first played the song the night before it was demoed. Bassist Krist Novoselic recalled that it "originally sounded like a Bad Brains song. Then Kurt turned it into a pop song". Cobain went home and reworked the song, playing the revised version of it over the phone to Novoselic. The band recorded "In Bloom" with producer Butch Vig at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin during April 1990. The material recorded at Smart Studios was intended for the group's second album for the independent record label Sub Pop. The song originally had a bridge section that Vig removed. Novoselic said that after the band recorded the song, Vig cut out the bridge from the 16-track master tape with a razor blade and threw it in the garbage. The songs from these sessions were placed on a demo tape that circulated amongst the music industry, generating interest in the group among major record labels.
After signing to DGC Records, Nirvana began recording its second album Nevermind in May 1991. "In Bloom" was one of the first songs the band recorded during the album sessions at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California; Vig thought it would be good to start recording a song previously recorded at Smart Studios. The arrangements for "In Bloom" and the other songs previously recorded with Vig in 1990 were largely unchanged; the recently hired drummer Dave Grohl stayed mostly with what his predecessor Chad Channing had recorded, but added more power and precision to the recording. Cobain sang progressively "harder" during the recording of the song, which made it difficult for Vig to balance the volume levels between the verses and choruses. Vig recalled that he had to change the input level "on the fly" and hoped that Cobain would not "change the phrasing or do something different" while recording.
Cobain chose not to overdub a harmony vocal part during the Smart Studios sessions, possibly due to time constraints. During the Nevermind sessions, Vig had Grohl sing harmonies on the song. Grohl had difficulty hitting the proper notes, but ultimately was able to sing what Vig wanted. Vig often had to trick Cobain, who was averse to performing multiple takes, into recording additional takes for overdubs on the record. The producer convinced Cobain to double-track his vocals on "In Bloom" by telling him, "John Lennon did it." After doubling Cobain's vocals, Vig decided he might as well double Grohl's and had the drummer record an additional track of backing harmonies.
You can download the clip or download a player to play the clip in your browser.
"In Bloom" is a typical example of the loud-quiet techniques employed by Nirvana on Nevermind. The guitar in the song's chorus are heavily layered as a result of the production style of Butch Vig.
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Like many Nirvana songs, "In Bloom" shifts back and forth between quiet verses and loud choruses. Cobain uses a Mesa Boogie guitar amplifier for the verses, and during the chorus he switches to a Fender Bassman amp (suggested by Vig) for a heavier, double-tracked fuzztone sound. The rhythm section of Novoselic and Grohl kept its parts simple; Grohl stated it was "an unspoken rule" to avoid unnecessary drum fills, while Novoselic said he felt his role was about "serving the song". During the choruses, vocalist Cobain and drummer Grohl harmonize while singing "He's the one/Who likes all our pretty songs/And he likes to sing along/And he likes to shoot his gun/But he knows not what it means". The song's intro reappears at the end of each chorus.
Cobain's lyrics address the people outside of the underground music scene that began showing up at Nirvana shows after the release of the group's debut album Bleach. Nirvana biographer Michael Azerrad wrote, "But remarkably, the song's lyrics translated even better to the mass popularity the band enjoyed." Regarding the song's chorus, Azerrad commented, "The brilliant irony is that the tune is so catchy that millions of people actually do sing along to it." In his biography of Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven, Charles R. Cross asserted that the song was a "thinly disguised portrait" of Cobain's friend Dylan Carlson.
Release and reception:
"In Bloom" was released as the fourth single from Nevermind on November 30, 1992. The single was only released commercially in the United Kingdom; promotional copies were released in the United States. The 7-inch vinyl and cassette editions of the single contained a live version of "Polly" as a B-side, while the 12-inch vinyl and CD versions featured a performance of "Sliver"; both songs were recorded at the same December 28, 1991 concert. The single peaked at number 28 on the British singles chart. While lacking an American commercial release, the song charted at number five on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.
Nirvana biographer Everett True wrote an uncharacteristically unfavorable review in Melody Maker, accusing the single of being a cash-in on Nevermind's success. "Whoop whoop bloody whoop", he wrote, "Forgive me if I don't sound too thrilled. This release is stretching even my credulity beyond repair. Like, milking a still-breathing (sacred) cow, or what? Badly inferior live versions of 'Polly' and 'Sliver' on the flip don't help matters either." In 2004 Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song number 407 on its list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
Nirvana first made a music video for "In Bloom" in 1990 for the Sub Pop Video Network Program VHS compilation (1991). The recording of the song featured in the video is the version recorded during the Smart Studios sessions. The Sub Pop video features the band walking around various parts of lower Manhattan including the South Street Seaport, the Lower East Side, and Wall Street. While filming the video, Novoselic shaved his head as penance for a bad performance the band gave in New York City. This caused discontinuity in the final cut; shots of the band feature the bassist with and without hair throughout the video. This video was later compiled on the Nirvana box set With the Lights Out (2004).
The second video, created to accompany the 1992 single release, was directed by Kevin Kerslake, who had previously directed the band's videos for "Come as You Are" and "Lithium". Cobain's original concept for the video told the story of a young girl born into a Ku Klux Klan who one day realizes how evil they are. His concept was too ambitious, so Cobain instead decided to parody musical performances by bands on early 1960s variety shows, such as The Ed Sullivan Show. The humorous tone of the video was a result of Cobain being "so tired for the last year of people taking us so seriously . . . I wanted to fuck off and show them that we have a humorous side to us". Kerslake filmed the video on old Kinescope cameras, and the band improvised its performance. The video begins with an unnamed variety show host (played by Doug Llewelyn, former host of The People's Court) introducing Nirvana to an in-studio crowd of screaming teenagers; their non-stop screaming is heard throughout the duration of the song. The band members, whom the host refers to as "thoroughly all right and decent fellas", perform dressed in Beach Boys-style outfits; Cobain wears glasses that blurred his vision, while Novoselic cut his hair short and liked it so much he kept it that way afterwards. As the video progresses, the band destroys the set and its instruments.
Three different edits of the Kerslake video were made. Cobain intended to replace the first version of the video after a period with a new take featuring the band wearing dresses instead of suits. MTV's alternative rock show 120 Minutes insisted on premiering the video, but Cobain felt the program would not properly convey the humor of the "pop idol" version. Instead, a new edit was produced which contained shots of the band in both suits and dresses. The original edit of the video never aired. This video won the award for Best Alternative Video at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards, and topped the music video category in the 1992 Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics' poll.
All songs written by Kurt Cobain.
"In Bloom" - 4:17,
"Polly" (live) - 2:47,
"In Bloom" - 4:17,
"Sliver" (live) - 2:06,
"Polly" (live) - 2:47,
Dutch Top 100 Singles Chart
Irish Singles Chart
New Zealand Singles Chart
Swedish Singles Chart
UK Singles Chart
US Mainstream Rock