“Nevermind was definitely an album we wanted to make. … We have no regrets, other than maybe the production was too slick.”
That was Kurt Cobain in December 1993, after the initial impact of Nirvana’s sophomore album had subsided, and the band was trying to slip effortlessly into the promotional cycle for its follow-up, In Utero.
Of course, it went about as well as you would expect. Such is often the case when a band attempts to move on from the shadow of a monolithic, moment-seizing record: It’s difficult to talk about anything else.
When it was released, no one had any idea of what Nevermind would eventually become. In fact, in the Geffen offices, they were hoping it’d sell maybe 250,000 copies, and as such, shortages in record stores were common in the months following its release.
But, as you’re probably aware by now, the album far exceeded initial expectations (it’s since sold more than 30 million copies worldwide), and, in the 20 years since its release, Nevermind has gone on to become an album that not only lends itself to being mythologized, but deserves it as well.
And yet, the album didn’t become a household name overnight. It slowly (almost methodically) ascended the charts, finally overtaking Michael Jackson’s Dangerous atop the Billboard albums chart in January 1992. And when it did, it signified not only the changing of the guard, but a new era for music. It was a rare moment: A good band was also the most popular. And 20 years later, we’re still marveling at that fact.
But, again, Nevermind lends itself to mythology. And with its 20th anniversary just around the corner, we suspect you’ll be subject to no shortage of it. So rather than add another anecdote (or 10) to the pile, we figured it would be best to tell the story of Nirvana in the words of the people who knew it best: the band itself.
We’ve spent the past few weeks mining the MTV News archives to find our definitive Nirvana moments — not just the iconic interviews, but the behind-the-scenes nuggets that show the band as they truly were: funny, irreverent and just a little uncomfortable with their newfound fame (a fact they’d go to great lengths to prove with In Utero).
Earlier Monday (September 19), we published Nirvana’s take on their early years , and now, we’re going to give you their view on everything that happened in the year following the release of Nevermind.
Here, now, is a band at the epicenter of a true revolution, trying to make sense of everything that happens while, at the same time, attempting to remain true to the scene that birthed them. That struggle is just one of many reasons why, 20 years after they burst into the world, Nirvana remains one of the most fascinating rock bands of all time.
Stick with MTV News all week as we reveal the Nevermind You Never Knew, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s definitive album with classic footage, new interviews and much more.