The band that made grunge famous was Nirvana. Founding members Kurt Cobain and Krist Novaselic met at a Melvins concert in their hometown of Aberdeen, Washington. By early 1988, they were playing under the name of Nirvana and had developed a cult following in nearby Olympia. Later that year, the new Seattle label Sub Pop released two of the band’s songs as part of their singles series. The record sold out in a flash. That same year they recorded their first full-length studio album, Bleach. Dave Grohl, a drummer from the DC band Scream, joined the group in 1990. In 1991, Nirvana released Nevermind, the album that would make them a household name around the world. Not only was the album certified platinum by the end of the year, but it knocked Michael Jackson’s album Dangerous out of the #1 album slot. Unfortunately, in 1992, the year of Nirvana’s success, Cobain took a turn for the worse. The band would release only one more studio album, In Utero, in 1994, and that same year Kurt Cobain would die of a self-inflicted shotgun wound.
Why did Nirvana break out of Seattle to become the defining band of the grunge era? Seattle producer Jack Endino, Sub Pop founder Bruce Pavitt, music writer Charles Cross, and Nirvana member Krist Novaselic give their current opinions on the shocking rise and fall of one of the greatest rock bands in history.
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Experience Music Project contributed interviews to this KEXP Documentary story. For more on Nirvana, check out their excellent new exhibit, open now. Tickets and info at empsfm.org.
KEXP Documentaries are created by Michele Myers with assistance from John Felthous, Tiffany Grobelski, Mary Janisch and Executive Producer Kevin Cole. If you would like to follow along more closely in the creation of these radio stories, we post research materials, songs and videos on our Facebook page and on Twitter.