Kurt Cobain (guitar, vocals) and Chris Novoselic (bass) met in 1985 in Aberdeen, Washington, a small logging town located 100 miles from Seattle. Put together by the Melvins' Buzz Osbourne, the two shared an interest in punk rock and decided to form a band. The Stiff Woodies featured Cobain on drums, Novoselic on bass
and a revolving cast of vocalists and guitarists. Eventually, they changed their name to Skid Row and Cobain became the lead vocalist and switched from drums
. Skid Row featured drummer Aaron Burkhart, who left the band by the end of 1986 and was replaced by Chad Channing. Soon after, the group changed its name to Nirvana and recorded their first album, Bleach. It was released by Sub Pop records.
Nirvana began working with producer Butch Vig on their follow up to Bleach in early 1990. Cobain and Novoselic had decided that Chad Channing wasn't a good fit for their group, and when the sessions were over they let him go. A procession of fill-in drummers followed until they eventually hooked up with Dave Grohl.
"Punk rock should mean freedom, playing whatever you want, as sloppy as you want as long as it's good and it has passion" ~ Kurt Cobain
The group signed with David Geffen and DGC Records in early 1990 and began working on their first major label album, Nevermind. Unhappy with the way the mixing was going, the group and producer Vig decided to bring in a third party to do the mixing. They settled on Andy Wallace. Though Cobain would later complain that Wallace had made the recording sound "too slick," the truth is he had helped them create a ground-breaking sound that others would try to copy for the next 10 years. Nevermind was an enormous hit, selling millions of copies and bringing the grunge sound into the mainstream. Their song, Smells Like Teen Spirit, was hailed as the anthem of the grunge generation.
"All my life, I never believed most things I read in history books and a lot of things I learned in school. But now I've found I don't have the right to make a judgment on someone based on something I've read. I don't have the right to judge anything. That's the lesson I've learned." ~ Kurt Cobain
With success came a wave of controversy and negative publicity fueled by Cobain's reported drug use, onstage stunts, and marriage to Courtney Love. Novoselic's and Grohl's infamous SNL kiss added a new dimension to their riotous image.
With work on a new album interrupted by Cobain's health problems, Incesticide, a compilation of B-sides and archived recordings, was released by DGC in 1992. Back to work in early 1993, the group recruited Steve Albini to produce In Utero, their follow up to Nevermind. The album was released in September of 1993, and followed by a three-month American tour and a classic performance on MTV's Unplugged.
"You know what I hate about rock? I hate tie-dyed tee shirts. I wouldn't wear a tie-dyed tee shirt unless it was dyed with the urine of Phil Collins and the blood of Jerry Garcia." ~ Kurt Cobain
A 1994 European tour was cut short by Cobain's overdose/suicide attempt in Rome. In March, he entered a drug treatment program in LA but on April 1st he escaped the facility and returned home to Seattle. On April 8, 1994 his body was found in his home. Though there is doubt in some quarters, he apparently was the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
The death of Cobain spelled an end to Nirvana, one of the most influential groups in rock & roll history. Many various posthumous releases have been issued, overseen by Novoselic, Grohl, and Cobain's widow Courtney Love. The posthumous release MTV Unplugged in New York (1994) won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996.
Among the awards received by Nirvana are the American Music Award, Brit Award, Grammy Awards, seven MTV Video Music Awards and two NME Awards. They have sold over 25 million records in the United States and over 75 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling bands of all time. They have also been ranked as one of the greatest music artists of all time, with Rolling Stone placing them at number 27 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2004, and at number 30 on their updated list in 2011. Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility in 2014.