25 Years Of In Utero

21st September 2018

Any excuse to celebrate Nirvana....

25 years have gone in a flash but it really was 25 years ago that Nirvana released their 3rd and final studio album. In Utero, the grunge sound of the 90's and we loved it. The album sold over 180,000 copies in the first week of its release and went on to sell over 15 million albums worldwide.

Gary (he designs our t-shirts), went weak at the knees when we mentioned a blog about Nirvana and celebrating the album 'In Utero' "up there as one of the best albums of all time" in his opinion. We asked him to write a few words about Nirvana and why he loved the album so much. He came back to us with this...(Thanks Gary, we're off to put the kettle on!)




Nirvana, By Gary 

"Everyone has their favourite Nirvana album, perhaps you enjoy the band’s raw and edgy sound in Bleach, perhaps the ground breaking Nevermind or maybe you lean towards Cobain’s last studio recorded album, In-Utero. The purists usually lean towards Bleach which was recorded during the Chad Channing era before the mighty Dave Grohl joined the band in 1990. Nevermind is the album that broke the band commercially. Despite that fact that, Cobain, Novaselic and Grohl began to resent the album and the hit single, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ which launched the band and alternative rock music into the mainstream which in turn attracted a new audience - The  Jocks! The band would either refuse to perform 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' at their live shows or play it really badly.


The band’s resentment of this album grew for several reasons. The album produced by Butch Vig sounded a little too polished which was contrary to the back to basics approach you can hear on Bleach. The impact that 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' had on the rapid change of the music scene, the charts and fashion brought a different sort of fan to the Nirvana gigs which left a bitter taste in the mouth of Cobain. Cobain wrote, ‘In Bloom’ in response to the ‘posers’ attending Nirvana gigs post Bleach. These are reasons why the hardcore fan doesn’t rate this as Nirvana’s best album as it does not capture the true essence of the band. This is the same for Metallica’s Black Album. The hit ‘Enter The Sandman’ attracted a similar type of fan to that of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ Don’t worry, those fans aren’t reading this, they are shaping their goatees while listening to Nickelback and Creed from their water proof shower speaker.

In-Utero is the result of Nevermind’s highly produced album filled with catchy riffs, pop-esque melodies and polished mixes. Cobain was desperate to return to that same unpolished sound we heard on Bleach. Cobain’s top two choices were Steve Albini from the band Big Black or Jack Endino who produced Nirvana’s Bleach - He settled on the highly opinionated Steve Albini. Albini produced Surfa Rose and Pod which were Cobain’s two favourite albums, this happened to sway the vote in Albini’s favour.

Albini was not a fan of the Seattle based band. He described Nirvana as REM with a fuzz-box but agreed to produce the album as he felt sorry for the band and the three members reminded him of the small fry bands he used to deal with who were at the mercy of their record company. In essence, In-Utero was a live recording. Cobain, Novaselic and Grohl recorded together on all tracks except for faster tracks such as ‘Tourette's’ and ‘Very Ape’ where the drums were recorded separately. An interesting way the band achieved that natural reverb sound on the drums on 'Tourette's’ and 'Very Ape’ was to record the drums in Albini’s kitchen.


The staff at Geffen were not impressed by the direction Nirvana took with In-Utero and described the album as "Un-releasable". Fortunately, they were wrong and the album which Krist Novaselic recently described as the band’s best album and a beautiful piece of work, debuted at Number 1 on The Billboard Charts and has sold a massive 15 million copies since its release. This isn’t a huge surprise to us at Amplified Clothing as our In-Utero tees are a popular choice in-stores and on our online store.


The band experienced a few hiccups upon the release of In-Utero. One of those hiccups was Kmart and Wal-Mart's refusal to stock the album unless the band changed the name of ‘Rape Me’ on the back of the cover to ‘Waif Me’. Cobain was not happy, but the band obliged as Kmart and Wal-Mart were places Cobain and Novaselic bought their records from as kids. Kmart and Wal-Mart weren’t the only ones concerned with the title of the track, MTV were also concerned. The band wanted to perform ‘Rape Me’ on the MTV Video Music Awards after being told that they had free reign to choose the song they would like to perform. MTV changed their mind and requested that the band play ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ Worried that their refusal would impact the other artists and bands on their label the band decided to compromise with MTV and perform 'Lithium'. One of my favourite moments from any award show is the moment Nirvana performed  'Lithium'. Cobain started the performance by playing the intro to ‘Rape Me’ before changing into 'Lithium'. It was a ballsy jab at MTV and one which had the producers moments away from cutting to an ad break. 

As a father of two little girls, I can only appreciate the love Cobain had for his little baby girl, Frances Bean Cobain. Cobain held Frances in his arms as he recorded the vocals for ‘Rape Me’, you can hear her faint cry in the demo.


This album may not be packed with radio friendly hits, but that’s not Nirvana, Nirvana was not  about the polished sound, they were raw and loud and out of all the ‘grunge’ bands at the time, Nirvana were least likely to succeed because of that. Their frog leap over Sound Garden to become the breakthrough grunge band was a surprise to many, this is what endeared the band to me, as a kid.

I’ll be honest, Nevermind still holds a special place in my heart, I won’t forget the first time I heard 'Breed'. I ran upstairs, grabbed by beaten-up drumsticks and drummed on my mum’s sofa cushions to Dave's fast paced track throughout the day. Nevermind closed the door on Glam rock, spandex and make-up and opened the door to bands who didn’t degrade women and have groupies line-up backstage. Nirvana were real, their sound was new and fresh, they looked and acted like us, if there was no Nevermind, you could argue that there would be no Slaves, no Wolf Alice and God forbid, no Radiohead. 

In-Utero is an important album and one I feel Cobain needed to make for himself, at the time it felt like Nirvana’s return but it was unknowingly their sad farewell."




Back to blog
Share this post