For my latest post, I thought I’d bend the rules a bit. Instead of a book, I’m going to discuss a recent magazine issue:
Spin Magazine: August 2011 issue–dedicated to the 20th Anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind
The other night, I found myself in Penn Station with 45 minutes to wait until my train. Surrounded by Saturday night’s best, I headed to Hudson News to check out the magazines. I bought the latest issue of Spin, an issue dedicated to the 20 year anniversary of the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind. Ok, so, seeing this issue and then buying it was surreal. Spin as a magazine has gotten decidedly thinner, as have most magazines and newspapers that are lucky enough to still be in print. I haven’t bought a music magazine in a while. Back in high school and college, Rolling Stone and Spin were the only magazines I would buy. What happened to those days? Now, I read The New Yorker and O! omg.
It was most bizarre seeing this cultural moment from my youth loudly proclaimed as an anniversary–the 20th, at that. And so, enveloped in a two-fold nostalgia, I absorbed this commemorative issue, cover to cover, as I sat in the Penn Station waiting area, surrounded by the drunk, the high-heeled, the leopard printed and the camped out.
It was nice. Good. Good to be so absorbed by reading about bands. Like rifling through a CD store, enjoying the references that lead to other references that lead to others–a web of musicians and albums and personal associations of the music lulling me into a comfortable stream of consciousness. I read quotes and accounts by other musicians as they weighed in on where they were when Nevermind came out. It’s that kind of cultural event, or at least Spin treats it this way in this issue. “Where were you when Nevermind was released?”
But what is up?!? Where did the 20 years go? You mean, my generation is no longer the focal point of youth and coolness? You mean, that was a long time ago? You mean, my friends and I matter, perhaps, a little less than we did back then? Just a smidgen less?
Sometime, long ago, I learned this. I’ve known this for many, many years.
But, suddenly having one of my cultural reference points referred to as something so far in the past has caught my inner 18-year-old unawares. I mean, not to belabor the point, but, I can see a 10 year anniversary. But 20th? That’s something for parents and grandparents. Not me. Not us.
OK, thanks for that. Back to the issue.
Some of the quotes in Spin I enjoyed the most were from the musicians or pop culture icons who said that Nevermind never hit them at the time (or now!) as some great musical moment. Not that Nirvana wasn’t big. But that Nevermind as an album was more poppy and slick and produced, and so, never really felt that revolutionary. These quotes were fun to read, because, in some ways, they are the more important and interesting. They show the complexity of this time period–more than the hyperbolic, grand endorsement that a 20th anniversary edition seems to ask for, almost require.The real question with something like Nirvana and Nevermind and Cobain and Love and all of the things that go along with their whole coterie of moments is not what did you think of that big album release, but, when did Nirvana come to matter to you? Most likely it’s not something that we felt at that moment when an album was released or when the news proclaimed Cobain’s death or when we saw Nirvana do something even more boundary-pushing onstage than the concert before. Most likely, the authenticity of Nirvana or grunge lies embedded in our memory, stitched together through a series of mundane moments, joined with those one or two times that the song hit you just at some crucial emotional instant of connection or just breaking through. Singing along in the car. Letting out anger about something going on in your life by putting on Nirvana. Hearing it in the background when out with friends. Seeing a music video in your dorm common room when you were wasting a Sunday after being out all Saturday night.
When I do see or hear the band now on the radio or on TV, I look and listen for the rawness of the time period they evoke. It’s not the rawness of their music that hits me. It’s the raw newness of my own life then. 20 years ago. Before I even knew about 20 year anniversaries.