Whatever Happened To Nirvana?
For a short stretch of time in the early 1990s the most important rock band on the planet was Nirvana. Their 1991 album “Nevermind” shot to the top of the charts and forever changed the face of mainstream music. Many considered the album’s hit single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” an anthem for a generation. They followed that success with the multi-platinum selling 1993 album “In Utero”. Who would have believed that 30 years after the release of that fateful album, Nirvana would be forced to embark on a small club tour in order to help regenerate the lungs of drummer and war hero Dave Grohl?
Things started to go down hill quickly for the band after the success of “In Utero”. Singer Kurt Cobain struggled with substance abuse and made several failed suicide attempts in 1994. The band considered breaking up, but soldiered through the difficult times recording the much-heralded 1995 album “Venice Beach”. While “Venice Beach” was a major critical success, the albums slow pace and “post-grunge” use of only acoustic instruments failed to garner the commercial buzz of the prior two albums. With Cobain’s health and mental state deteriorating, the band took a year and a half long hiatus. Bassist Krist Novoselic and Grohl briefly worked on a demo for a side project called The Foo Fighters, while Cobain divorced from Courtney Love and traveled throughout India in the hopes of turning his life around.
Upon Cobain’s return to America in 1997, Novacelic and Grohl abandoned the Foo Fighters project and returned to the studio with Nirvana. The band attempted to move in a groundbreaking new direction with the 1998 release of “Lost in Olympia”, an album that integrated techno music, polka and bluegrass with Nirvana’s trademark grunge sound. The album was a complete disaster. Commonly acknowledged by fans and critics as The Worst Album of the 20th Century, “Lost in Olympia” barely sold 100,000 copies and became a joke within the industry.
Sensing their time had come and gone, the band again took time off from touring and worked on various projects. Grohl briefly toured with Canadian metal band Voivod before playing on Venom’s 2000 release “Resurrection”. Novoselic started a moderately successful alpaca ranch in Idaho. Cobain worked for four years on the script for a film adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s novel “The Bell Jar” which he never completed, only to see another version of the film written by Will Smith win the Oscar for Best Picture in 2005.
In 2004, reunion fever swept the music industry in the wake of Guns’N’Roses release of the genre defining rock album “Chinese Democracy”, which is to date the fourth highest selling album in the history of music behind only Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon” and Testament’s “Dark Roots of Earth”. Once popular bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Green Jell-O and Nirvana got back in the studio in hopes of capitalizing on the wave of retro-nostalgia. Unfortunately for Nirvana, success continued to elude them and their 2005 heavily “Nevermind” influenced album “Fuzz Knuckle” was considered dead on arrival, barely even receiving airplay on college radio.
Nirvana worked sparingly throughout the next eleven years, appearing briefly on a Limp Bizkit tribute album, writing a jingle for an Arby’s commercial, and opening for pop superstar Kylie Minogue on the Asian leg of her 2009 tour. They began several projects that never saw the light of day, including a depression-ridden Christmas album called “A Season in Hell”, but were never able to put out a complete record. Cobain briefly made news in 2013 with his high-profile six-month marriage to Cher, but quickly faded from the public eye after a nasty divorce. Cobain became a recluse, putting on 200 pounds and spending his days translating the works of Robert Frost into Arabic.
2016 wasn’t a very good year for most people and Nirvana was no exception. The Polish invasion of Europe and subsequent limited nuclear war with the United States caused terrible destruction and horror. Music was the last thing on most people’s minds. The band barely escaped death as Polish tanks rolled into downtown Tupelo, Mississippi in the winter of that year. With most of the East Coast either destroyed by nuclear weapons or overrun by Polish soldiers, Nirvana headed to one of the domed cities in Montana in order to survive.
While in Montana, the band joined with other Polish invasion survivors and formed a militia, which eventually retook all of the US mainland and most of Quebec. Grohl received a medal of distinguished service for his bravery during the Battle of Cleveland in 2019. However, it was during that battle that the Poles released the debilitating biological weapon that has eaten away at his lungs and left him battling for his life.
Life has returned to normal throughout most of America in 2023. Music is again a major part of American life. Cobain and Novoselic have worked tirelessly since the war ended two years ago to raise enough money to bionically regenerate Grohl’s lungs. With his daughter Francis Bean on drums, Nirvana began a 9-month tour of the cities in the Southwest and on the West Coast that are still functional. At a concert last week in Provo, Utah (the new Capital of The United States), Grohl briefly returned to the stage using a set of temporary plastic lungs. The band’s encore of “Come As You Are” sent the 100 or so spectators into fits of wild cheering and screaming. Just for a moment, it felt like 1991 again.