I was driving home from my MBA classes earlier tonight and, as I do with my countless hours in the car, I started flipping through the Sirius XM channels. I was trying to find something that made me linger longer than 10 seconds. My test during shorter car rides, or those under 30 minutes is this: I give a song about 10 seconds to hook me in or I’m on to the next selection. On longer car rides, I’m usually more lenient with my listening patience.
I started on sports radio, ESPN and Fox Sports to be exact, to catch up on all of the scores I missed throughout the day, then started to make my way through some of the music. I stopped on various channels; The Verge always has some new eclectic music, Classic Vinyl played some Joe Walsh, First Wave had on a little Human League, but I continued flipping around until I landed on Deep Tracks. Just as I switched to that channel, I heard the glorious piano/acoustic guitar intro that leads into “Lovely Rita” by The Beatles from the Sgt. Pepper album.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. The album is the rock equivalent of the movie Citizen Kane. It ignites massive debate as to whether or not it’s the greatest album of all time amongst critics around the world, both professional and otherwise. What there’s little debate about is its massive influence on all rock music from that point on. It is a musical landmark. For that, there is no debate. “Lovely Rita” has been, quite honestly, my favorite song on that album for years. It doesn’t have nearly the fame that others do, but it is so fucking incredible to listen to…
“Lovely Rita” ended and, with about 5 minutes left in my drive, I flipped over to the Lithium channel. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was just starting. I forgot, it was 20 years ago today that Nirvana’s Nevermind was released. I’ll play amateur rock critic for a second…if Sgt. Pepper is the Citizen Kane of rock albums, then Nevermind is The Godfather. It was as much “right place, right time” as it was revolutionary, but it’s undeniably a landmark album. It may have been the last album to change the entire musical landscape in such a widespread fashion. Now 20 years later, with a vastly more complex and diverse music scene, I hope it’s not the last “great” album. I’m still holding out hope that, somewhere in the basement of a high school senior, the rock equivalent of Pulp Fiction is sprouting.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” ended as I pulled up to my house. I remember hearing this song for the first time like it was yesterday. I’ve written about this before, but the time period between Nirvana’s ascendancy with Nevermind and their abrupt, tragic ending almost exactly matches the dark years in my life personally. Like Nirvana, I had tremendous and life-changing highs during those years (marriage, the birth of my first child), but they were contrasted with anger, confusion, and silent rage. Yet, when I listen to Nirvana these days, I’m reminded not so much about where I was during those years, but how far I’ve come.