10 Intriguing Nirvana Facts: What You Might Not Know About the Grunge Legends

the best nirvana songs nirvana nevermind cover image with CD
Image from Shutterstock

Last updated on August 4th, 2023 at 08:03 am

Nirvana is one of the most influential bands of all time.

Guitarist and vocalist Kurt Cobain, drummer Dave Grohl, and bassist Krist Novoselic only released three albums, but their influence on alternative rock is still felt today.

Check out some of the most interesting Nirvana facts below.

10 Nirvana Facts You Might Not Know

dale crover nirvana
Dale Crover in 2006. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

1. Nirvana’s First Drummer

We all know that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” exploded into the mainstream, but how did Nirvana start?

Cobain and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic began the band after meeting in 1985. They were both fans of Seattle punk legends the Melvins and often met at their practice space.

On their initial demos, Dale Crover of the Melvins provided drums for their proteges.

2. Nirvana Could Have Been…Pen Cap Chew?

nirvana album
Image from Shutterstock

Now were getting into some deeper dive Nirvana facts.

How did Nirvana get their name? They initially went through a few, ranging from Pen Cap Chew to Ted Ed Fred.

They chose Nirvana because Cobain wanted “a name that was kind of beautiful or nice” instead of “a mean, raunchy punk name.”

Related: What Happened Leading up to Kurt Cobain’s Death? 

3. Nirvana’s Debut Album Bleach Was Recorded Quickly – and On a Budget

many hundred dollar bills spread over a surface
Image by Mackenzie Marco on Usnplash

Before they hit big with 1991’s Nevermind, Nirvana’s first official release was 1989’s Bleach.

Released on legendary Seattle punk Sub Pop, it was recorded by producer Jack Endino in under 30 hours. Its total budget was $606.17.

Certainly one of the most shocking Nirvana facts.

Related: Where is Kurt Cobain’s Daughter Frances Bean Now? 

4. Kurt Cobain Was Possibly the First Person to Request Nirvana on the Radio

how did kurt cobain die large image of kurt cobain on the cover of a record album
Image from Shutterstock.

Nirvana’s first single, “Love Buzz,” was released in 1988.

After dropping off a copy at college station KCMU, Cobain listened to the station all day before requesting the song himself since he hadn’t heard it.

5. Nirvana Were Early Allies

kurt cobain with his child and nirvana
Image from Shutterstock

How did Nirvana change the world? They were ahead of the curve by taking stances against racism, sexism, and homophobia in their interviews.

This influenced many other bands to be more open about doing so in the future.

6. The Story Behind “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is Kinda Classic

a silhouette of a band
Image from Shutterstock.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is perhaps Nirvana’s best song, but how did that title come about?

During a drunken evening, Kathleen Hanna, lead singer for fellow Seattle band Bikini Kill, wrote “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit” on his wall.

Teen Spirit was Kurt Cobain’s girlfriend’s deodorant (he was dating Hanna’s bandmate, Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail).

Today, few are even aware of Teen Spirit deodorant’s existence outside of its mention in this song.

7. The Most Iconic Janitor of the 90s

a janitor moping the floor
Image from Shutterstock.

The “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video is legendary from start to finish.

Fun fact: Kurt Cobain worked as a janitor at his old high school, so Cobain’s old job inspired that character in the video.

8. Love Nevermind? Check Out These Songs That Didn’t Make the Cut

image of a bunch of CDs with headphones on top
Image by Zyanya Bmo on Unsplash

We’ve all heard the classic Nirvana songs on Nevermind – “Drain You,” “In Bloom,” “Lithium” – and many of us love its album tracks even more.

Looking to deep dive further into the grunge music masterpiece? Check out outtakes “Old Age,” “Verse Chorus Verse,” and “Sappy.”

9. Sad Foreshadowing of Kurt Cobain’s Suicide

songs about death a pot with in loving memory on it with flowers in it
Image by Sandy Millar on Unsplash.

Not surprisingly, some Nirvana facts are quite sad.

The original title of Nirvana’s third and final studio album, In Utero, was I Hate Myself and Want to Die.

It’s also the name of a Nirvana song from the 1993 Beavis and Butthead Experience compilation.

Released with its far better title, In Utero included hits like “Heart Shaped Box,” “Pennyroyal Tea” and “All Apologies,” the last of which they famously performed on their MTV Unplugged performance.

10. Kurt Cobain’s Early Brush with Suicide

What Happened Leading Up to Kurt Cobain’s Death
Nirvana. Photo Courtesy of WikiCommons.

What ended Nirvana? Obviously, that’d be Kurt Cobain’s suicide on April 8, 1994.

Among the lesser-known Nirvana facts, when Kurt Cobain was in middle school, he and a friend came across the corpse of a student who had hung himself.

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Written by Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a songwriter, musician, journalist, and podcaster based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s released over a dozen albums since 2002, most recently Old Dog Almost Gone (2021), the first-ever multimedia album, and his latest collection of all original material, A Scientific Search (2020). During his 15+ years as a music journalist, Erik has written hundreds of articles for Music in Minnesota, Something Else Reviews, his own blog Rambling On, and more. In addition to continuing his music career, Erik currently runs The Cosmic American, a music journalism website, and is the editor of Music in Minnesota.


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