by Eric Leland
This week marks the 30th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind. Maybe the last great rock LP, certainly the last one to have a major cultural impact on music, art, fashion and ushering in a new culture: grunge. 30 years later it still sounds fresh, still sounds subversive, still has a beautiful ugly that does not seem forced or canned. If Nirvana were in on the “selling” of their way of life to the mainstream world, they hid it pretty well. They looked uncomfortable with being part of the big machine as it rolled out, weeks even months before Nirvana took over the entire music business and pretty much popular culture. When they brought their heads up to look around and saw that they were the biggest “rock” band in the world with both street cred and a top 10 single, they were completely wigged out by it. There was no victory lap, no “were #1” celebration, just a continued distrust of the system, the people who got them there, their fans (especially the “straight” rock and metal dudes and football bros who would have terrorized Kurdt back in High School).
That same week saw The Low End Theory (Tribe Called Quest) and Blood-Sugar-Sex-Magic from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. A big week for the “Underground”, but it was still Metallica, Van Halen, Skidd Row and Def Leppard’s world.
Nirvana had come through Athens, GA the year before, on their debut “Bleach” (sub pop) and although the show sold well, the 40-Watt was a bigger get for them than the band was for the club. Soundgarden were still indie, Alice-in-Chains and Pearl Jam had yet to release their major label debuts (both started out as major label bands unlike Nirvana who lived in the indie world for a few years prior).
Nirvana before the Teen Spirit video was still just an indie that was getting a chance and trying not to blow it. They were peers of Urge Overkill, not The Pixies or Jane’s Addiction, and definitely not Michael Jackson and Guns N Roses. That would change by October when the video led the complete 180 that MTV took, killing hair metal, save a few like Van Halen and Aerosmith and going 100% in on grunge and alternative.
Nirvana were played on college radio and NOT on rock radio. In Atlanta we did not yet have a “new rock” station. 99x was almost a year away. MTV was the vehicle that got them from dingy clubs to top 40 radio, basically coming around to rock radio when there was no choice for programmers. It rocks and Star94 is playing it and we are not was the overall vibe.
The other LP (cassette) that came out that fall of 1991 was The Stonesouls…For A Second.
Like Nirvana, The Stonesouls had a lo-fi debut release that presented a direction but was not fully realized. The Stonesouls (1990) had more to do with Drivin N Cryin and REM than The Ramones or Buzzcocks. By 1991 the musical landscape of Athens, the college radio, the MTV 120 minutes, and Adam’s deep dive into The Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols changed the writing, as did AJ’s heavy but melodic chord changes. Luke was up for any excuse to rock. I saw it as an evolution as well as a way to reach an alternative audience, which was not our Atlanta audience at all, but our more straight sound was becoming more and more out of fashion.
Recorded in the early summer of 1991 and released in July, For A Second did not make the record stores in Athens until September 1991. “She Doesn’t Want To” was sent to radio as the 1st single and got attention at WREK, WRAS, WUOG and 96 Rock’s local show (Peach Jam).
The one and only Stonesouls video for “She Doesn’t Want To” was shown at the Athens GA MTV Video Awards ceremony at The Georgia Theater that fall, One of less than a dozen videos to be selected. With a budget of $150, including camera rental, this was a true indie DIY project that allowed me to show another side of my creativity and willingness to learn in real time, planning, directing, editing and mixing without any previous experience in any of these skill sets.