Nirvana appeared on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops 30 years ago today. The legendary grunge trio would characteristically subvert the program’s strict rules by offering a different take on “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
The long-running British music chart program Top Of The Pops (TOTP) has boasted some of the biggest bands over the years with the very first show in 1964 featuring The Beatles and The Rolling Stones among others. But being commercially driven rather than focusing on live music, TOTP had artists appearing on the show mime their performances, due in part, perhaps, to keep unruly rock stars from making a statement.
A statement is exactly what Nirvana made when they appeared on the program in November 1991. The band just released their landmark 1991 album Nevermind and its hit single “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Frontman and guitarist Kurt Cobain’s disdain for commercialism was certainly no secret but along with his bandmates drummer Dave Grohl and bassist Krist Novoselic, Kurt took his war against the record industry to another level on Top Of The Pops.
While the band played to a pre-recorded backing track, Cobain was allowed a live vocal. He immediately began his protest by singing in the low register, slowed-down style of another rock ‘n’ roll rebel, Morrissey, and changed the opening line from “load up on guns, bring your friends” to “load up on drugs, kill your friends.” Kurt, Krist and Dave also intentionally whiffed their mime performance, making it obvious they were not playing. It’s an amazing piece of musical disobedience by one of the best bands to ever do it.
Watch Nirvana’s November 1991 Top Of The Pops appearance below:
Hat Tip – Far Out