Nirvana’s Eight Most Rock ‘n’ Roll Moments

Music Lists Nirvana

On Tuesday night, it was announced to no one’s surprise that Nirvana is up for a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a choice made by officials who were probably ticking down the days until the band’s debut, Bleach, turned 25 for Hall eligibility. And although everything about Kurt Cobain and co. spat in the face of the radio-friendly hair-rock at the time, the some unforgettable moments propelled the trio to legendary status. And we’re not talking TVs thrown out of hotels or weird stories involving fish—with their outspoken approach to the media paired with dry senses of humor, Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl redefined what it meant to be a rock star in decades to come.

Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite moments in Nirvana’s history. You can share your own in the comment section below.

8. “Rape Me”
Not many words are needed to explain why Nirvana’s second In Utero single turned up noses all over—first when the band threatened (and started) to perform it at the ’92 VMAs after repeated network requests against it, then again when Wal-Mart was faced with carrying an album with that title on its shelves. The band ended up releasing an album that lists “Waif Me” on the back for Wal-Mart, and Nirvana turned around and really ended up playing “Lithium” at the MTV awards. But like anything Nirvana did, “Rape Me” riled up only those who weren’t meant to enjoy it anyways.

7. Cobain Attacked by a Security Guard
Nothing screams that you’re in Texas like a good ol’ bar brawl, but Kurt Cobain found himself in the thick of it after a stage dive went sour near the end of a gig in 1991. The band would end up completing the gig, but not until after Cobain’s bandmates dove to his rescue.

6. Krist Novoselic Pioneers the “Bass Drop”
At the 1992 MTV VMA awards, Krist Novoselic did the live-TV, bassist version of the “look mom, no hands!” trick and thankfully wasn’t seriously harmed when the instrument came crashing down on his head. Although the bass toss was the subject of plenty of speculation (Did he go to the hospital? I heard he had a concussion), Novoselic summed it up pretty well for everyone 16 years later for Seattle Weekly.

I stumbled offstage toward the green room with my hands on my forehead. I walked straight into the bathroom and looked at a bloody forehead in the mirror. I washed my face off and put a paper towel to my head. Paramedics came in and put a little bandage on, then handed me a long medical release form to sign. Standing behind them was Brian May, the guitarist of Queen, with a glass of chilled champagne. I signed the release just to get the medics away from me so I could take a sip of Mr. May’s wonderful medicine. Ahh, yes!!!

5. That Guns N’ Roses Feud
While Krist Novoselic banged his head pretty good on the night of the VMAs in 1992, it wasn’t the only trouble Nirvana found itself in after a near-scuffle between Cobain and Axl Rose backstage, and the egging only was furthered with Grohl’s hilarious taunting after Nirvana’s performance (“Hi Axl! Hi Axl!,” he screamed to the TV audience). The tension apparently started after Nirvana refused to open for GNR, which led to some hilarious media back-and-forth. Some former, top-hatted members have since joined Team Cobain.

4. Nevermind: The Cover
Cobain’s early fascination with infants, pregnancy and birth inspired what were probably some of the cutest cover-stickers around.


3. Top of the Pops
The best part of performing with a backing track is kicking back and letting it do the work for you, right? Here, Cobain and Novoselic didn’t even bother playing along with the Top of the Pops’ pre-recorded game, making clear to everyone around them that the only thing “live” about the performance was Cobain’s octave-dropping, Morrissey-nod of a vocal performance.

2. The Kiss
Cobain had no problem slicing his audience down to size if they were homophobic or sexist. In his journals, he’s famously quoted as saying “”I am not gay, although I wish I were, just to piss off homophobes.” He took the idea a step further in the closing reel of an SNL appearance where he went for a full-on tongue-tango with Novoselic.

1. “He’s Gonna Make It”
With rumors swirling around Cobain’s health, both mental and physical, many were skeptical that Nirvana would even show up for their gig at the Reading Festival in 1992. The now-legendary show kicked off with Cobain taking a direct shot at the media, having journalist Everett True wheel him out, his long white coat and his disheveled hair leaving the audience guessing the condition of the man underneath. Cobain collapsed (on purpose) before tearing into a set that no one would forget.

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