Unless you're a true fan, you may not know that wild tales about Nirvana include arson, food fights, and the odd alligator. The band shot to success virtually overnight with their 1991 single "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and the trio became the leaders of the alternative rock scene. While many other bands emerged around the same time, Nirvana still gets rightful credit for bringing widespread attention to grunge and the Pacific Northwest.
Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic formed Nirvana in the late 1980s, and they went through several drummers before recruiting Dave Grohl in 1990. Mainly inspired by punk rock, Nirvana found modest success with its first album Bleach, and the band's second offering, Nevermind, contained many songs that are still fan favorites.
True Nirvana stories tell of musicians who were uneasy with stardom; Kurt Cobain in particular was uncomfortable with suddenly being considered the voice of a generation. He struggled with heroin addiction until committing suicide in 1994 at the age of 27. Fans' love for Cobain was so great, many conspiracy theories about his death still circulate.
Are there things you didn't know about Nirvana? Perhaps you'll find some crazy new facts in these stories about the tiny band with an enormous influence.
Nirvana displayed their playful side when they teamed up with Smashing Pumpkins for an MTV-sponsored game of Twister in 1991. Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl enthusiastically greased up Krist Novoselic with Crisco before his turn on the game mat.
Not seen in the video is Novoselic using an American flag to remove the grease. The move didn't sit well with some onlookers, as he recalled:
"These jocks came up and were really bad-vibing me. Like, 'Hey, you don’t do that to our American flag.' So I ended up having some kind of bodyguard go with me to the club."
Before Nirvana became one of the biggest bands in the country, they spent a lot of time touring in a van and usually couldn't afford hotel rooms, much food, or gas. They enforced rules for themselves to save money, like always driving under 70 mph and never using the air conditioner. Sometimes the band would sleep in the van or camp outside; one time they accidentally slept on a median in the middle of a road. Occasionally, they would stay at the homes of people they met while on tour.
Kurt Cobain spoke of one unsettling incident on the road:
"But I remember one time in Texas on our first tour we slept at the edge of a lake where there were signs all over saying beware of alligators. We all slept with baseball bats by our sides, or we tried to sleep. In the middle of the night we thought we saw one so we bagged out."
The release party for Nevermind erupted into a full-fledged food fight after Kurt Cobain started flinging dip at people. He, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl were all asked to leave. "We were laughing," Novoselic remembers. "Oh my God, we just got kicked out of our own record release party!" Many of the party-goers didn't notice the guests of honor had left but the festivities didn't end there.
Nirvana ended up a friend's loft, but the party died when Cobain shot off a fire extinguisher. Everyone then moved somewhere else – until Cobain stuck a Nelson gold record plaque smeared in lipstick in a microwave, put on one of the host's dresses, and everyone passed out. The next morning, Cobain decided to purchase a rump roast, shoot at it, and then eat it.
Kurt Cobain had a small tattoo on one arm which he inked himself: an image of the K Records logo, an independent music company in Olympia, WA. Dave Grohl was nice enough to teach him how: "You can do it with just a regular sewing needle, string, and some India ink. Wrap the thread around the needle, dip it in the ink, and jab it in."
Unfortunately Grohl's art skills didn't transfer so easily to Cobain. "But when I did it, the thread unraveled. So I ended up jabbing in the needle and pouring ink all over my arm," he said.