3: Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991)
If you attended Nirvana’s show at The Roxy, in Los Angeles, one summer night in 1990, you might have been given a flyer reading, “Nirvana needs YOU to be appear in their upcoming music video, Smells Like Teen Spirit. You should be 18 to 25 years old and adapt a high school personna [sic], ie, preppy, punk, nerd, jock… Be prepared to stay for several hours! Come support Nirvana and have a great time!” Two days later, on 17 August, the band and their newly recruited extras gathered to shoot the promo video for the first single from Nevermind. Frontman Kurt Cobain had meticulously planned the whole thing, storyboarding every scene; his vision of a “pep rally from Hell” had was inspired by Ramones’ punk-era musical Rock’n’Roll High School and the cult teen rebellion film Over The Edge.
“I saw this movie Over The Edge,” Cobain told Melody Maker in 1993. “I remember leaving that theatre and almost everyone who was in there came running out screaming their heads off and breaking windows and vandalising and wanting to get high. It totally affected them and influenced them.”
Smells Like Teen Spirit caused just as strong a reaction, adding to Nevermind’s legacy as one of the best 90s albums. As Dave Grohl later told Louder: “The video was probably the key element in that song becoming a hit. People heard the song on the radio and they thought, This is great, but when kids saw the video on MTV they thought, This is cool. These guys are kinda ugly and they’re tearing up their fucking high school. And then with the video came more people and the clubs got bigger and bigger.”
Director: Samuel Bayer