Twenty Years Ago Today Nirvana Film "Smells Like Teen Spirit"




Loudster Co | August 17, 2011 - 4:56 pm

 Twenty years ago precisely that Nirvana headed to a soundstage in Culver City to record the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit. A riotous couple of minutes of moshing kids, stage invading and eventually total destruction (albeit somewhat tame compared to my memory / its legacy on reflection) it celebrated youthful nihilism in all its glory.

 Filmed with real students, who were genuinely angry and full of pent-up aggression after an ass-numbing several hours on rock hard bleachers watching take after take, it saw first time director Samuel Bayer blur the lines between stage-managed chaos and unpredictable carnage. Clocking in at under $50,000, it took its cues from two classic teen films. First, the somewhat cartoony Ramones-featuring flick Rock N Roll High School which sees the band enlist as honourary students and end up blowing up the place.




Dave Grohl

 First-time director Samuel Bayer gathered several dozen fans and three young musicians on a Culver City, Calif., soundstage to film the video for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a soon-to-be iconic clip — the infamous high school pep rally from hell — that ultimately would be as era-defining as the song itself.


 Posted above, via LA Snark, is the casting call flier seeking Nirvana fans between 18 and 25, who were asked to “adopt a high school persona, i.e. preppy, punk, nerd, jock.” Participants were asked to show up at 11:30 a.m. and “be prepared to stay for several hours” — which turned out to be quite an understatement, as the shoot ended up dragging on for 12 hours.




Krist Novoselic

 Below, you can watch Bayer’s final video — as ultimately edited by Kurt Cobain — and here you can see a short “making of” feature in which Bayer discusses how he and the band worked out the concept and endured the grueling shoot, which culminated in the very real set destruction by both exhausted fans and Cobain and his surly bandmates.




Kurt Cobain

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” was sent to radio on Aug. 27, 1991, and released as a single on Sept. 10, 1991. Nevermind —  due for a hefty 20th anniversary reissue next month —  arrived on Sept. 24, 1991. And that following weekend, on Sept. 29, 1991, the “Teen Spirit” video premiered on “120 Minutes” — but it wouldn’t be relegated to the Sunday night alternative show for long.



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