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No Alternative: 40 Hard-Rock Songs That Nirvana Couldn’t Kill

Refuse Your Illusion

SPIN iconBy: SPIN Staff // July 25, 2013

As the legend goes, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a cleansing rain, with Kurt Cobain’s opening chords immediately washing away butt-rock’s makeup, rendering spandex soggy and frayed, flattening Aqua Net hairdos, clogging Sunset Strip with bacteria and plague. In reality, fret noodlers and he-man poodlers lived out their twilight years just swimmingly, while slack motherfuckers were supping OK Cola from the gilded record-company chalice. Def Leppard’s Adrenalize spent twice as many weeks at No. 1 as Nirvana’s Nevermind, Mr. Big had a chart-topping single that conquered “I’m Too Sexy,” Bon Jovi had five post-grunge platinum records, and Aerosmith got their own roller coaster in Walt Disney World. Chuck Eddy has written extensively about how the smartest hair-metal bands were already writing their own tickets out of mershville anyway. And wasn’t “Teen Spirit” just a Boston song to begin with?

In the spirit of debating the Doc Marten footprint on the history books, here are 40 brazenly commercial rock songs that managed to survive — and flourish — after the grunge invasion. All these tracks found some modicum of popularity between January 11, 1992, when Nirvana infamously booted Michael Jackson from atop the Billboard 200, and January 28, 1995, when Headbanger’s Ball finally went off the air. And that year also saw the bitter fruits of the alternative explosion’s labor: Live, Silverchair, Collective Soul, the Rembrants, the Goo Goo Dolls, Gin Blossoms, Better Than Ezra, and Sponge. CHRISTOPHER R. WEINGARTEN