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’80s Metal Stars Talk Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’


When Nirvana’s Nevermind arrived some 20 years ago, ’80s metal was already well on its way out (see SPIN contributor Chuck Eddy’s 2009 essay on the subject). But the arrival of Kurt Cobain and Co.’s blockbuster album added an exclamation point to the musical transition. Here’s how five rockers, circa 1991, remember Nirvana’s arrival:

    Mötley Crüe

    I announced the album before its release on [MTV’s] Headbangers Ball. I said, “Here is an important rock album.” I never understood bands saying Nirvana had anything to do with derailing their career. Maybe those bands just didn’t have the goods. You can’t pee like a puppy if you wanna run with the big dogs.

    Def Leppard

    At the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, we were the sacrificial lamb — it was Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Chili Peppers, and Def Leppard. People were quite hostile towards us, which I thought was a joke — a new kind of music comes out that’s about you not wanting to be like anyone else and then you’re narrow-minded? Unfortunately, we got lumped in with these awful hair bands, which we didn’t really think we were part of any- way. So when Nirvana came on, it was like, “Yeah, it’s gonna fuck us a bit,” but it was also great music.

    Skid Row

    It was a great album and the first “alternative” album to break huge — which is probably what Kurt Cobain never wanted to happen. The album still sounds amazing 20 years later, and Dave Grohl continues to rock harder than ever — what an incredible songwriter, frontman, singer, guitar player. And that album reminds us that he is also one of the finest drummers of all time. That guy can do it all.

    Van Halen

    I liked the dressing-down thing; I was so over glitter-rock. Shorts, tank tops, flip-flops around-the-clock was my attitude. I didn’t want to get dressed up and pretend to be some rock star anymore. And these guys were doing it and not only getting away with it, but changing the way everybody dressed.

    L.A. Guns

    Pop metal at the time was getting so shallow and watered down. Nirvana just reminded people how ballsy rock is sup- posed to be. I got a copy of Nevermind from a friend a few months before it came out — it didn’t immediately grab me, but after about a week, I was completely sucked in. Kerrang! ran a photo of me wearing a Nirvana T-shirt onstage with a caption saying something like “Uh oh, is this the new trend?” I really don’t care what my hair-metal peers thought or think.