Once Dave Grohl was put into place they could start recording Nevermind. They started in Butch Vig’s Smart Studio in Madison, WI. The set up was low budget and so was the sound. Once they got cleared by their new label (Geffen) to rent a recording Studio they went over to Sound City in Van Nuys to record it on a more professional level. The did, however, use one track from the Smart Studio sessions on the final version of Nevermind – Polly. Soon after recording was completed, they filmed a video for their new song “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
After filming they went on a tour of Europe and without the Internet in those days, they were oblivious to the kind of impact their song was making in the US. They were just happy touring. They were able to see album sales climb and they noticed that Smells Like Teen Spirit was in heavy rotation on the radio and on MTV. They came back to the States in October (after playing clubs in Europe) and they sold out Seattle’s Paramount Theater. They had arrived on the scene.
They hated the new fans that they attracted. The “Frat boys” that bullied kids like them were now listening to their music and buying their CDs. After a high demand for new music Nirvana released “Incesticide” which was a compiliation of B-Sides and other rare songs with limited release up to that point. In the liner notes, Kurt wrote a long diatribe about the fans that they did not want. They did not want racist or ignorant people buying their records.
By 1992, Nirvana was on top of the world. Nevermind had been Number one on the Billboard charts knocking off Michael Jackson and they were selling out arenas all over the country. When it came time to make their second record for Geffen, they were in the driver’s seat. They wanted to make a record with Fuzz Master Steve Albini who did most of his work for Touch and Go Records recording The Jesus Lizard.
They trekked up to Pachyderm Studios in Minnesota and recorded In Utero. The entire recording process lasted 2 weeks and Kurt laid the vocals down in one day. Early masters were very raw and Nirvana had them remixed by Scott Litt of REM fame. This caused a riff between Albini and Nirvana because while Nirvana claimed that the label balked at the tapes, Albini feel that Nirvana was the ones who did not like it. The album sold well and early concerts sold out. As the year went on crowds became slightly smaller.
Shows were not selling out until the day of the show andsome were not sellingout at all. Sales of In Utero started to decline. In an effort to pick up ticket and album sales, Nirvana agreed to an “Unplugged” concert for MTV. They wanted to take a different route than the previous concerts. Everyone played their hits like it was Madison Square Garden (paraphrasing Dave Grohl) and Nirvana wanted to do something different. They played mostly thier songs, but detoured a bit and played covers like “Man Who Sold the World”. They Introduced the world to the Meat Puppets when they covered “Plateau”, “Lake of Fire”, and “Oh, Me” (all of the Meat Puppets second record titled II). Kurt capped off the evening with a breathtaking version of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”. Nirvana fever was reborn.
The return to success did not help Kurt at all though. His drug use was heavy and slipped into a coma in early 1994. They canceled a tour in Fbruary of 1994 due to Kurt’s laryngitis. Kurt checked himself into a rehab clinic in Los angeles. Sneaked out to get some cigarettes and never came back. His body was discovered in his Seattle homea few days later. He took his own life. He was 27.