CHAPTER 25: THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
KATHLEEN HANNA (Bikini Kill singer) In August of 1990, I found myself laying on my stomach, in the woods, with a pair of binoculars, a bottle of Canadian Club, and my friend Kurt Cobain. The reason why I had the binoculars was because I was the lookout while he ran across the street to a teen pregnancy center that had just opened in our town. And it really wasn’t a teen pregnancy center. It was a right-wing con where they got teenage girls to go in there and then told them they were gonna go to hell if they had abortions. Since Kurt and I were angry young feminists in the ’90s, we decided that we were gonna do a little public service that night. We drank our Canadian Club, and he watched out while I went across the street and wrote Fake Abortion Clinic, Everyone,’cause I was kinda like the pragmatic one. And he was more creative, so he went over, and in six- foot- tall red letters he wrote God Is Gay. He was kinda cool like that.
So, after that, we polished off the Canadian Club. And we lived in Olympia, Washington; we walked down the hill, we went to the bar, we got some more Canadian Club. Then we went to my apartment, we got some 40-ouncers, we got a little more drunk. And apparently I insulted just about everybody in my whole entire town, and I threw up on someone’s legs. It was one of those nights that like later on, whenever anybody mentions it you don’t want to think about it. So, ended up at Kurt’s apartment, and I smashed up a bunch of shit. And I took out a Sharpie marker and I wrote a bunch of shit all over his bedroom wall. . . . Then I passed out, with the marker in my hand. And I woke up, and I had one of those hangovers where you think that if you walk in the next room there could be a dead body in there. So I wasn’t that happy when six months later, Kurt called me up and said, “Hey, do you remember that night?” I was like, “Ehhhh . . .”
Then Kurt is like, “Well, there’s this thing that you wrote on my wall and it was actually kinda cool and I want to use it as a lyric in one of my songs.” And I was like, as long as I can get out of the conversation and not think about [that night] anymore, you can use whatever you want. So I hung up and thought, How the fuck is he gonna use “Kurt smells like teen spirit” as a lyric?
BUTCH VIG (producer; drummer for Garbage) The first thing Nirvana played, on the first day of rehearsals for Nevermind, was “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and I was just completely floored. It sounded huge and crushing loud. I just was pacing around ’cause it sounded so fuckin’ cool. I was like, “Play it again, play it again.” I made them play it like three or four times, and I went, “Wow, this is really, really good.” I knew at that point that just the power of them playing together was like a hundred times what it was when they had come to the Smart session, and a lot of that was because of Dave [Grohl].
In the big room next to where we were, Lenny Kravitz was rehearsing for a tour. On the third or fourth day of rehearsals, Gary Gersh, their A&R guy, was supposed to come by at a certain time. A couple hours went by, and the band didn’t want to just play, so Krist [Novoselic] went out and got a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and drank. Then he went into the office and got on the intercom: “Paging Lenny Kravitz!” I think he started going off: “Where’s Gary Gersh, that fuckin’-ass record company . . .”—you know, that kind of thing. And I had to run down there and persuade him, “Okay, maybe we should go back in. Let’s go and talk about your bass sound.”
We went up to Sound City up in the Valley in Los Angeles to record. We only spent like 16 days in the studio. The band was staying at the Oakwood Apartments, which they completely trashed. It looked like an atom bomb went off. Junk food and beer and records laying around and cassettes and guitars and guitar strings and sticks, and Kurt had drawn a bunch of pictures and written lyrics on the walls.
That band Europe that had a big hit with that song “The Final Countdown” was staying next to them. So there’s these blond Scando guys with their girlfriends out by the pool, and Kurt would take his guitar out there, and the Nirvana guys would sit out by the pool and make up songs about them. They were definitely punks. They were fuckin’ around as much as they could.
There was this BBQ place called Dr. Hogly Wogly’s near the studio, and one night I had the runner at the studio just get a huge meat slaughter, basically. The girls from L7 were there, and I was trying to finish an editor something, and when I came back out they’d had a food fight. I think L7 had spurred it on. They’d just completely taken the sausages and BBQ sauce and stuff and thrown it all over each other. There was a huge, ugly mess all over the walls of the studio lounge.