Smells like Teen Spirit is one of the most famous songs of Nirvana, with a promotional video that won two MTV Video Music Awards. All three band members contributed to the song, Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic.
A misunderstanding at the origin of Smells like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
Many Nirvana fans already know that the Teen Spirit is a deodorant for teenagers and that the idea for the song was born during an evening of fun in the throes of alcohol fumes.
A Cobain-friendly singer, Kathleen Hanna, used the expression “smells like Teen Spirit” to tease Cobain. But he did not know the existence of that brand and understood it as a metaphor (smells of youthful spirit) and a compliment for his music, very close to the young and nonconformist.
But let’s find out more about the music video that accompanies the song.
Inspiration from films about crazy youth
Smells Like Teen Spirit video is directed by Samuel Bayer, who at the time was in his early days as a music video director.
He will then work with other famous artists: Justin Timberlake, Green Day, David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Metallica, My Chemical Romance.
The inspiration for Smell Like Teen Spirit video came from Jonathan Kaplan’s 1979 movie “Over The Edge”. The film is about the problem of youth distress and tells real events of bored young people who spend their time between alcohol, drugs and vandalism in California. In this film we see Matt Dillon make debut as an actor.
Another important reference is to the film “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” also from 1979. This film tells of a school where young people are all crazy about the Romones punk rock band.
The finale with the pogata of wild young people
Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit video was shot in California, Culver City. It shows us Nirvana who play in the school gym, used to host the band’s live.
The spectators are high school students, recruited in Los Angeles in the previous days through the distribution of flyers. Among the public and Nirvana there are tattooed cheerleaders, who perform with black uniforms and red pom-poms.
The scenes of the band that plays are alternated with the scenes of an old janitor who cleans on the floor. He starts dancing with the broom in his hand taken by the music. The setting is dismal and obscured by smoke.
About halfway through the song the students stand up, begin to pog and destroy everything. Kurt Cobain also destroys his guitar.
The final destruction was not wanted but it was an idea of Cobain, after noticing the discontent of the young people, tired of sitting for too many hours during the video shoot.
Some interesting facts about the video of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
The cheerleaders who perform in the video are dancers of a local strip club. On the uniforms they have a red circled A that symbolizes anarchy.
The striped sweater used by Kurt Cobain in the video is one of the best sellers, along with the green sweater he wore on the MTV Unplugged.
The face of Kurt Cobain for most of the video is obscured by the lights and his disheveled hair. This is a choice by director Samuel Bayer, also used in the video “Come as you are”. But Cobain disagreed and then introduced his close-up shot to the end of the video.
In the final scene of the video we see the janitor who cleans the floor after the party is over. There is the dean, with a pointed hat. The students tied him up and ridiculed him. The janitor is the actor Rudy Larosa.
Filming began at 11.30am and took about eight hours in total. The cost of the video was around $ 33,000.
On the drum of Dave Grohl’s drum we see “CHAKA” and it seems to refer to Daniel “Chaka” Ramos, one of the most famous graffiti writers of the time. He smeared the walls 50 thousand times with that name. The police arrested him and sentenced him.
The yellow shirt by Dave Grohl reports Scream instead, which refers to the eponymous band in which he played before entering Nirvana.