Albums that influenced the music of Nirvana - Part 1

Posted at August 28th, 2015 | by Mukul Menon | in

For a band as immersed in pop culture as Nirvana was, their influences were surprisingly eclectic, especially when found scribbled down in Kurt Cobain’s journals as an exhaustive list of 50 albums that were most influential to Nirvana’s music (inexplicable omissions include Meat Puppets, Queen, Neil Young etc.). Ironically, a lot of the mentioned albums found little commercial success. In retrospect, unlike my high school understanding of music when I first heard them, Nirvana does seem to be a good example of how far underground music can reach into the mainstream; their music was unusual by all means. The list is laced with a lot of essential listening and at a time when music is so readily accessible, consuming these albums would definitely help expand the sensibilities of listeners.


Iggy & The Stooges – Raw Power (1973)




I’m a street walking cheetah, with a heart full of napalm” are the brilliant first words of Raw Power, a record that many (including David Bowie, who produced it) claim was one of the albums that gave birth to punk rock. Yet there is no perfect listenable version of it around; mixes by Bowie, Iggy, the numerous remasters etc. haven’t been able to do justice to its wonderfully disruptive music. It is unfortunate that the explosive, all-consuming,‘raw power’virtue of the album is partly in our heads as we imagine a well recorded version of it. Maybe, that’s the reason why the prowess in Iggy Pop’s song writing and the primal guitar work of James Williamson came to the people’s realization only many years later. It is no surprise that an avid listener such as Kurt Cobain would instantly identify with it, often claiming that this was his favorite album of all time.

Introductory tracks – Search and Destroy, Gimme Danger


The Pixies- Surfer Rosa (1988)




Pioneers of the start-stop, soft-loud dynamic that bands all over the world since subscribed to wholeheartedly. Surfer Rosa picked up punk rock and surf music and churned it into something so influential such that bands like Radiohead and Nirvana have often stated that they were ripping the pixies off for some part or in the latter’s case a major part of their careers. SurferRosa is about as wild and eccentric as a rock album can get, and it draws listeners to test out the freakish side to their musical sensibilities, while etching a permanent speck of inspiration on musicians who have listened to it. Beware; Francis Black’s unusual subjects for lyrical content will definitely take getting used to.


Introductory tracks: Where is my Mind, River Euphrates, Caribou


The Breeders- Pod (1990)




This is the natural progression of a Pixies album, made by Kim Deal’s (ex-bassist of the Pixies) band the Breeders with a much warmer sound. It incorporates a little more of the soft dynamic of The Pixies while the feminine touch that Kim Deal’s backing vocals gave their sound takes the front stage here. The album really starts from only the second song Doe and their take on “Happiness is a warm gun” by the Beatles is a definite high point.

Introductory tracks – Happiness is a Warm Gun, Fortunately Gone, Hellbound


The Vaselines – Dying for It (1988)




Nirvana had released at least three covers of their songs, two of which are in this EP. The breezy simplicity in the duo’s songwriting, and the unique complementary quality between the two voices make this a beautiful EP to listen to; Although‘Son of a Gun’ (which is not a part of the EP) is probably the ideal introductory song to The Vaselines.

Introductory tracks- Jesus Don’t want me for a Sunbeam, Molly’s Lips


Aerosmith – Rocks (1976)



Rocks is amongst the more commercially successful and mainstream recordsin the list. Yet this is one of Aerosmith’s bare bones, raw, rock and roll offerings. The country infused bluesy guitar licks and improvisations were a landmark for many guitar players across genres. Heavier songs like Back in the Saddle and Nobody’s Child were pivotal in the musical upbringing of musicians like James Hetfieldand Slash.

Introductory tracks: Back in the Saddle, Last Child


Mukul Menon


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