Friday, August 29, 2008

And the top 5 grunge songs are...

1. Nirvana - Lithium

The band members themselves assumed that this would be the song that would break them into the mainstream. They never expected it to be overshadowed by you-know-what.

If I were really trying to make an accurate list, Nirvana would have to take up at least 10, maybe 20, out of the top 40. But that wouldn't be very interesting.

So this song is just a stand-in for all the others I've had to leave out.

What really makes this song for me is Krist Novoselic's bassline. While the guitar part in the verse starts at the bottom and climbs upward, the bass starts at the top and descends. He wasn't generally a flashy bassist, but he clearly gave this song some extra attention. He also does some tasteful noodling in the "I'm not gonna crack" section. Computer speakers aren't great at transmitting bass parts, so I recommend getting out your copy of Nevermind and cranking up the bass.



It's common to say that other bands like the Pixies and the Melvins got a raw deal because they were making music slightly earlier that had a huge influence on Nirvana. Well, I'm sorry, but if there are great songs by the Pixies and the Melvins, I haven't heard them. Which composers from the classical era deserve more respect -- Haydn and Mozart, or Wagenseil and Monn? If you think all that matters is how early they appeared on the timeline of history, you'd have to say Wagenseil and Monn. Well, I know a lot of people who listen to Haydn and Mozart; I doubt if I know anyone who listens to Wagenseil or Monn.

Greatness isn't primarily a game of "I did it first!" It's about making art that touches a lot of people. They were the greatest.

(Click here for afterword.)

(Click here for the whole list.)

11 comments:

Nihimon said...

Bah...

"It's about making art that touches a lot of people"

Yet another reason "Smells Like Teen Spirit" should've taken the top spot. But yeah, I know, it's your list, and I could post my own list on my own blog...

Oh well, thanks for the list :)

Anonymous said...

"but if there are great songs by the Pixies and the Melvins, I haven't heard them."

"Velouria" is pretty tremendous, at least to my ears. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHhox4_SeHQ

John Althouse Cohen said...

Bah... "It's about making art that touches a lot of people" Yet another reason "Smells Like Teen Spirit" should've taken the top spot.

Well, I just don't think Smells Like Teen Spirit is their best song. It's always mystified me why it's so much more famous than the others. I probably wouldn't even put it in a list of the top 10 Nirvana songs ... certainly not the top 5.

wgh said...

If "Jeremy" is a great song then "Where Is My Mind?" is epic.

Anonymous said...

I agree with this. Smells Like Teen Spirt is a great song, but Lithium has always been my favorite song.

1.) Lithium
2.) Heart-Shaped Box
3.) In Bloom/Teen Spirt

All 4 of these songs are great nonetheless.

BleachedCandy said...

"It's about making art that touches a lot of people.

They were the greatest."

I agree that in an accurate grunge greatest Nirvana would have taken up to 20 spots. It doesn't matter who did it first, Nirvana did it best.

Steve-O said...

Though I probably don't agree with their politics, "Pretend We're Dead" was a grunge-y song that really nailed my generation.

Sorry to threadcrap, but I did not get grunge. MTV played it ad-nauseam in between reminding me that I was destined to die of AIDS. I yearned for something more happy. Adolescence was depressing enough.

Fortunately my paper route manager was into old-school pop. He forced me to get acquainted with the Philly Sound, Motown & Stax. What a blast. The lyrics were a lot more deep than most grunge, too.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Yeah, "Pretend That We're Dead" is a good one. I wanted to put it on the list but ran out of space.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Oh, sorry, it's just "Pretend We're Dead" -- no "That," despite the actual lyrics.

Farokh said...

Some good choices. But I'd make room for River of Deceit by Mad Season, Sworn and Broken by Screaming Trees, Footsteps by Pearl Jam, 4th of July by Soundgarden, Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns by Mother Love Bone and Don't Follow by Alice in Chains.

Anonymous said...

I agreed that Smells like a teen spirit is a great song, but really it's about grunge.. and smells like a teen spirit got less grunge instruction in it.. so I totally agreed with lithium..