Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' the Band's Biggest Hit, Turns 25

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana in 1993
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana performs in Dec. 1993 at Pier 28 in Seattle.

Saturday (Sept. 10) is the 25th anniversary of Nirvana’s lead single off the 1991 album Nevermind, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which went on to become the band’s biggest hit. The song’s success helped Nevermind, Nirvana’s second album (but major label debut), turn into a smash hit and marked a milestone in the grunge era.

On Nov. 23, 1991 – two months after its Sept. 10, 1991 release – “Smells Like Teen Spirit” topped Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. The generation-defining song also peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100.

Nirvana's 10 Biggest Billboard Hits

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” was written by band members Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl and produced by Butch Vig. Speaking of the song’s influence on the genre in a recent interview, Vig said, “It was a zeitgeist moment, you know? It turned people’s heads. Those records don’t come along very often.”

Although “Smells Like Teen Spirit” proved to be so influential in music and popular culture, Cobain was paying homage to one of his own influences when he wrote the track.

“I was trying to write the ultimate pop song,” he told Rolling Stone in January 1994, just four months before his death. “I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily I should have been in that band -- or at least in a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard."

Watch Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video below.