When Nirvana’s Nevermind was released on Sept. 24, 1991, it made a fairly low-key arrival on Billboard’s charts, debuting at No. 144 on the Billboard 200 and selling 6,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen Music. That’s not surprising, considering the band was then still a relatively unknown group that had only just arrived on Billboard’s charts a few weeks earlier, with its eventually iconic single “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Two-and-a-half decades later, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a world without Nevermind. Featuring guitarist/frontman Kurt Cobain, bassist Krist Novoselic and a pre-Foo Fighters Dave Grohl on drums, the album catapulted alternative rock — specifically the grunge subgenre fizzing in the Pacific Northwest — into homes across America.
Along the way: a two-week run atop the Billboard 200 – the first of four No. 1s for the band between 1992 and 1996 – plus an Alternative Songs-topping single that paved the way for four more, one of which came after Cobain’s suicide on April 5, 1994, at age 27.
Here are some Billboard chart statistics about Nevermind for its 25th birthday:
– On the Jan. 11, 1992-dated chart, Nevermind rose from No. 6 to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, replacing Michael Jackson’s Dangerous in the top slot. Nevermind would spend one more week atop the list, on the Feb. 1-dated chart.
– The album has spent a whopping 335 total weeks on the Billboard 200 (and counting!).
– Its best sales week came during Christmas week of 1991, when the album sold 374,000 copies in the week ending Dec. 29 (coinciding with the Jan. 11, 1992-dated chart, when the album hit No. 1).
– Nevermind remained on the Billboard 200 for nearly two years after its first appearance (Oct. 12, 1991), falling off after the chart dated July 10, 1993, only to return three weeks later.
– Of its 9.4 million in total U.S. sales, 59 percent (5.6 million) have come in the form of CDs, 36 percent (3.3 million) in cassettes and 5 percent (455,000) digitally.
– It is the 12th biggest selling rock album in the U.S. since Nielsen Music began tracking sales in 1991.
– The album spawned five charting tracks, in total, on the Alternative Songs and Mainstream Rock Songs airplay charts. Four of Nevermind’s cuts reached Alternative Songs: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (No. 1 for one week), “On a Plain” (No. 25), “Come As You Are” (No. 3) and “Lithium” (No. 25). On the Mainstream Rock Songs tally, “Teen Spirit” climbed to No. 7, while “Come As You Are” reached No. 3 and “Lithium” peaked at No. 16. “On a Plain” didn’t reach Mainstream Rock Songs, but the album’s “In Bloom” did, reaching No. 5.
-Three of Nevermind’s singles reached the Billboard Hot 100. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” led the way, peaking at No. 6 in January 1992, the band’s only top 10. “Come As You Are” (No. 32) and “Lithium” (No. 64) followed. (The band didn’t return to the Hot 100 until 2002, with “You Know You’re Right,” peaking at No. 45.)
– Nirvana on the dance floor? Indeed. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is Nirvana’s one and only hit on the Dance Club Songs chart, peaking at No. 14 on the Jan. 18, 1992-dated list. That week, the track was sandwiched between The Orb’s “Little Fluffy Clouds” at No. 13 and St. Etienne’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” at No. 15.