Sunday, April 01, 2012

Caught On Tape: Nirvana on Top of the Pops (1991)

One of the best television performances from any band would have to include the mockery that was Nirvana's 1991 appearance on the British show, Top of the Pops.

Following the incredible breakthrough of Nirvana's single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit", the band was thrown into a whirlwind of unexpected fame and attention. The single catapulted the band from indie-rock heroes to crossover alternative pop culture icons.

The band's audience changed overnight from seedy punk rock clubs to arenas full of teenage girls and jocks - something frontman Kurt Cobain allegedly sought to rectify later with the band's less-accessible, but equally magnificent follow-up album, In Utero.

In the wake of newfound fame and success, the band was asked to perform on Top of the Pops - a chart-toppers countdown program, which featured pop stars miming their hit singles to an audience.

Cobain's general distaste for corporate puppetry influenced the band to use the opportunity as a platform for poking fun at the show's formula.

When Nirvana aired on Top of the Pops, Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic barely attempted to mime their guitar parts over the pre-recorded backing track. In fact, Novoselic spent most of the song wildly spinning and throwing his bass above his head and catching it.

Cobain took advantage of the show's live microphone to sing the entire song in a monotone, Ian Curtis-style vocal.

The hilarious resulting video has since become a cult favorite amongst Nirvana fans and serving as a great reminder that the band's troubled late-frontman, Kurt Cobain, also possessed a keen sense of humor.