Happy Birthday, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

YouTube / Top of the Pops
YouTube / Top of the Pops / YouTube / Top of the Pops

On April 17, 1991, Nirvana performed "Smells Like Teen Spirit" live for the first time, making it 22 years old today. Tonight, let's look back at some memorable performances of the song -- including the first one ever recorded.

First Performance - April 17, 1991

This first performance has somewhat different lyrics than the later album version, and the solo meanders into a different mode, though the melody and general structure are all there. The crowd at the OK Hotel in Seattle seems to like it too. YouTube happens to have the entire show if you're a completist.

Live at the Paramount - October 31, 1991

What a difference six months makes. Note the Go-Go Boy/Girl.

Live on Top of the Pops - 1991

Oh, this is rich. The entire backing track is straight from the record, so Cobain takes his opportunity to mess with the bogus performance by singing alternate lyrics in a bizarre Morrissey impersonation. Sample TV-unfriendly changed lyric: "Load up on drugs, kill your friends!"

Live at Reading - August 30, 1992

With "More Than a Feeling" intro. Cobain doesn't bother to play portions of the guitar lines, opting instead for improvised noise. Apparently the dancer is Antony Hodgkinson, the drummer for Bivouac.

Official Music Video

If you haven't seen this, you weren't near a television in the early 90s.

Butch Vig on Recording the Song

Here's a snippet of a longer documentary about recording Nevermind: