It was the anthem of a generation, but during his tragically short time in the spotlight, Kurt Cobain grew to hate Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” often shows up on lists of the Best Songs of the ‘90s and the Best Songs of All Time, so why would Cobain eventually hate the track that gave them worldwide success and recognition? Well, worldwide recognition and success beyond his wildest dreams was not something Kurt Cobain necessarily wanted.
“Kurt probably wanted to sell 20 million records and be the biggest band in the world, but I’m sure he didn’t want all the baggage that came along with it,” Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl said in an interview. “I’m sure he didn’t even realize what baggage came along with it. Nobody did. I didn’t.”
Another issue Cobain faced is that “Teen Spirit” took the attention away from Nirvana’s other songs. Kurt didn’t feel like “Teen Spirit” was superior to anything else he’d written, once pointing to “Drain You” as an example of something just as good, if not better. But he also admitted that if “Drain You” had become as popular as “Teen Spirit,” he likely would’ve lost his love for that track as well.
Cobain also struggled with obtaining a mainstream audience, in that he suddenly saw the types of people who beat him up in high school coming to see Nirvana live. He eventually refused to play the song live, adding, “I literally want to throw my guitar down and walk away. I can’t pretend to have a good time playing it.”
All these reasons were compounded by mental illness or illnesses that Cobain was suffering through at the time and up to his death by suicide in 1994. In his final note, Cobain wrote, “Why don’t you just enjoy it? I don’t know.”
Watch our full video on why Kurt Cobain hated “Smells Like Teen Spirit” below.