Arts & Entertainment

Guitar from ’90s-defining Nirvana song on display this week in London

By Enrique Rubio

London, Apr 27 (EFE).- There are songs that mark an entire decade, tracks that with the perspective of time are seen as epitomizing the defining characteristics of their era.

Such is the case of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which opened Seattle grunge band Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind and became Generation X’s anthem of apathy.

The music video for the song also was instrumental in its surprising reach and impact thanks to its depiction of a riot at a high-school pep rally.

In it, shaggy-haired lead singer Kurt Cobain performs on stage with his band mates and strums a guitar that itself has earned a place in rock history, will be on display this week in London and then be put up for auction for the first time next month in New York.

While there has been no lack of speculation about the deeper symbolic meaning of the song’s title, its apparent origin was a banal comment after a wild night of partying by a friend of Cobain’s and of Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl.

As the story goes, punk rock musician Kathleen Hanna wrote on Cobain’s wall, “Kurt Smells like Teen Spirit,” a reference to a deodorant brand that he and his then-girlfriend Tobi Vail had discovered.

But neither the title nor its unmistakable main guitar riff would have been enough to elevate the song to its legendary status without the help of the music video that accompanied the track.

Cobain appears in it with a 1969 Fender Mustang Competition Lake Placid Blue Finish electric guitar, his favorite and – unlike many others he played – one that he never smashed or destroyed on stage.

That instrument is on public view this week at the Hard Rock Cafe in London’s Piccadilly Circus and will then go under the hammer between May 20 and May 22 at a “music icons” event at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City.

Conservative estimates indicate the guitar will fetch between $600,000 and $800,000 (between 570,000-760,000 euros), but Julien’s Auctions Executive Director Martin Nolan said the final price tag may be much higher.

In that regard, he noted the many wealthy members of Generation X (those born between the mid-1960s and late 1970s) who look back on their youth with nostalgia and would like to possess an iconic item – and one that may appreciate further in value in the future.

Some scrapes on the guitar’s left side and its neck show that it did not completely escape Cobain’s wrath.

But the musician, who committed suicide in April 1994 at age 27, always referred to the Fender Mustang as his favorite guitar and took care not to destroy it.

Since his death, it has remained in the hands of those close to Cobain (the seller has asked to remain anonymous) and also has been displayed at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture.

Although the song served to bring Nirvana and grunge music to the attention of the masses (or perhaps precisely because of its success), Cobain always was critical of the track and said it was no better than anything else he had written.

He also would become fed up with fans who regularly requesting that it be played in concert.

Yet despite his feelings about it, the song has had undeniable staying power and the guitar from one of MTV’s most popular videos also will live on, albeit in the hands of a new owner. EFE


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