Man, this sentence: “ I was a fan of the ghost more than the band.” Lord almighty that’s brilliant. Perfect.
And her larger point is one that I think is important. Ruth Hill in her book on Bourbon Spanish America says that our biggest problem in understanding race in that era is that we look back through the lens of history. To Kathy’s point, this Nirvana nostalgia that remembers them as ubiquitous and us all as fans from the beginning (or if not the beginning, at least we were hip to it by Nevermind) remembers through an era of iTunes and Foo Fighters and YouTube and instant wide sharing of cool stuff. I think we’re remembering wrong.
My best friend at the time saw Nirvana when they opened for REM when we were sophomores in high school. She thought they were good. Bought their t-shirt. Remember, she was my best friend. I was at her house at least once a week. I never heard a Nirvana song until my senior year of high school. I don’t know if she didn’t also buy a tape at the show (the very first CDs that came into our house were the Led Zeppelin box set, which the Butcher got for Christmas, also my senior year, which meant that, before that, no Phillips had a CD player. For sure, no minor I knew had a CD player when I was 15. If I had to guess, without asking him, I’d guess he got some kind of CD player for his birthday (at the end of October) and then may have had to wait until Christmas for anything to play on it.) or if she did but she didn’t like it that much or what.
But now, if someone says “I heard this cool band,” It takes me five seconds to find them on the internet and hear them.
I’m not saying that some people weren’t big fans from the second the album hit, but I think we forget how long it took for things to catch on. I mean, just as a thought experiment, recall Thriller. There was an album with a bunch of hits on it, that sold incredibly well (to put it mildly), but remember–it sold well for a long time. Because it kept finding new audiences. Everyone in the world, or hell, just the United States, who was going to buy that album and like it didn’t know about that album when it came out, or even when it hit number one.
Things used to be able to build buzz on the back end, after release. Take on lives of their own.
That we remember it like someone flipped a switch and we all loved Nirvana says more about how we love music now than how we did then.