Smells Like Rock ‘n Roll

It’s day 12 of Blogvember. I’m following the prompts from Andrew Canion, which can be found here.

I was raised on oldies music. Once I’d memorized the typical rotation fo Oldies radio as a young middle school-aged music fan, I graduated to classic rock and did the same. I worked my way up to 80’s metal bands, and onward to the 90’s music, and I’ll never forget the first time I heard Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit on the radio. It clicked with me in a powerful way, and all these years later it still does.

The Internet as we know it was far from anyone’s radar at that point in time, so there was no way to do a search based on lyrics, let alone a way to let a piece of software listen to it and return a result in a matter of seconds. It took me several weeks before I even learned the name of the band. A phone call in to request the song on the radio proved unsuccessful, since I didn’t know the track’s name; the DJ’s took the opportunity to mock me on the air afterward though, laughing at the kid with the lisp who “jutht wantth to hear thome Nirvana.”

Despite the sting, I remained undeterred. It’s a weird thing, to think about how much pushback the rock community had towards a gay kid who hadn’t figured himself out yet. And yet, it was rock that fueled me and kept me going. Smells Like Teen Spirit is a reminder of that feeling. The verses have a raw emotion to them, an air of sadness, while the chorus has pure angst. I’m sad I feel this way, it says, and then pushes back with But it doesn’t have to be like this. The lyrics don’t matter, this song is pure feel.

Just plug in the headphones, close your eyes, and let the music take you away. Pouring my soul into music was a way to live through a time in my life when I was afraid, and didn’t know who to turn to or where to go. It gave me a place to feel less alone, even if it was just me and a pair of headphones over my ears. It gave me a way to think differently, let the words mean what I wanted them to mean, and eventually the strength to break my way through.