10 Facts About Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’ Only Superfans Would Know
Nirvana are often cited as the band that ignited "grunge" with their 1991 album Nevermind. This wasn't their first album, however —their debut, Bleach, was released two years earlier on June 15.
Just as Bleach isn't home to their more iconic songs such as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "In Bloom," the lineup behind the album wasn't the one they're most associated with either. Before Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic mostly worked with drummer Chad Channing on the album.
To commemorate the album's 31st anniversary, here are 10 other facts you may not know about Nirvana's Bleach.
1. Sub Pop had only asked for an EP.
Nirvana's first-ever single was a cover of a song called "Love Buzz" by a Dutch band called Shocking Blue. Sub Pop released the single in 1988, and asked for an EP from the band to follow. However, they were ready to put out a full album. A slightly different version of "Love Buzz" appeared on the album.
2. Cobain said Sub Pop was pushing the "grunge sound."
According to Michael Azerrad's Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, Cobain said Sub Pop was really pushing the Seattle grunge sound. He felt pressure to adhere to it, so he scrapped any poppy song ideas he had.
3. Thus, the lyrics sounded angry.
Cobain told Spin in 1993 that he "didn't give a flying fuck what the lyrics were about" when he wrote the songs for Bleach, which he did while he was "pissed off" the night before they started recording. "Let's just scream negative lyrics, and as long as they're not sexist and don't get too embarrassing it'll be okay," he explained further. "I don't hold any of those lyrics dear to me."
He also told Sounds Magazine that a lot of the lyrics on the album were inspired by his life in Aberdeen, Wash.
4. An AIDS Prevention poster inspired the name.
Bleach's working title was originally Too Many Humans. Cobain changed it when he saw a poster for AIDS prevention in San Francisco, which advised heroin users to bleach their needles prior to inserting them.
5. "Big Long Now" was originally supposed to be on it.
The track "Big Long Now," which was released on their 1992 compilation album Incesticide, was originally written and recorded for Bleach. Cobain, however, didn't want another "slow heavy" song on the album, as mentioned in Gillian G. Gaar's Verse Chorus Verse: The Recording History of Nirvana.
6. A surprising combination of artists partly influenced its sound.
Before the group even began recording Bleach, they had a tape they often listened to together in their van — one side had the Smithereens, the other had Celtic Frost. "That tape was always getting played, turned over and over again. I think back now and go, ‘Yeah, maybe that was an influence,'" Novoselic told Rolling Stone in 2001.
7. Several drummers played on it.
Though Grohl is primarily known as Nirvana's drummer, he didn't join the group until 1990. They had the Melvins drummer Dale Crover play on three of the album's songs initially — "Floyd the Barber," "Paper Cuts," and "Downer." When they hired Channing on drums instead, they intended to re-record the songs with him playing, but ultimately decided to remix Crover's versions instead. Therefore, Crover and Channing are both credited as having played drums on Bleach.
8. Jason Everman funded it.
A guitarist named Jason Everman was a fan of Nirvana's demo tape, and paid the $606.17 in recording time spent on Bleach that producer Jack Endino billed the band for. Nirvana ended up recruiting Everman as their second guitarist, gave him credits on the album and featured him on the cover — though he didn't actually work on the album with the band at all.
"We just wanted to make him feel at home in the band," Novoselic said, as noted in Azerrad's book. After Everman left Nirvana, he briefly joined Soundgarden on bass.
9. The font used accidentally became their band logo.
A photo of Cobain, Novoselic, Channing and Everman performing was taken at the Reko/Muse Art Gallery in Olympia, Wash. by Cobain's girlfriend at the time, Tracy Marander. Graphic designer Lisa Orth made the photo look inverted for the album's cover. Grant Alden chose the font Onyx for the words on the cover, and that ended up being the font used in the band's iconic logo.
10. It's Sub Pop's best-selling record of all time.
Prior to the release of 1991's Nevermind, Bleach had only sold 40,000 copies in the U.S. and had not charted. Geffen Records decided to put out an international re-release of Bleach after seeing the success of its follow-up, and it peaked at No. 89 on the Billboard 200. At 1.9 million copies sold as of today, Bleach is Sub Pop's best-selling album of all time.
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