This fact about Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit video may change how you feel about it...
17 August 2020, 10:39
The iconic video was shot on 17 August 1991. Radio X looks at the making of this milestone.
Released on 10 September 1991 as the lead single and opening track from the band's Nevermind album, Smells Like Teen Spirit was a defiant call to arms, which put grunge on the map and catapulted Nirvana into the mainstream.
Along with the angst-ridden track came an iconic video which saw Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic perform amongst a throng of head-banging high-school teens.
Bathed in yellow with dry ice a-plenty, the Samuel Bayer-directed promo features cheerleaders donning the anarchy symbol, disaffected teens sitting on bleachers, and kids head-banging to their heart's content.
But, despite its gritty depiction of rebellious a high-school rally, Smells Like Teen Spirit wasn't shot in a place of education. In fact, it was filmed on a soundstage on Stage 6 at GMT Studios in Culver City, California.
The video was set up to look like a high school gymnasium - with Bayer taking inspiration from Jonathan Kaplan's 1979 film Over the Edge and The Ramones' film Rock 'n' Roll High School.
And, although there may have been real high-school students on set, a lot of the extras may have been young adults who were merely pretending.
Nirvana's casting call flyer asked that fans willing to appear in the video should be "18 to 25 years old and adapt a high-school persona" such as "preppy, punk, nerd [and] jock".
See the full flyer below and the location of the studios for the shoot, which took place on Saturday 17 August 1991 at 11.30am.
Smells Like Teen Spirit casting call. pic.twitter.com/Ed9zbugVwI— FREE AGENT. (@evboogie) August 17, 2019
According to music folklore, those disinterested looks on the kids' faces are the real deal as they were made to stay much longer than intended- enduring take after take until Cobain convinced Brayer to let them blow off steam.
Much like the title of the song itself, which was inspired by a deodorant called Teen Spirit and someone writing "Kurt smells like Teen Spirit" on Cobain's wall, Nirvana's video may have started out quite conventionally - but it went on to represent something far more rebellious.
The gymnasium may have been fake, and the kids not necessarily of high-school age, but the anarchic spirit of the grunge band and their fans was authentic and exhilarating.