Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Smells like nostalgic spirit

Is it really 20 years ago since Nirvana brought some teen spirit to Sir Henry’s and the Top Hat when they supported Sonic Youth? OTR rarely indulges in nostalgia, but I probably won’t be the only person who is transported …

Thu, Jan 27, 2011, 09:50

   

Is it really 20 years ago since Nirvana brought some teen spirit to Sir Henry’s and the Top Hat when they supported Sonic Youth? OTR rarely indulges in nostalgia, but I probably won’t be the only person who is transported back two decades when they pick up the current issue of Mojo magazine. It has an excellent piece by Keith Cameron on Nirvana with those two Irish shows in August 1991, just before “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Nevermind” catapulted the band (and especially Kurt Cobain) into the mainstream, featuring heavily. Cameron’s piece features excerpts from an interview he did with the band on the tour-bus between Cork and Dublin (with Spinal Tap playing on the video machine), as well as some fine shots by Ed Sirrs from the Cork gig.

I mentioned the piece on Twitter the other evening and, lo and behold, Ruari Lynch pointed me towards a recording from that Sir Henry’s show. Twitter is great like that, I have to say. The recording will probably add to the number of people who claim to have been at the show. Indeed, there are now probably more people who were at the Sir Henry’s and Top Hat gigs than who claim to have been at the GPO in 1916. The recording also makes me wonder just how many other seminal Irish gig recordings are out there waiting to be heard again, gigs which were recorded surreptitiously by silent lads with a Sony Professional walkman in their jacket and which were sold on O’Connell Bridge the following day.

Yes, I know I’ve talked about this brace of gigs before on OTR. Back in 1991, I was doing some PR work for promoter Gerry Harford and he was the one who brought Sonic Youth and Nirvana to Ireland, with Des Blair taking care of the gig in Cork. The Youth had played McGonagle’s (a brilliant venue which used to stand on South Anne Street) the previous year so there was a huge buzz about them, hence why the gig was now on in the bigger capacity Top Hat. There was absolutely no fuss about Nirvana, though. I knew about them via a couple of tracks which Therapy? drummer Fyfe Ewing had included on a brilliant compilation tape he’d done for me and that was the extent of it.

I thought Nirvana were fantastic on both occasions, though if you told me that they were about to go supernova, I’d have laughed. Back in August 1991, it still didn’t quite seem possible that a band like Nirvana would set the world alight. I listened to “Nevermind” yesterday for the first time in years and it all came echoing back from that time before the internet. All those elements which elicited wows 20 years ago are still present and correct: the dumb energy, the fantastic pop hooks, Cobain’s rebel howl, the sheer intensity of a great band high on the hog. Let’s hope we see their likes again.

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