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punk_broke

20.10.2011 / Arts & Culture

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The year punk broke

Twenty years ago,  Nevermind by Nirvana made its debut. It was 1991 – “The Year Punk Broke”, like the title of a famous documentary on the band’s European tour with  Sonic Youth - and quite a lot of American underground rock band suddendly came into the limelight.

 

The Nineties had started perfectly in line with the late-Eighties pop taste: Mariah Carey’s and Whitney Houston’s slick soul, Vanilla Ice’s easy hip hop, The Immaculate Collection by Madonna… In April, though, the first signs of a change revealed themselves: REM entered the USA Top Ten with Out of time.

 

That’s probably one of the reasons why Nirvana, while going into the studio to record Nevermind, sort of had the feeling that this album would sell well. But they sertainly did not expect to sell over 10 million copies in the USA alone (and more than 30 million copies worldwide)!

A figure that, twenty years later, still appears quite impressive -  particularly considering that The Fame, Lady Gaga’s greatest commercial success, sold less than half the copies of Nevermind in the States and around one third worldwide.

 

Leaving the figures apart, what strikes most is the cultural role of that album, which allowed lots of alternative rock bands to sign contracts that they could have only dreamed of months before.

 

The golden age of grunge had begun, and  Seattle became the international Capital of rock music.

 

Yet, just like every good Revolution, even this one was followed by a Restoration – notably the long wave of boy bands and the advent of talent shows. But that’s another story…


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