Courtney Love Reveals ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ Alternate Lyrics
Before it singlehandedly shifted the musical paradigm and became the defining rock song of the '90s, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" underwent myriad changes. Courtney Love has now offered a glimpse into Kurt Cobain's songwriting process by sharing some of the anthem's alternate lyrics.
Love revealed some of the "Teen Spirit" first-draft lyrics on the Ringer's 60 Songs That Explain the '90s podcast, which you can hear below. Noting that "some of these were in these journals, and some of them are unpublished," she then read several excerpts from her late husband's smash hit.
Some of the alternate lyrics fit neatly into the vocal structure established on "Teen Spirit," such as: "Come out and play / Make up the rules / I know I hope to buy the truth / Who will be the king and queen of all the outcasted teens?" Love later recited another stanza that began in the same fashion and incorporated some of the song's official lyrics: "Come out and play / Make up the rules / Have lots of fun / We know we’ll lose / Our little group has always been / And always will until the end."
Elsewhere, "Teen Spirit"'s chorus began to take shape with lines such as: "We're so lazy and so stupid / Blame our parents and the cupids / A deposit for a bottle / Stick it inside / No role model." The iconic "entertain us" line reared its head, too: "A denial and from strangers / A revival and from favors / Here we are now / We're so famous / Here we are now / Entertain us."
Watch Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' Video
Love noted that Cobain had not fully developed all of his alternate lyrics, with certain lines — such as "We merge ahead this special day giving amnesty to sacrilege" — sounding rhythmically clunky. She also lingered on a few "really deep" lines that she had never seen before: "I'll take a side / I'll be over here / Sustain a pride from a boring stare / Just humor them / A relaxing dose / To have a child is a selfish roast."
The Hole frontwoman was particularly taken with lyrics that loosely pertained to her and Cobain's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. Specifically, she wished he had kept the "king and queen of all the outcasted teens" lyric "because that would have helped my life a little bit better, taking on so much of the shit that me and my daughter have."
Hear Courtney Love on the Ringer's '60 Songs That Explain the '90s'
Audiences were more than happy with the song's final lyrics. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and propelled Nirvana's 1991 breakthrough album Nevermind to diamond status by the end of the decade. It kick-started the grunge revolution, became known as an anthem for Generation X and made the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's list of "500 Songs That Shaped Rock 'n' Roll."
Although Love confessed to being envious of Cobain's lyricism, she was no slouch either. Hole's 1994 breakthrough album Live Through This went platinum, as did its Top 10 follow-up, 1998's Celebrity Skin.