Nirvana was a reluctant god of the Seattle grunge scene. Led by troubled singer Kurt Cobain, the band’s second studio album Nevermindwas an unexpected breakout success, featuring drummer Dave Grohl(who went on to lead the Foo Fighters) and the hit track“Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Nirvana’s melodic guitar chords and poetic lyrics by Cobain spoke to a disaffected generation of teens and shot the band to stardom they never embraced.
The iconic Nirvana“smiley face” is said to have been drawn by Cobain and made its first appearance on a flyer for the Nevermind album release party on September 13, 1991. After the album dropped, the obscure Seattle grunge band was suddenly one of the biggest acts on earth, selling more than a million copies. No one knows the meaning of the smiley. Some say it’s a dig at the manufactured pop music of the 1980s, a hint at the acid house craze, or a poke at Cobain’s enemy Axl Rose(who he detested). Whatever the meaning, the smiley is widely recognized as Nirvana’s symbol of protest against the corporate music machine.