Smells Like Teen Spirit….Again!

If you have teens or tweens (or just love re-livin’ the dream), then you’ve no doubt been dragged into certain major retailers and to your very great surprise, found THE most epic collection of band t-shirts - and not of the Gen Z era belonging to the youngin’ that dragged you in.


Oh no no, these beauties go waaaay back…


Bowie, The Doors, Led Zepplin, AckaDacka, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, The Beatles! YES!


Now this, I can get in to!


Hold up, then there’s the Ramones. Forgive me if you’re a fan. Ramones tees have been around for yonks. And they look supercool. Here’s the thing though - have you ever listened to a Ramones track?


Or is it just me?...that despite having a reasonable knowledge of decades-old-rock-bands, the Ramones have just elusively slipped by, unnoticed? Cannot. Name. A. Track.


*It might be time for me to Google some Ramones tracks. Surely this can’t be the only band to have made more spondoula from t-shirt royalties than song royalties? I’ll do that later.


I digress. Back to the rack….


Ironically, there had been uproar in our household earlier in the week, when a news story hit recently. The guitar used by Kurt Cobain in his unforgettable 1993 MTV Unplugged performance, sells to Aussie businessman for $6 million!!!


There is a loud chorus that echoes around the house and it didn’t scream “WITH THE LIGHTS OUT….“. Nope!


“Outrageous. No way! That’s ridiculous!” they cry! “I can think of HEAPS better things to do with $6 million smackaroos!!!”


I put forward a counter argument or two:


“Well if you’d grown up listening to that album, you might see it a little differently! If you were a business-person with say $50 million, dropping a lazy $6 mil on one of history’s greatest Gee-tars, is arguably a safe and sound investment. It’ll probably be worth double that in 10 years! He’s bought it to support struggling artists!”


So it is then of some amusement to me when my tween spots the Nirvana Unplugged t-shirt, actually clearly depicting the controversial guitar.

“Ohhhh how cool is this???!”. Silent sigh, eye roll.


And then we see it... A pause. In the perfect shade of dusty pink. The smiley face, cross eyes, the unforgettable wonky smile, tongue poking out. Iconic Nirvana.


“Are these for 13-year old’s?Would it be too lame if I did???”


Tween beats me to it. “I loooooove this!”


I do what any responsible parent (and ho hum.. proper Nirvana fan) should do. Refuse to buy the band t-shirt until the appropriate musical education has rightly taken place. And so the car ride home goes something like this…


“Now kid, do you know any Nirvana songs?”




“But you want the shirt?”


“I reeeeeeally want the shirt”


This will be the first Nirvana song she ever hears. A special moment. It must have an impact. I must choose wisely.


Come as you are? Heart Shaped Box? About a Girl? My old favourite, Lithium?


No, there is only one thing to do.


The year was 1991, I was 11. We’d record “Rage” on ABC, it started at midnight on Friday and by the time it was around 8 or 9am, you’d be down to the top 10. But the best stuff was to be found way back in the, dark, eerie, early hours of the morning. A goldmine for musical discovery – long before the luxuries of Spotify.


It would take a good chunk of the day to work through it. The good old VCR days, thumb on and off the fast forward button…


And then one morning, there it was... music would never be the same. Smells Like Teen Spirit.


My sister (and fellow Nortie) Amy and I, had it on repeat for the next year (or 15). Roller blading around the house, our song blaring in the background. Lucky Dad was a park ranger and we lived in a national park…


We learned to play it on our own guitars. Amy well…me not so much. Bar chords, frets 1,6,4,9…. Blistered fingertips & livin’ the dream.

But what does a tween think in the year 2020? A tween born into a different time – where Converse Chuck Taylors are cool-kid cool – not just outcast cool, worn clean and without your own graffiti over them.

It starts. The unmistakable intro. Those four magic chords, played cleanly at first, followed by the crackling, distorted electric guitar – from the depths of the Seattle underground, accompanied by a drum beat responsible for many a neck-ache – such was its power.


And honestly, it ain’t long until the head is rocking. The lead-in to the chorus, ‘hello, hello, hello, how low” quickly becomes familiar and she’s smiling, humming along in no time and actually appreciating the masterpiece that it is.


It was a great moment.


So here I find myself kinda grateful for this mainstream resurgence of band tees, maybe bringing some blissful musical moments back for other families too. But for now, us Victorians are bunkered down in lockdown 2.0 – and there won’t be any shopping for band tees.


I’m just REALLY hoping that by the time this passes, Justin Bieber’s face is not adorning the new vintage tee!


And yes kiddo – you’ve aced your induction – and you can have the tee.


Norte Blog Story by Casey Hill



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