With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us

Growing up, I listened to my parent’s music on WCSX. The Stones. The Beatles. CCR. Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young. This soundtrack was authentically theirs – created in the same turbulence that created them during the 60s and 70s.

My elementary-school soundtrack? New Kids on the Block. Debbie Gibson. Tiffany. A bunch of overproduced, meaningless, teeny-bopper nonsense.

But all that faded away with one ill-lit, blurry video of flannel-clad headbangers.

Load up on guns, bring your friends
It’s fun to lose and to pretend
She’s over-bored and self-assured
Oh no, I know a dirty word

This gift to my generation was not an overproduced studio creation. Smells Like Teen Spirit was angst and incoherence and apathy and anger. Legions of suburban teenagers, craving authenticity, ran to Value Village for second-hand flannels in a conformist desire to remake themselves in the hallowed image of Seattle grunge.

This belonged to us. Nirvana and Pearl Jam and the rest of the jams that escaped Seattle garages and found their way to our manicured midwestern suburbs.

With all due respect to Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell, there was something singular about Kurt Cobain. No one else on earth could turn a Mr. Rogers cardigan into an uncompromising statement of – well, the statement isn’t entirely clear, but it was clearly uncompromising. Even Weird Al’s Smells Like Nirvana played as less of a polka parody than a tribute to something inimitable. Cobain loved it, as well as the Grunge Lite Muzak version.

As my parent’s generation lost Jimmy and Janis and Jim Morrison, less than three years after Come As You Are, we would remember where we were on the brisk spring day (flannel shirt weather) that Kurt Cobain took his life. Just months earlier Nirvana’s had gone acoustic to dramatic effect on MTV Unplugged. All Apologies, Lake of Fire, The Man Who Sold The World.

Even now that Nevermind sits closer in time to The Beatles on Ed Sullivan than to the present, our Oregon Trail Generation holds fast to the memories of our disaffected youth and the music that helped us define ourselves.

I’m worse at what I do best
And for this gift I feel blessed
Our little group has always been
And always will until the end

Nirvana’s Nevermind was released on September 24, 1991. The author still rocks a Nirvana flannel and hat with embarrassing frequency.