Dave Grohl had already lived a remarkable life before he joined Nirvana. By age 21, he had achieved things that would have been unthinkable to his young self only a few years prior.
It says everything about Grohl’s exploits as the drummer of the widely influential hardcore outfit Scream that after joining them at 17 and four years of globetrotting, he would be a hardened veteran of the scene, regardless of still being a youth in many ways. Spending such a formative period as a vital part of one of the day’s most influential underground acts would also give Grohl the key to his future.
Through his friendship with sludge-metal masters the Melvins, which was forged on the road with Scream, Grohl would come to join Nirvana in 1990, another band making waves in the underground scene at the time. The trio released their debut album Bleach in 1989, with it the first taste of what was to come from Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic’s act. However, it wasn’t until they converged with Dave Grohl that they would find the missing piece of the puzzle and make their music more resounding than ever before. In doing so, they reset the course of modern music.
When Grohl joined Nirvana, they had already started work on several demos for the follow-up to Bleach with Butch Vig in Wisconsin. Of course, the bespectacled whizz would go on to helm what became their sophomore record and one of the best-selling albums of all time, Nevermind.
However, getting the project off the ground wasn’t so straightforward for the group, with Grohl entering during a period of great upheaval. At first, the band planned to release the album through Sub Pop, but that relationship fell apart. Accordingly, and due to the interest garnered by the new demos, Grohl spent his first period with Cobain and Novoselic shopping around labels for a deal. They eventually signed with DGC Records, and in spring 1991, checked into Los Angeles’ legendary Sound City Studios to record Nevermind with Vig.
This is a period that Grohl has reflected on many times in the years since Nirvana ended. When speaking to Uncut in 2021, he named the few tracks that the group had already recorded when he entered the fold and revealed that the one the group had put “most faith into” was ‘In Bloom’. He famously elevated this song from its original form by adding that iconic double bass drum kick.
Grohl said: “When I joined the band in September 1990 I had only heard Bleach. I loved that record so much. It really stood apart from all the other music I was listening to, mostly because of Kurt’s sense of melody. There was lots of noise, lots of heavy riffs and lots of punk rock going around, but there was something about Nirvana that set them apart. The song “About A Girl” on Bleach just kind of blew everybody’s minds, that the band had that much of a range of dynamics, not just musically but melodically. When I joined I hadn’t heard any of the music they had recorded with Butch Vig months before [in Madison, Wisconsin, in April 1990].”
He continued: “Originally those recordings were meant to be the next Sub Pop record, but that fell apart. When they played me those demos – they considered them demos – “Breed” was then titled “Imodium”. I loved that riff, I loved the chorus, the simplicity of melody. “Lithium” was there and “In Bloom”. “In Bloom” was the song that they had invested the most faith into. They had made a video for it and the production was amazing. I heard those songs and thought, ‘Wow, these guys have really taken a giant leap, from Bleach to this new material.’”
Listen to ‘In Bloom’ below.