An album that helped to shape the direction of rock music in the 1990s was released on September 21, 1993. Nirvana’s In Utero, produced in a Minnesota studio by Steve Albini, went straight to the top of the UK countdown the following week, unseating Meat Loaf‘s Bat Out Of Hell II in the process. It did the same in America with first-week sales of 180,000, replacing country king Garth Brooks’ In Pieces album at the top as it stormed towards quintuple platinum status in the US.

In Utero had a huge act to follow as the successor to Nirvana’s 1991 breakthrough Nevermind, which was ten-times platinum in America and would spend an aggregate of five years on the chart there. But the new record, which contained the singles “Heart-Shaped Box,” “All Apologies” and “Pennyroyal Tea,” went on to worldwide sales of some 15 million copies.

With the album release imminent, Cobain told The Observer what an influence British bands had had in his musical upbringing, from the gothic element in Nirvana inspired by Joy Division to the punk energy of the Sex Pistols. While still a child, he read reports of their US tour. “I’d just fantasise about how amazing it would be to hear this music and be part of it,” he said. “But I was 11; I couldn’t. When I finally heard American punk groups like Flipper and Black Flag, I was completely blown away. I found my calling.

“Fast, with a lot of distortion”

“There were so many things going on at once, because it expressed the way I felt socially, politically, emotionally. I cut my hair, and started trying to play my own style of punk rock and guitar: fast, with a lot of distortion.”

What Nirvana’s fans couldn’t have known about In Utero was that they were buying the band’s final album. Little more than six months after its release, Cobain passed away at the age of 27, the band’s three-album legacy was set in stone and their album sales would climb to 75 million units and rising.


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