Simply put, Nirvana brought alternative to the mainstream with 1991's Nevermind, changing the face of pop and alternative music forever. Nirvana's roots reach back to 1985 when vocalist Kurt Cobain met bassist Chris Novoselic in Aberdeen, WA, where Kobain had been playing in heavy punk bands such as Fecal Matter. Cobain, who often played with The Melvins, met Novoselic through that group's lead singer and the two found a mutual fanaticism with punk, essentially outcasting them from the locals surrounding them. They soon formed a band called The Woodies that featured the two of them (Cobain was the drummer) with other artists, until, by 1987, Cobain had switched to guitar, with Chad Channing on drums, and rechristened themselves Nirvana. They slowly gained a following by playing parties and soon gained a record contract from the king of indie labels, Sub Pop, who released both the band's first single, a cover of Shocking Blue's "Love Buzz," and their debut album, Bleach. Bleach sold 35,000 copies, mostly thanks to endless touring and regular college radio play, and allowed the band to move forward with a six-song demo sent major labels into a bidding frenzy to sign them. With the addition of drummer Dave Grohl, Nirvana recorded their sophomore album, Nevermind, which became an immediate hit with radio and regular MTV play. Fame followed and things started to get weird. Beyond their destructive stage antics and strange publicity stunts, rumors spread that Cobain and his new wife, Hole's lead singer Courtney Love, were using heroin and that he was having constant stomach pain. With so many distractions, the band didn't record its follow up album, In Utero, until the spring of 1993, after which Cobain suffered a heroin overdose and later began threatening suicide. With flailing ticket sales for their tour supporting In Utero,, Nirvana added a performance for MTV's Unplugged, which sparked sales of the album and spawned the top selling album from the show. At this point, Cobain began spiraling out of control at the beginning of 1994 and attempted suicide several times and admission into rehab. On April 5, four days after escaping from the rehab clinic, Kobain committed suicide at his home in Seattle, and was discovered three days later. Nirvana released the MTV Unplugged album later in 1994 and a live compilation called Live from the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah followed in 1996.
Prior to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" hitting the airwaves in 1991, most people had never heard anything like Nirvana and once people started, they became addicted. Whether or not another band could have done it is unknown, but Nirvana opened the door for bands such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and all of the other grunge bands that surfaced in the early 1990s. Cobain himself even popularized bands he liked by wearing t-shirts of bands like The Melvins or playing covers of bands like the Meat Puppets (whom he even references on the Unplugged album). For many people punk and metal seemed incomprehensible, but Nirvana brought melody to the genre and reached an audience of Gen Xers who could related to the angst-ridden lyrics he drew from his own life.