The classic Nirvana song George Michael said “changed everything”

Whilst they rank among the most influential artists in their respective fields, you wouldn’t usually think to draw a connection between Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and Wham! hero George Michael. The former is one of the most significant figures rock music has ever seen, fusing punk with an infectious pop twist that brought alternative rock to the masses. The latter was one of the most successful out-and-out pop artists of all time, achieving numerous timeless hits in his time.

While their art forms might have been mostly distinct, both were undoubted talents who backed it up by being uncompromising characters with a natural propensity to defend what they thought was right. Cobain was a champion of many righteous causes, including women’s, LGBTQ and minority rights, with Michael the same, not to mention his tendency to be incredibly comedic. He was also one of the most prominent out-homosexuals in the 1980s and ’90s, a significant status in an era that was widely homophobic and grappling with the AIDS crisis. Pioneers creatively and personally, their legacies are more extensive than the eras they defined.

When appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Michael demonstrated the broad scope of his taste when he chose Nirvana’s game-changing 1991 hit ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ as one of the tracks he’d take to the fictional island. Aware of the full impact of the record, he explained how it “changed everything” whilst also labelling it “the best-produced rock record” in history.

He said: “My fourth choice is Nirvana. This record is the best-produced rock record in the history of rock, I think. It’s not necessarily the greatest song – it’s a phenomenal record – obviously, it was a music industry-changing record, it changed everything in America overnight, you know, because it’s an absolute classic.”

As the song finished, the host, Kirsty Young, told the audience that the former Wham! leader started headbanging towards the end of it. He then said that if he did find himself marooned on a desert island, he’d be angry, so the 1991 song would be perfect. He explained: “If I was on an island, I’d be so furious I think I’d need to vent anger every once in a while, do you know what I mean?”

Following this, the chat moved onto the immense level of fame that George Michael and Wham! experienced in the 1980s. In describing how he dealt with it, his response again points to his similarities with Kurt Cobain, another notable hater of its trappings.

Kicking this part off, Young asked if Michael was disorientated by the “magnitude” of fame Wham! had at their peak. He replied: “There’s a level of deification in America that you just don’t get over here. You know, you get quite the opposite over here, don’t you? For an English boy, that was kind of… I was 24, and still quite afraid, still not knowing to be honest with you, how to spend money, I was terrified of my lifestyle, maybe removing my ability to connect to what I did. And I freaked out; I said I didn’t want to make any more videos, I don’t think I’ll ever tour again, I have to step back.”

Listen to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ below.

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