In its first year of eligibility — 25 years after releasing its debut recording — Nirvana was nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Wednesday.
Bruce Pavitt, co-founder of Sub Pop records, which released that single — a cover of Dutch band Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz” in October 1988 — said the news was “exciting.”
“They’re the biggest rock band of the last 20 years,” Pavitt said. “They did knock Michael Jackson out of the pop charts to go to number one. It was a rare moment where an underground band became the most popular band in the world. That doesn’t happen very often.”
According to Pavitt, whose upcoming book “Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989” covers the moment before the band’s meteoric rise, the very idea of Seattle in the popular imagination is closely tied to Nirvana.
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Nirvana did for Seattle what the Beatles did for Liverpool,” he explained. “Before ‘Nevermind’ came out, most people on this planet wouldn’t have been able to locate Seattle on a map. Seattle was about as famous as Perth, Australia, pre-‘Nevermind.’ ”
Music critic and former EMP curator Ann Powers thinks the chances of Nirvana being inducted in its first year of eligibility are “100 percent.”
“I’ve been discussing the nominations with critics and other music-fan friends on Twitter since last night,” she said. “The one artist or group no one has an argument against is Nirvana. Not only is the band uniformly admired, it’s exactly the kind of group the Rock Hall loves best. Nirvana challenged rock ’n’ roll, but fits firmly within the guitar-bass-drums style of music that’s at the center of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; Kurt Cobain was a rebel (and a troubled person) but he also wrote catchy, accessible songs. I would be utterly shocked if Nirvana didn’t get in on its first year of being nominated.”
And what of the irony of the consummate outsider band being elevated to the pantheon?
“These forms of recognition do matter, because institutions like the Rock Hall literally make history,” said Powers, a Seattle native. “The museum and archive will last longer than any of us, probably, and so kids in 2055 who want to know what rock in the 1990s sounded like will be able to go there and find out about Nirvana. That matters.”
Also nominated this year are Linda Ronstadt — who recently went public with the news that she can no longer sing because of Parkinson’s disease — Peter Gabriel, Cat Stevens, Yes, LL Cool J and the Replacements.
The remainder of the 16 acts that made the ballot that will go to Rock Hall voters are the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, Hall and Oates, KISS, N.W.A., the Meters, Link Wray and the Zombies.
Inductees are voted on by 600 members of the Rock Hall including all previous living inductees, musicians, historians, journalists, critics and music-industry personnel.
Starting last year, the process expanded to include a fan vote. Fans can weigh in with their choices starting Oct. 16 and continuing through Dec. 10 at 5 p.m. ET at the Rock Hall’s official website, and also at Rolling Stone and USA Today sites. The top five vote-getters will constitute the “fans’ ballot” that will be counted among the other 600 to be cast.
Inductees are expected to be announced in December. The induction ceremony is slated for April in New York City, and highlights from the event will be shown on HBO in May.
Additional reporting by McClatchy-Tribune News Service.