There were many reasons why Nirvana broke out at the right time in 1991, but one reason that is overlooked is the influence of Sonic Youth. With this Mike King designed poster – where Nirvana opened a number of shows for Sonic Youth in the summer of 1990 – you have documentation of a critical turning point in pop culture history.
The story says that Sonic Youth, after a number of indie releases, signed with a subsidiary of Geffen Records, which would later lead Nirvana to sign with the same label. Major labels were often seen as a cancer to evolving artists in the do-it-yourself underground. In the eyes of many, major labels made great bands lame with bigger studio budgets, glossy artwork, and expensive music videos.
But when it came to Sonic Youth, they kept their sound and aesthetic intact with the release of their album, Goo.
Sonic Youth brought out Nirvana on a tour in August of 1990 along with a band called STP. STP was an all-female group with Julia Cafritz from Pussy Galore and Free Kitten, and had nothing to do with Stone Temple Pilots.
Nirvana did their tour with Dale Crover from the Melvins on the drums. Crover was a monster behind the kit, hitting drums with a fury that Nirvana had a hard time finding another drummer like that. Only a short time later, after playing one show with Dan Peters from Mudhoney, they were introduced to Dave Grohl from the band Scream. Grohl got the gig and was a perfect fit.
This poster, which features Raymond Pettibon’s artwork from Sonic Youth’s Goo, has a striking look. It was a new kind of cool that kids who had seen their fill of Whitesnake and Def Leppard videos at that point. It was a sign that the 1990s were going to be much different than the 1980s.
This poster is one of many from the Pacific Northwest circa the 1980s and 1990s that was recently on auction with Heritage Auctions. You can check out what posters were in this auction here.
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