August 17th, 2011

20 years later, director Sam Bayer recounts the anarchic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video shoot: “Kurt absolutely hated me by the end”

In this excerpt from the upcoming book Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” director Sam Bayer recalls the video’s now-legendary Aug. 17, 1991 shoot:

"The kids were recruited from a Nirvana show on the Sunset Strip, and they were egging on the band, so it was kind of me versus them—and I was losing. Kurt absolutely hated me by the end. He didn’t want to lip-synch the song. And I always believed that maybe his anger with me added a whole level of intensity to his performance. I always had a vision for something destructive at the end of the video, but truth be told, I was so beat up by the end of the day I just couldn’t take any more. I was sitting on the dolly and somebody came up to me and said, ‘Kurt wants to invite the kids down to destroy the set.’ And I’m like, ‘Great. Destroy the set. What do I care?’ And the kids came down, and it was this beautiful display of anarchy and destruction; I just flipped the camera on and shot 400 feet of film, and that was the end of the video.”

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Official Tumblr for Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge, a Time magazine book of the year. (Now in paperback; purchase info here.) The blog is run by the author, freelance writer/editor Mark Yarm; he is of no relation to Mark Arm of Mudhoney.