SENSES OF SHAME – Smells Like Teen Spirit

In 1991 rock was at its lowest ever ebb. Forget the ironic reappraisal of hair metal: it stank. Little did I know things would soon get even worse. The title of “Smells like Teen Spirit” comes from some grafitti Kathleen Hanna wrote on Kurt Cobain’s wall: “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit” – that being a deodorant. My suspicion is that if Hanna felt Kurt’s use of deodorant merited a wall-sized headline the man’s personal hygiene was poor. Pictures of the straggly man-beast seem to back this up. The dreadful single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was in fact the first of many Cobain claims to have “cleaned up” – a phrase most critics have wrongly taken as referring to drugs, rather than bathwater. In its cryptic lyrics he confessed that his soap-dodging ways had gone so far as to leave him “contagious”. “I’m worst at what I do best” he caterwauls – that being “not washing”. Never has the old saying been more apt: he who smelt it, dealt it.