Pearl Jam • Even Flow
Nirvana • Smells Like Teen Spirit
The Videos That Launched
The Alternative Revolution







The music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the first for director Samuel Bayer. Bayer stated he believed he was hired because his test-reel was so poor the band anticipated his production would be “punk” and “not corporate.”

The video was based on the concept of a school concert which ends in anarchy and riot. Inspiration was taken from Jonathan Kaplan’s 1979 movie “Over The Edge”, as well as the Ramones’ film Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.

Filmed on a soundstage in Culver City, the video featured the band playing at a pep rally in a high school gym to an audience of apathetic students on bleachers, and cheerleaders wearing black dresses with the Circle-A anarchist symbol.

The video ends with the assembled students destroying the set and the band’s gear.

The demolition of the set captured in the video’s conclusion was the result of genuine discontent. The extras that filled the bleachers had been forced to stay seated through numerous replays of the song for an entire afternoon of filming.

Cobain convinced Bayer to allow the extras to mosh, and the set became a scene of chaos.

“Once the kids came out dancing they just said ‘fuck you,’ because they were so tired of this shit throughout the day,”
Cobain said.

Cobain disliked Bayer’s final edit and personally oversaw a re-edit of the video that resulted in the version that finally aired

One of Cobain’s major additions was the next-to-last shot of the video, which was a close-up of his own face after it had been obscured for most of the video.

Bayer noted that unlike subsequent artists he worked with, Cobain did not care about vanity, rather that

“the video had something that was truly about what they were about.”

 The video had an estimated budget between $30,000 and $50,000.

Like the song itself, the music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was well received by critics. Rolling Stone writer David Fricke described the video as looking like

“the greatest gig you could ever imagine.”

In addition to a number one placing in the singles category, “Teen Spirit” also topped the music video category in the Village Voice’s 1991 “Pazz & Jop” poll

The video won Nirvana the Best New Artist and Best Alternative Group awards at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, and in 2000 the Guinness World Records named “Teen Spirit” the Most Played Video on MTV Europe.

In subsequent years Amy Finnerty, formerly of MTV’s Programming department, claimed the video

“changed the entire look of MTV”

by giving them

“a whole new generation to sell to.”

Rolling Stone placed the music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at number two on their 1993 list of “The 100 Top Music Videos”.

MTV ranked the song’s music video at number three on its “100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made” list in 1999.

VH1 placed the debut of the “Teen Spirit” video at number eighteen on its 2000 list of “100 Greatest Rock & Roll Moments on TV”, noting that “the video [ushered] in alternative rock as a commercial and pop culture force.”

In 2001, VH1 ranked the video fourth on its “100 Greatest Videos” list

The video has been parodied at least twice: in “Weird Al” Yankovic’s music video for “Smells Like Nirvana” and in Bob Sinclar’s 2006 music video for “Rock This Party (Everybody Dance Now)”.


Original video
Pearl Jam originally hired director Rocky Schenck to film a music video for “Even Flow”. On January 31, 1992, on their way to England to begin a European tour, the band members came to Los Angeles, California to film the video.

The concept for the video was based on an idea by Gossard. Schenck filmed Pearl Jam in a zoo setting.

He had arranged a nighttime shoot at an old, closed facility, brought in different wildlife, and set up his lights among the cages and in the trees. Along with the animal footage, the members of Pearl Jam were filmed individually and as a band, standing on the side of a cliff and air jamming.

The shoot took hours, and the band was not pleased with the end result. Schenck’s shoot was considered a waste of time and money by the band; it also damaged Abbruzzese’s wrists significantly. After shooting had finished, he was taken to the emergency room where he was advised not to put strain on his wrists. Abbruzzese would drum on the band’s European tour with a splint attached to his hands.

Official video
The original music video for “Even Flow” was ultimately replaced by a performance clip directed by Josh Taft, who had previously directed the “Alive” music video for the band, and who would later direct the music video for “Oceans”

The video consists of performance footage of the band filmed during a January 17, 1992 show at the Moore Theatre in Seattle, Washington.

Taft was filming that night not in his capacity as a director, but as a friend of Gossard’s. (At one point during the show, Vedder had even stopped the proceedings, clearly of the opinion that Taft’s presence was intrusive.

“This is not a TV studio, Josh”

he’d yelled indignantly, in an interlude that Taft left in his final cut but that MTV clipped out of most versions it aired.

Turn those lights out, it’s a fucking rock concert!”

The video shows Vedder climbing the theatre, and then jumping down between fans at the concert and ending with Gossard throwing his guitar towards the camera.

The footage used in the video is actually spliced from different songs: for instance Gossard and McCready each play two different guitars,

Vedder wears a hat at some point and the theatre climb actually occurred during “Porch”.

Taft’s presence at the Moore Theatre show, and the fact that he had filmed sufficient footage to compile into a music video, proved to be a break for the band.

Otherwise with Epic ready to provide MTV with an “Even Flow” video and Schenck’s version already completed, Pearl Jam would have had little choice but to go with it, and the band members unanimously despised Schenck’s version when they saw the final edit.

The alternate studio recording of “Even Flow”, which was recorded in 1992 with Abbruzzese, was used for the video as the band felt it synched up well with the live footage.

The video was released in April 1992.

Scroll to top