The Ramones’ Influence on Nirvana’s Video for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’


The Ramones and Nirvana are very different retro rock bands, however, the music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” may not be the same without The Ramones. They influenced Kurt Cobain in a very specific way when he was crafting the film. Here’s a glimpse at the thought process behind the film.

The links between the Ramones and Nirvana

According to The Guardian, Cobain decided to perform in a band like the Ramones. In addition, producer Butch Vig — the producer of Nirvana’s Nevermind — claims the Ramones changed his life. He told Loudersound he’d listen to their self-titled album five times a day.

“It really was a startling sound for that time,” Vig opined. “It was a breath of fresh air, an adrenaline shot. In some ways I look at it as an analogy to when I created Nirvana’s Nevermind. It’s the same kind of thing, where the music sounded new and vital and really shook up the music scene.”


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Why the video for Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ wouldn’t be the same without a Ramones movie

The bond between Nirvana and the Ramones didn’t stop there. Speaking with Interview Magazine, Samuel Bayer, the producer of the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” song, discussed collaborating with Cobain. Cobain was inspired by the Ramones, while Bayer was inspired by a Matt Dillon film.

“Kurt had an idea at the time to stage a rebellion at a high school,” Bayer remembered. “He wanted it to look like the Ramones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979), mixed with a Matt Dillon film called Over the Edge (1979). I overheard him say that and immediately thought of something dark and gritty. Generally, once you achieve some level of recognition, you are permitted to generate the ideas. [‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’] was a much more accurate representation of Kurt Cobain’s concept.”


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Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is a 1970s cult film starring the Ramones. The film is a comedy in the vein of Animal House. It’s odd that Rock ‘n’ Roll High School served as the inspiration for a music video Bayer described as “very dark and gritty.”

The cultural influence of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ video

The music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became an instant classic. It was parodied by “Weird Al” Yankovic in his video for “Smells Like Nirvana,” one of his most well-known parodies from the 1990s. Additionally, Bob Sinclair recreated portions of it in his music video for “Rock This Party (Everyone Dance Now).”


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Bayer’s first music video was for “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” He became a prominent music video director, directing videos for The Cranberries, Green Day, David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, and Maroon 5, as well as the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. The video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became an MTV classic — and it wouldn’t be the same without the Ramones.

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