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The Meaning Behind The Song: Tourette’s by Nirvana

The Meaning Behind The Song: Tourette’s by Nirvana

Nirvana, the Seattle-based grunge band, was one of the most successful and influential bands of the 1990s. Their music was characterized by a raw, loud, and angsty energy that resonated with the angst and disillusionment of their audience. One of the band’s most well-known songs is “Tourette’s,” a track off their album “In Utero.”

At first listen, “Tourette’s” is a fast-paced, chaotic song featuring heavy guitar riffs and unintelligible lyrics screamed by frontman Kurt Cobain. However, there is deeper meaning behind the song that goes beyond its surface-level chaos.

The Inspiration Behind “Tourette’s”

“Tourette’s” was inspired by the neurobiological disorder known as Tourette syndrome. Tourette’s is a condition characterized by involuntary tics, vocalizations, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Cobain suffered from Tourette’s himself and often incorporated his struggles with the disorder into his music.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Cobain explained that “Tourette’s” was a way for him to express his frustration with the disorder. He said, “It’s a song about being controlled by germ paranoia or whatever is eating you alive.” In the same interview, he also revealed that he had been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which likely contributed to the themes of the song.

The Lyrics of “Tourette’s”

The lyrics of “Tourette’s” are famously difficult to decipher. Cobain’s screams are intentionally unintelligible, adding to the song’s chaos and emotional intensity. However, several key phrases can be discerned, indicating a deeper meaning behind the song.

One of the most notable phrases in the song is “Moderate rock.” This phrase has been interpreted in several ways, with some fans speculating that it was a reference to the band Smashing Pumpkins (who were sometimes referred to as “moderate rock”) or a commentary on the blandness of popular music at the time.

Another phrase that has been the subject of interpretation is “Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol.” This is often seen as a commentary on the excess and hedonism that were prevalent in the 1990s music scene. However, it is also possible that these substances were referenced because they were Cobain’s drugs of choice at the time.

The Legacy of “Tourette’s”

“Tourette’s” is one of Nirvana’s most intense and abrasive songs, and it remains a fan favorite to this day. The song’s chaotic energy and raw emotion have made it a staple of the band’s live shows and a beloved track among their hardcore fans.

The song also showcases Cobain’s ability to channel his emotions and experiences into his music. Through “Tourette’s,” Cobain was able to express his frustrations with Tourette syndrome and OCD in a way that was both cathartic and relatable to his audience.

FAQs About “Tourette’s” by Nirvana

1. What is Tourette syndrome?

Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. These tics can range from mild to severe and can impact a person’s daily functioning.

2. How did Kurt Cobain incorporate his struggles with Tourette’s into his music?

Cobain often referenced his struggles with Tourette’s and OCD in his songwriting. “Tourette’s” is a notable example of this, as the song was inspired by his frustration with the disorder.

3. What is the meaning behind the lyrics of “Tourette’s”?

The lyrics of “Tourette’s” are intentionally unintelligible, but certain phrases such as “Moderate rock” and “Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol” have been interpreted in various ways.

4. Why is “Tourette’s” considered one of Nirvana’s most intense songs?

“Tourette’s” is characterized by its fast pace, heavy guitar riffs, and screamed vocals. The song’s chaotic energy and raw emotion make it a fan favorite and a staple of the band’s live shows.

5. Was Kurt Cobain open about his struggles with Tourette’s and OCD?

Cobain was relatively open about his struggles with mental health, including Tourette’s and OCD. He often referenced these experiences in his music and interviews.

6. What is the legacy of “Tourette’s”?

“Tourette’s” remains a beloved track among Nirvana fans and showcases the band’s ability to channel their emotions into their music. The song’s raw intensity continues to resonate with listeners today.

7. Did Nirvana receive any criticism for referencing drugs in “Tourette’s”?

Some critics have taken issue with the lyrics of “Tourette’s,” which include a list of drugs. However, the song is generally seen as a commentary on the excess and hedonism that were prevalent in the 1990s music scene.

8. How did Nirvana’s music influence the grunge movement?

Nirvana’s music was a major influence on the grunge movement of the 1990s, which was characterized by its raw, emotional energy. The band’s success helped to popularize grunge music and bring it into the mainstream.

9. What other songs by Nirvana address mental health issues?

Several of Nirvana’s songs reference mental health issues, including “Sappy,” “All Apologies,” and “You Know You’re Right.” These songs were often inspired by Cobain’s struggles with depression, anxiety, and addiction.

10. How did the music of Nirvana impact popular culture?

Nirvana’s music had a significant impact on popular culture and helped to shape the sound of the 1990s. The band’s raw energy and emotional intensity continue to inspire musicians today.

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