27 Years Ago: Nirvana Made Their Destructive 'SNL' Debut

January 11, 2019

On January 11th, 1992, grunge icons Nirvana went from Seattle baby-band that were giving Michael Jackson a run for his money and were thrust into the mainstream with their SNL debut. They were the first grunge band to be featured on a nationally syndicated television program.

Mainstream America got a big, bold first impression of frontman Kurt Cobain with his bright-red hair dyed with strawberry Kool-Aid, a Flipper t-shirt and an amplified rendition of their smash hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Nirvana's SNL debut certainly came at a historic moment for the band. The same week they appeared on the sketch-comedy show, Nevermind booted Michael Jackson's Dangerous off of the top slot for the #1 album on the Billboard 200, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" would top off at the #6 slot a few weeks later on the Hot 100 list.

For their second and final song for their SNL debut, Nirvana blazed through a live rendition of "Territorial Pissings," and concluded it with their tradition of smashing all of their gear to bits. Knowing this ahead of time, the SNL producers swapped out their amps with less-expensive models. Good thing too. Especially when Cobain pierced one of them with the head of his guitar. 

Nirvana would return to SNL twenty-two months later one last time where they would perform "Heart Shaped Box" and "Rape Me."