Retro Dee is a regular contributor to The Grooveyard’s website, writing about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s. Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every week.
Hi folks, Welcome to the newest section of Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever: “Faking The Fifties”!
In this segment, each post will showcase something (a show, a movie or a video) that’s supposed to take place in the 1950’s. I’ll talk about its content, and its accuracy.
I know I’ve mentioned this video before in a post called “5 Classic Music Videos with 1950’s Themes”. But this one is such a trip, it’s worth revisiting. Lets have a look at the 1991 video by Nirvana for “In Bloom”
This video harkens back to the Nifty Fifties in somewhat of a parody-based manner. The beginning opens with a host thanking a dancing poodle act (something no variety show in those days was without) Then he introduces three fine men from Seattle to an overly anxious audience: “Here they are: Nirvana!”
As I watched and re-watched this video, it becomes clear to me that not only are they emulating a 1950’s act, some of the details specifically point strongly to The Crickets as the band Nirvana is emulating.
First, you have Kurt wearing glasses with black frames. What you need to understand, is that in the 1990’s, no one wore black frames. They just weren’t in style then. So if an artist did, it was a complete throwback to the 1950’s, namely, Buddy Holly.
I also like the demeanor of Kurt Cobain in this video. He’s smiling, looking pleasant, and down-right happy. Anyone who knows anything about Cobain knows he was the opposite of those things. Yet, in this video, he encompasses the essence of the carefree 1950’s era rather well. I’d say that was some fine acting.
In addition to the rather pleasant demeanor of this usually agressive Grunge band, Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic are wearing striped suits, often seen on band members of this era. True, this went on well into the 60’s, but The Crickets were the first band to dress this way. This and the fact there are 3 of them (Lead, Drums and Bass) furthers the reference to The Crickets. It might not be meant as a direct homage, but as I see it, Kurt is supposed to be Buddy, Dave Grohl is Jerry Allison and Krist Novoselic is Joe B Mauldin.
The show Nirvana is supposed to be on, could be Ed Sullivan or Milton Berle. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. One of the best aspects of this video is the audience. They nailed it with the styles of the late 50’s, and the manic excitement of the teen-aged fans. The screen cap below looks like it came right out of 1958. From this shot alone, you’d never guess they were faking the 50’s, in 1991.
The paradox begins as the video goes on and the members of Nirvana morph out of their suits and begin to behave chaotically, in a way that hadn’t quite been expressed on stage yet as of the 1950’s. The male dress-wearing is very 1990’s, indicative of an era that was beginning to slowly embrace diversity, although it was still considered very “alternative” and “odd”.
Towards the end, however, Kurt and Co. change back into being “Three clean-cut boys from Seattle” as the host says.
Nirvana “In Bloom” (1991)
The irony of this video is that while it’s a parody, in a sense, it’s also an homage to the very roots of Rock music and all its subdivisions. Without The Crickets, would Nirvana even be here? Would any band?
The dark, heaviness of the song, “In Bloom” is a major contrast with the innocent simplistic songs 1950’s. The lyrics are complex, and difficult to decipher, much like the era of 1990’s itself.
All in all, this video is a fabulous example of faking the fifties! The costumes, acting and right down to the fact it was shot in black and white.
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