On September 24, 1991 an album was released that would change the shape of rock music as the world knew it. Into a world of spandex, crotch-thrusting and enough hairspray to freeze a jumbo jet in mid-flight came Nevermind the second album by Seattle trio Nirvana.

Propelled by inescapable lead single Smells Like Teen Spirit, the group became a worldwide phenomenon almost overnight, and would disband in tragedy just over three years later, their singer becoming a Gen X avatar for tortured genius.

In a landscape dominated by Bon Jovi, Guns n Roses and Aerosmith they were unlikely rockstars: Dorky-looking drummer Dave Grohl, statuesque bassist Krist Novoselic, son of Croatian immigrants, and lead singer Kurt Cobain who shunned leather and chaps in favour of cardigans, ripped jeans or flowery dresses.

That the latter two met in their home town of Aberdeen, Washington state, or that Cobain’s great-grandfather hailed from Hawick in Roxburghshire, are not the only connections the iconic grunge band had to Scotland.

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The musical influences on Nirvana were varied, from the power-pop of The Beatles through the dynamic rock of Pixies – or, if you want Cobain’s definition of Nevermind’s sound, “the Knack and the Bay City Rollers getting molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath" - but there’s a hefty dose of Scottish indie in there too.

While you won’t find many traces of the ‘C86 Scene’ in Territorial Pissings or Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, there’s plenty of Glaswegian influence elsewhere in the Nirvana catalogue.

Jangling guitars and melodic power-pop hooks may not be the first thing that comes to mind when Nirvana are mentioned - as Weird Al Yankovic put it on his Cobain-approved Teen Spirit parody: “we’re so loud and incoherent/boy this oughta bug your parents”. But if perplexed progenitors had taken the time to listen they’d have noticed the Scottish mid-80s sound is all over Nevermind tracks like On A Plain, Drain You and Lounge Act. Hell, strip away the aggressive delivery on the opening track and you’ve got an eminently whistleable ditty.

That link is not pulled from thin air either – Cobain made no secret of his direct Scottish influences. Teenage Fanclub too were a favourite – the singer said the Bellshill group were the band he’d want to be in - but as the group's Norman Blake told NME last year "we weren't even his favourite band from Glasgow".

That honour went to The Vaselines.

Nirvana covered two of their songs – Molly’s Lips and Son of a Gun – on their 1992 collection Incesticide and invited frontman Eugene Kelly to join them for their Reading Festival set in 1991.

Of lead duo Kelly and Frances McKee, Cobain said: “they’re my favourite songwriters in the whole world” and he dubbed them “the Lennon & McCartney of the underworld” – he would later name his only child, daughter Frances Bean, after McKee.

For Alastair McKay, author of the excellent punk memoir ‘Alternatives to Valium’, the connection to Scotland wasn’t necessarily in the band’s sound, but in an ethos and an underground connection.

He says: “I spoke to Teenage Fanclub once and they said The Pastels were a big influence on Nirvana, because everyone in America knew about the Pastels.

“I think Stephen Pastel, because he ran the 53rd and 3rd label in Edinburgh, they licensed the label to K Records in Olympia and a guy called Calvin Johnson who was a big underground indie guy.

“So their records came out in Britain, and The Pastels and The Vaselines records would have gone to America, it was a kind of swap where they’d distribute each others’ records.

“Kurt lived in Olympia, Washington so he’s bound to have come across these things that way, I would have thought.

“There was a big trade in information at that time and Calvin Johnson ran this convention called International Pop Underground where bands like The Pastels would go over and play.

“They weren’t going through London or anything like that they were coming from cities around the world where there were probably scenes of no more than dozens or hundreds of people supporting each other, and I think that’s more the influence on Nirvana than a musical influence.”

HeraldScotland: A ticket from when Nirvana performed at Norwich Arts Centre on 30th October 1989. Picture: Supplied by Norwich Arts Centre

The first shows Nirvana ever played outside of North America came sandwiched between headliners Tad and Scottish band The Cateran.

Dubbed ‘Heavier than Heaven’ – allegedly based on a joke that Tad’s lead singer outweighed the three members of Nirvana combined - the tour spanned seven dates – plus one cancelled - in England in October of 1989, with the bands performing in various student unions and entertainment halls.

Cameron Fraser, vocalist and guitarist with The Cateran, recalls: “It was fairly chaotic for us!

“The tour had come around because I was working for Rough Trade at the time and I’d been sent some promo copies of the single (Love Buzz) and I sent them out to Russell Warby, who was our agent at the time, and he really liked it.

“He got involved and contacted the label and said he’d like to set up a tour and that’s essentially how we came to be on the bill with Nirvana and Tad.

“Russell is still the Foo Fighters’ agent, as well as people like Jack White, the Strokes and people like that but at that time I think he was working out of his bedsit in Nottingham and we were probably one of his only other bands!

“We’d been in a really bad van crash a while before that on the way to a gig in London, so we had a different drummer to the one we’d had over the years before.

“On the way to the first gig on that tour, at the Riverside, our drummer went missing in classic Spinal Tap fashion - and he was pretty enigmatic at the best of times and a bit of a mystery to us.

“So we turned up for the gig without a drummer for the first night of the tour and, with no rehearsal at all, and having never met us or heard our stuff, the drummer from Tad sat in and played the gig in front of a full house.”

Murdo MacLeod, guitarist for the group, has similar memories and his brother, Alex would go on to be Nirvana’s tour manager.

He says: “It was great – but hard work. It was just these skint bands in vans. Nirvana were sharing a van with Tad, who were on the same label as them, and they were on tour together.

“They had one bigger van and we were in a Transit for eight or nine gigs with them in the UK, then they went off to Europe.”

While no-one could predict what would come two years later when Nevermind was released, Fraser could sense something in the air as the tour rolled on.

The former Cateran says: “They (Nirvana) were a really impressive band but at that point they were just one of loads of American bands we’d met or played with, and I can’t honestly say I thought there was anything special about them.

“That was until we got to the last gig we did at the University of London Union which was massively sold out, jam-packed with far more people than the venue held and really that night everything went completely nuts.

“That was when I thought, ‘OK, these guys are probably going to do better than most of the other bands I knew’.

“We played with Grant Hart from Husker Du and Husker Du, at that point, were probably the biggest band in that area. Them and Sonic Youth. But that night you could see the signs Nirvana were going to do something great.

“At that stage I’d only heard the first single and Bleach, and obviously there was a big jump with Nevermind.

“But even at that point on that first tour I think most people could hear that they were pretty special.”

HeraldScotland: facebook/NirvanaLIVEfacebook/NirvanaLIVE (Image: facebook/NirvanaLIVE)

In the space of a little over a year Nirvana played three shows in Scotland, riding the crest of a wave that Grohl would later admit he and his bandmates found difficult to handle. In 1990 they played at Edinburgh’s Calton Studios, and it was a similar size of venue promoters booked when they returned the following year.

On the day Nevermind was released, American record stores received just over 46,000 copies while in the UK, where Bleach had been a moderate success, shops were given 35,000.

MacLeod, who had toured with them for that album says: “Tad and Nirvana were both brilliant. I think we thought Tad would be the band that would get big if anybody was going to get big.

“But people loved them (Nirvana), and at that point the crowds were starting to get bigger. It was when Bleach came out and was being promoted in the UK and Europe and they were starting to pull some quite big crowds.

“People were really into them – big time. But I don’t think anybody thought they were going to be the biggest band in the world.”

McKay, who was in attendance for the first night of Heavier Than Heaven in Newcastle, Nirvana’s first UK show, agrees: “They were my favourite out of that bill, they were really fierce and you could tell they were something.

“But I think the expectation would be that they would be the big indie band – and I think that was their expectation too.

“In the five months before Nevermind sold three million they were sort of pawning off their PA so they could get flights back to America.

“So it was quite a rapid thing.”

Those small shipments reflected Geffen’s expectations for the album, and the supporting tour was booked with a certain level of success in mind. In Scotland it meant a return to Calton Studios in Edinburgh, where they’d played – along with Eugene Kelly of the Vaselines – in 1990, as well the Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow.

However, buoyed by the success Smells Like Teen Spirit, which became a smash hit on MTV and college radio, the album began to climb the charts, with demand so high that it was sold out in Nirvana’s native north-west within days. By the time the European tour kicked off it had reached the top 40 and the tiny venues proved wholly inadequate.

McKay reviewed the show at Calton Studios and recalls all was not well in spite – or perhaps because – of the massive success Nevermind was beginning to enjoy.

He recalls: “That was right in the middle of it I think, because they shouldn’t have been playing such a small venue.

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“It’s now become a legendary concert, but I thought it was quite a bad concert actually. It’s online and people watch it and listen to it and think it’s the most amazing thing ever - so history has changed it over the years.

“I’ll speak quite delicately about it but he (Cobain) was in a very bad way.

“I was supposed to interview the band but then I got Krist Novoselic in a broom cupboard because there was so much just trying to get Kurt onto the stage.

“I wouldn’t want to speculate too much about what was going on there but it was basically the doctor giving him the script.

“He really was in quite a bad way and they shouldn’t have performed – credit to him that he did, but someone that unwell shouldn’t really be playing. It was quite a painful thing to witness.”

From being an underground punk outfit with a small but dedicated fanbase, Nirvana were suddenly the hottest ticket in town – and they weren’t necessarily ready for it.

Grohl told NPR last year: “We would show up to one of those clubs and not only were there 250 people inside, but there were 250 people outside as well trying to get in, and you could see it growing, you could feel it growing. So we were kind of blissfully unaware until we pulled up to a club, put our equipment on stage and realized, ‘Oh God, this could become a riot.’ I would sit down at my drum set and look for the exit, first thing…

“There was this excitement, there was this electricity, and it seemed in a way that there was some kind of revolution happening, which can be pretty great to participate in - unless you're in the eye of the storm.”

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On November 30 of 1991, Nirvana played at the 900-capacity QMU in Glasgow, where a setlist from the night remains in a safe behind the scenes. Six weeks later Nevermind was selling 300,000 copies per week and had knocked Michael Jackson off the top of the album chart.

McKay recalls speaking to Novoselic ahead of that Calton Studios show, and even then the contradiction between how Nirvana saw themselves and what they’d become was evident.

He explains: “That Edinburgh show was right in the middle, and I think they were just kind of confused, because if you read what Krist said they think they’re an alternative band and people will go back and listen to bands they like: The Melvins and all that. They don’t think they’re like Bon Jovi.

“But once you’ve been in heavy rotation on MTV and sold three million albums you’re not really in control of your audience anymore. I think that’s what they were experiencing.

“Just looking at their work – I wouldn’t want to speculate what was in their heads – you can see they were quite uncomfortable with mass success, they were quite uncomfortable with what they would call jocks in their audience – not Scottish people! As in big-haired heavy metal fans. They really didn’t like having a mass audience.

“They wanted it to be a discerning audience of people who listened to their peers, and the contradiction between wanting that and things being so big you can’t control it anymore must have been very difficult to deal with.

“Kurt was probably the most famous face on the planet for a bit.”

Cobain, clearly, struggled to handle the pressure and workload that came with being the biggest band in the world and the media-appointed ‘voice of a generation’.

Nevermind’s follow-up, In Utero, was a notably darker, grittier album which kicks off with the line “teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old”.

For the review of the record in Scotland on Sunday, late cartoonist Harry Horse produced a Nirvana caricature to go with Alastair McKay’s write-up.

As it turned out Cobain loved the image and asked to buy the original – only for the cartoonist to find the newspaper’s sub-editors had sliced it in half in order to fit it on the page. He was, his former colleague reveals, “not best pleased”.

Nirvana had also recruited a Scottish guitar tech, Big John Duncan, a self-described "big fat tattooed gay punk" who would play second guitar for them at one show - the Roseland Ballroom, New York on July 23 1993.

Such was the band’s affinity for Scotland, they had even – however off-handedly – talked about moving to Glasgow or Edinburgh “for a month or two” in the summer when the climate was more “temperate” – and Seattle is not known for its glorious weather.

Cobain would, of course, never return - the band's legendary 1992 Reading Festival headline set proved to be their final show in the UK. A drug overdose in a Rome hotel room, later revealed as a suicide attempt, saw the remainder of the In Utero tour canned. On April 8 1994, 11 days after what would have been a sold-out show at Glasgow’s SECC, the singer was found dead at his Seattle home, victim of a self-inflicted shotgun blast and the newest member of the ’27 Club’ featuring Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and more.

Here there may be a more ominous echo from the singer’s Scottish past. The frontman’s Hawick-born great-grandfather, James William Irving, died in the Western Washington Hospital for the Insane after purposefully re-opening wounds he had inflicted upon himself with a knife two months earlier. Whether this tale was known to the late star is uncertain but he certainly knew of the institution – he wrote ‘Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle’ about the actress who was involuntarily committed there in the 1940s.

Aside from a note ending with the Neil Young line “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” and the final Nirvana studio recording, ‘You Know You’re Right’ included on 2002’s best of, the last musical testament of Cobain is the iconic MTV Unplugged performance recorded just months before he died.

Recorded, presciently, in a funereal setting the format was perhaps incongruous for a band known for their raw, loud sound – even if Cobain insisted on running his acoustic guitar through a disguised distortion pedal. As epitaphs go the late singer’s strained, plaintive vocal on the closing ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’ takes some beating, but here too Scotland may have been the genesis.

It was while touring Nevermind on that aforementioned 1991 run that Cobain and Grohl decamped to The Southern on Edinburgh’s southside for a surprise acoustic performance in aid of the Sick Kids Appeal, at the behest of some old mates from The Cateran (now operating as The Joyriders). Billed as Teen Spirit, two members of the biggest band on the planet played a short acoustic set to around 30 people – though ten times that number will claim to have been there.

MacLeod takes up the story: “My brother was their tour manager at that point, he’d started working with them after we toured with them.

“They were playing in Edinburgh and Glasgow and we – my subsequent band Joyriders – asked if they would do it. We knew they had a night off and we were doing an acoustic charity gig for a sick kids’ hospital.

“We asked if they fancied doing a few acoustic songs and Kurt and David showed up and played a few songs.

“You wouldn’t believe the number of people… I’ve met people who I know weren’t there and claim to have been there.

“The Southern Bar is not a big bar and it was rammed, but then people were disappearing because they thought it was some kind of big wind-up or lie.

“By the time they came on and played there were maybe 30 people. There had probably been a couple of hundred people in the bar, you couldn’t move it was so busy.”

The pair played Polly, the yet-to-be-released Dumb – and a Vaselines cover. ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’ would later appear, under a different title, on the Unplugged album as would the two Nirvana originals. Did that show plant the seed for what would become that iconic MTV show? Perhaps not consciously, but what’s certain is the story of grunge’s most iconic act is inextricably tied to Scotland.