Boston’s Tom Scholz Commented on the Similarity Between Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘More Than a Feeling’

Kurt Cobain acknowledged the similarity between Boston’s classic rock song “More Than a Feeling” and Nirvana‘s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” During an interview, Cobain revealed another member of Nirvana felt the riff was ridiculous. Tom Scholz, a founding member of Boston, commented on the similarities between the two songs.

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana wearing a sweater
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana | Frank Micelotta Archive / Contributor

Kurt Cobain compared the riff from Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ to 2 other songs

According to Rolling Stone, Cobain didn’t think the riff from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was original. “It was such a cliched riff,” he said. “It was so close to a Boston riff or ‘Louie Louie.'” For context, “Louie, Louie” is a song many bands have covered but the most famous rendition was a garage rock version by The Kingsmen.

Cobain said another member of Nirvana took issue with the riff from “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” “When I came up with the guitar part, Krist [Novoselic] looked at me and said, ‘That is so ridiculous,'” Cobain recalled. Novoselic was the band’s bassist.

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How Boston’s Tom Scholz reacted to the ‘More Than a Feeling’ similarities

Scholz is the writer of “More Than a Feeling.” In 1994, he said he had no issue with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” being reminiscent of “More Than a Feeling.” “I take it as a major compliment even if it was completely accidental,” he revealed.

At one of Nirvana’s live shows, the band played part of “More Than a Feeling.” Scholz thought this may have been an insult. “The only times when I’ll hear other music will be at the ice skating rink or the gym,” he said. “It’s been debated whether [Nirvana playing a bit of ‘More Than a Feeling’] was homage or thumbing their nose. 

“Regardless, Nirvana was, from what I’ve heard, a great band,” Scholz continued. “I was really impressed by the couple of things I heard. Regardless of what the context was, it’s an honor to be heard in the same airspace as Nirvana.”

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The way the world reacted to Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and Boston’s ‘More Than a Feeling’

“More Than a Feeling” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” both became hits; however, one song charted higher in the United States. “More Than a Feeling” hit No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 19 weeks. The song appeared on Boston’s self-titled debut album. Boston peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 138 weeks.

Meanwhile, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained on the chart for 20 weeks. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” appeared on Nevermind, Nirvana’s most successful album. The album topped the Billboard 200 for two weeks and spent a total of 558 weeks on the chart. Cobain said “Smells Like Teen Spirit” contained a cliche riff but that didn’t stop it from becoming one of the most famous rock songs of the 1990s.

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