How a lowly janitor made an impact in a legendary music video

How a lowly janitor made an impact in a legendary music video

How a lowly janitor made an impact in a legendary music video

From the palatial surroundings of Downton Abbey to the grand halls and corridors of the White House in 2013's The Butler, our recent explorations of cultural depictions of cleaning and cleaners on the Aurora blog have taken in some impressive locations.

This week, we get altogether grungier, looking at a distinctive figure from one of the most famous music videos in rock history.

Cleaning amid the chaos
Smells Like Teen Spirit was the song that catapulted Seattle grunge band Nirvana to super-stardom. It was the opening track and lead single from the album Nevermind, which has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and is often ranked among the greatest albums in music history. 

A big part of the success of Smells Like Teen Spirit was its video, which shows the band playing a mock school concert that descends into chaos. Students watching the performance seem uninterested at first, but as the song goes on the scene becomes more raucous, escalating to the point where lead singer Kurt Cobain smashes his guitar to pieces, surrounded by thrashing bodies and crowd-surfing teenagers.

Amid all the grunge-fuelled mayhem is a lowly janitor, who gradually seems to get into the music himself, rocking from side to side during the song's quieter moments. The janitor gets the privilege of being the last thing we see in this famous video, sweeping up the mess left over after the band and the crowd have disappeared. 

While the appearance of the janitor in the Smells Like Teen Spirit video might seem fairly arbitrary, it was actually an inside joke for Nirvana. Before achieving international success with the band, Cobain himself worked as a janitor at a high school in his hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, shortly after dropping out of that very school.

A global sensation
The impact of the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit is inextricably tied up with the global success of the song itself, which helped to usher in an era of mainstream popularity for alternative rock and grunge music in the 1990s.

Directed by Samuel Bayer and filmed on a soundstage in Culver City, California, the video helped Nirvana win the awards for best new artist and best alternative group at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards.

In 1993, Rolling Stone magazine placed Smells Like Teen Spirit second on its list of the top 100 music videos, and seven years later Guinness World Records announced that it was the most-played video on MTV Europe.

Today, the video has more than 700 million views on YouTube and continues to provide a fascinating insight into a particular time and place in music history. Tony de la Rosa, the man who played the janitor, might like to think he had a part to play in the song's massive success.

Here at Aurora, our professional cleaners don't need distorted guitars or pounding drums to do their jobs, just a few simple, eco-friendly tools that will keep your place of business spotless and hygienic.


Posted by Julie Tucker