Something In the Way: the meaning of Nirvana’s song

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Aberdeen, a small town about two hours drive southwest of Seattle, where Kurt Cobain, Nirvana’s leader, was born in 1967 and where he lived most of his life. A forgotten and cursed place. After a florid period guaranteed by the timber industry, in the mid-twentieth century, when no more virgin forests were left to cut and fishing areas to be exploited, Aberdeen entered a phase of decline, made up of high rates of unemployment, substance abuse and suicides. It was in this social reality that Kurt Cobain, as a teenager, began to make his way into the music world, getting inspiration to write some of the songs that became rock classics.


“Welcome to Aberdeen. Come as you are”: this is the signpost that welcomes visitors to the town, with the verse that gives the title to the famous song by Nirvana.

But the references to the famous citizen continue. There is a place, in particular, dense with charm: The Young Street Bridge that crosses Wishkah river in the northeast, a few hundred meters from the house where Cobain grew. It was under this bridge that the singer spent some nights sleeping alone, before becoming famous. At least, that’s what the legend says.

Sleeping under the bridges, being pushed out of the house, bounced among relatives due to the separation of parents. Everything found its way in his music. This bridge and the condition that he experienced at that time inspired him to write the Something in the Way.

That’s why, since long time, this is the main place of pilgrimage for the Cobain’s fans.

One of the most intense songs of Nirvana.

It’s hard to describe this song. Better to let the lyrics speak:

“Underneath the bridge
The tarp has sprung a leak
And the animals I’ve trapped
Have all become my pets
And I’m living off of grass
And the drippings from the ceiling
But it’s ok to eat fish
Cause they haven’t any feelings

Something in the way”

In the song, at some point Kurt sings: “it’s ok to eat fish, cause they haven’t any feelings.” I have always thought that it refers to those who tell you that they don’t eat meat because they are animalists, but then eat fish, like fishs don’t have the same right to live other animals… maybe Cobain was referring to the hypocrisy of many people.

Nirvana - Something In The Way (Live On MTV Unplugged Unedited, 1993)

Mankind is evil, is hypocritical. They eat the fish, that doesn’t have the possibility to speak. It’s because of mankind that Kurt is forced to live under a bridge, it’s because of the wicked society that he will try to break apart from reality, starting with drugs.

Cobain narrates the time he spent under a bridge, completely discouraged. Maybe he is the fish, and the world is trying to eat him.

A lack of hope that hits us in our deepest feelings.

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