He’s one of the most iconic and legendary musicians of the Californian Hardcore Punk scene of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and a member of some of the most influential bands ever, Smear has done it all and gone through it all, from receiving racial and homophobic abuse from a (drunken) famous Rock Superstar to appearing as an extra in a Prince and The Revolution music video and from seeing the legendary frontmen from two of his bands committing suicide in their twenties to composing a song with Paul McCartney
Pat Smear turns 62: Hardcore Punk pioneer, Grammy winner, co-founder of The Germs, former Nirvana and an original Foo Fighter
One of the most iconic and legendary musicians of the Californian Hardcore Punk scene of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Pat Smear has been a member of some of the most influential bands ever, with a career that started back in the late 1970’s when he founded The Germs with Darby Crash.
The guitarist Pat Smear was born Georg Albert Ruthenberg in Los Angeles, California on August 5, 1959 to an African-American /Native American mother and a German Jewish father. He met Darby Crash when he was a teenager, and both found common music influences, mostly Queen, which reportedly they stalked across Los Angeles in the late 1970’s during the band’s staying for a concert. Influenced by Joan Jett, Brian James, Brian May, and Steve Jones, Pat Smear formed The Germs with Crash at the wake of the American Hardcore Punk movement and the band became popular by their infamous stage antics and performances. Their music earned them a record contract and even got to star on the famous Penelope Spheeris Punk music documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization”, released in 1981, but Smear was the only actual member of the band who had any musical knowledge or proficiency. The Germs came to an end in 1980 when Darby Crash committed suicide, and for a short period of time Smear joined The Adolescents. Throughout the 1980’s he also joined the Nina Hagen band, released two solo albums “Ruthensmear” and “So You Fell in Love with a Musician…”, and even appeared as an extra in Prince and The Revolution’s music video “Raspberry Beret”. By the late 1980’s Smear’s career got stuck, and it was also during that period he befriended Courtney Love, which led to an unexpected turn on his then faded music career. In 1993, recommended by Courtney Love, Pat Smear got a phone call from Kurt Cobain who asked him if he was interested in playing guitar with Nirvana, then one of the biggest Rock bands in the world. Smear accepted immediately and debuted with the band playing two songs in 1993 at the Saturday Night Live TV Show. By late 1993 he was introduced as a member of the band by Kurt Cobain on the famous Nirvana MTV Unplugged concert, and from there remained with the band during the rest of their 1993-1994 unfinished American and European tour. Smear was accepted as a Nirvana member by the other members of the band, and during that period grew increasingly close to Cobain, appearing in most of the photo shoots and interviews with the rest of the band. Around that time, according to Kurt Cobain’s biography “Heavier Than Heaven”, Pat Smear was subject to racial and homophobic abuse by a very drunk Eddie Van Halen who showed up on Nirvana’s backstage asking to join them on stage, when Kurt Cobain declined, Van Halen used racial and homophobic slurs (despite not being gay Smear is known for his flamboyant effeminate persona) directed to Pat Smear, which infuriated Cobain and the rest of the band. Reportedly, he was going to be made an official band member, but once again, bad luck struck in Smear’s way when Kurt Cobain also committed suicide in 1994. When former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl founded his band the Foo Fighters in 1995, Pat Smear was invited to join, and for a while, the band was seen as successors of Nirvana due to the junction of Grohl and Smear. He left the Foo Fighters in 1997 mainly to exhaustion from the band’s touring schedule, that was growing bigger in popularity. But in 2006 he returned to the Foo Fighters, with whom he continues to play today. In between, he has joined former Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic to occasional reunions, including at the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame ceremony of the Nirvana induction, and also with Paul McCartney taking Kurt Cobain’s place in lead vocals on a three-time performance of a song composed and recorded by all four, “Cut Me Some Slack”, which end up winning the Grammy for Best Rock Song in 2014. Smear’s latest album with the Foo Fighters is the much talked “Hail Satin” released in 2021, today he turns 62.
Take a look at some key moments of Pat Smear’s career
The Germs with Pat Smear, “Manimal” taken from the 1981 Punk music documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization”
Watch Pat Smear’s debut with Nirvana in Saturday Night Live, 1993, performing “Heart-Shaped Box”
Watch the Foo Fighters 1997 music video Monkeywrench”
Also watch: A Nirvana reunion with Pat Smear, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, featuring Paul McCartney on vocals performing the Grammy winning song “Cut Me Some Slack”, 2012
Also watch: Pat Smear on the Early Punk Scene
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