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What Label Was Nirvana Signed To? The History Of Geffen Records

Geffen Records

Holly |

Nirvana was signed to the DGC Records label (short for "David Geffen Company") at the time they released their iconic album "Nevermind" in 1991. DGC Records was a subsidiary of Geffen Records, which, in turn, was part of the larger Universal Music Group. 

Geffen Records, a name synonymous with the music industry's finest, has a story deeply woven into the tapestry of modern music. Founded by the visionary David Geffen in 1980, this label has played an instrumental role in shaping music history and nurturing some of the most iconic artists. 

Who Started Geffen Records?

The founder of Geffen, David Geffen, was already a formidable presence due to his association with Asylum Records and ventured into the label business yet again. Geffen's entrepreneurial spirit and sharp instincts propelled the label into stardom. 

Guns N
Geffen Records are famous for signing artists including Gun's N Roses and Nirvana.
Nirvana - Nevermind
Nevermind by Nirvana is famous for being one of the most iconic albums released by Geffen Records/the David Geffen Company.

Asylum Records

Geffen co-founded Asylum Records in 1972, alongside Elliot Roberts. Asylum was quickly taken over by Warner in 1973 and was merged with Elektra Records. All of this led to large payouts for both Geffen and Roberts, including becoming shareholders in Warner.

David Geffen's involvement with Asylum Records was a crucial chapter in his career. It allowed him to showcase his talent for recognising emerging talent and his commitment to promoting artists who were creating groundbreaking music. His work at Asylum Records laid the foundation for his future endeavors in the music industry, including the founding of Geffen Records.

Elton John - Leather Jackets
In addition to Nirvana, Geffen Records signed artists like Elton John and John Lennon.
John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Double Fantasy
Geffen Records was responsible for releasing John Lennon and Yoko Ono's ‘Double Fantasy’ album.

Geffen Records First Signings

Geffen Records burst into the limelight with some stellar signings. John Lennon, Elton John, and Donna Summer were among the early artists who joined the Geffen family, setting the stage for its meteoric rise.

Moving forward further into the 80s, Geffen Records was instrumental in nurturing the careers of rock and pop legends. Acts like Guns N' Roses, Nirvana, and Aerosmith found their early home at Geffen. The label's commitment to alternative and rock music fostered these artists' growth. The Geffen logo is incredibly well recognised on the labels and sleeves of these alternative rock releases.

Asia - Alpha
More major signings included Asia and Aerosmith.
Aerosmith - Love In An Elevator
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Major Success: Guns N Roses

Eventually, Geffen Records became synonymous with the blistering success of Guns N' Roses. Their debut album, "Appetite for Destruction," launched under the Geffen banner in 1987, became a rock juggernaut a year after it was first released, etching its name in history books.

Despite a slow start, the label and the band were determined to make "Appetite for Destruction" a success, with Geffen’s general manager Al Coury convincing MTV to play one of the music videos several times. Geffen's dedication to promoting the album eventually paid off, and it went on to become one of the best-selling and most iconic rock albums in history.

In 1990, Geffen leant even more into the alternative rock scene by launching a subsidiary label called ‘DGC Records.’ (David Geffen Company) It played a pivotal role in nurturing the grunge movement, providing a platform for bands like Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Hole.

Nelson - (Can
Artists signed to David Geffen Company (DGC Records) included Nelson and Nirvana.

Introducing Nirvana

Even more widely known than Appetite for Destruction, the 1991 release of Nirvana's "Nevermind" remains an indelible chapter in music history. Geffen Records' association with this groundbreaking album helped it become an iconic marker of the grunge era.

Geffen Records regularly employed some of the industry's most renowned music producers. For example, "Nevermind" was produced by Butch Vig who has worked with a huge number of artists including The Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth and Green Day. Butch Vig's production played a significant role in shaping the album's distinctive sound, which earned him the nickname the ‘Nevermind Man.’

Eric B. & Rakim - Let The Rhythm Hit
Geffen Records signed artists from many different genres beyond alternative rock, including hip hop and pop artists.
Joni Mitchell - Come In From The Cold
Joni Mitchell was a major signing for Geffen Records.

Success Across The Genres

While rock is often associated with Geffen Records, the label's embrace extended to various genres. R&B, hip-hop, and pop were well within its purview. Icons like Mary J. Blige and Snoop Dogg found a home under its banner.

The label was also responsible for producing several dark-tinged comedies through the ‘Geffen Film Company,’ some of these include “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Beetlejuice.” Founder David Geffen went on to co-found the DreamWorks studio in 1994 alongside Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. David Geffen eventually left Geffen Records in 1995 and DreamWorks much later, in 2008.

Today, Geffen Records remains active under Universal Music Group and distributed by Interscope Records. Geffen now represents a diverse array of artists and musical styles, including Easy Life, Olivia Rodrigo and Holly Humberstone. It continues to release music from new and established talent, maintaining its reputation for signing innovative and influential acts.

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