On this day in music history: September 18, 1990 – “Tom’s Diner” by DNA Featuring Suzanne Vega is released. Written by Suzanne Vega, it is the tenth single release for the singer and songwriter from New York City. Written in the early 80’s while Vega is a college student, the narrative is formed while she is sitting at the diner counter while having a cup of coffee and people watching. In the lyrics, she makes reference to reading the paper and seeing a story about an “actor who died while he was drinking”, but is believed to be William Holden. Another inspiration comes from Vega’s friend, photographer Brian Rose, stating that his work was like he “saw his whole life through a pane of glass”, much like the way she was watching people through the front of the window. She records two versions of “Tom’s Diner” on her second album “Solitude Standing”. The first is an a cappella take at the beginning, with a reprise at the end of the album featuring piano and guitar. “Tom’s Diner” is released as the B-side of “Solitude Standing” in the US and as an A-side in Europe. It is only a minor hit overseas, peaking at #58 on the UK singles chart. A couple of years later, it resurfaces in a dramatically different context. In 1990, British dance music producers DNA (aka Nick Batt and Neal Slateford) remix “Tom’s Diner”, sampling the a cappella vocal off of Vega’s record, and creating their own track around her voice. The remix is pressed up as a bootleg 12" and soon begins receiving play in clubs in the UK. Very quickly there is a huge demand for the record, and they release it under the title “Oh Suzanne”, selling it under the counter at record stores. When the UK branch of A&M Records catches wind of the illegal remix, their first thought is to take legal action against DNA. However, when Suzanne Vega hears what the producers have done with her song, she has another idea. Vega encourages A&M to purchase the rights and release it legitimately. Issued as a single in Europe first in July, it is an instant smash, rocketing to #2 on the UK singles chart, hitting #1 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The buzz is so strong on the other side of the Atlantic, that A&M in the US releases the single in mid-September after it sells briskly as an import. Entering the Hot 100 at #87 on October 13, 1990, it peaks at #5 on December 22, 1990, also peaking at #10 on the R&B singles chart, #7 on the Modern Rock chart and #13 on the Club Play chart. Shortly after the DNA and Suzanne Vega remix charts, rapper Nikki D. samples it for her hit “Daddy’s Little Girl” (#1 Rap, #31 R&B, #19 Club Play) in 1991. DNA also remix Vega’s “Rusted Pipe” in similar fashion, but with less successful results. A&M assembles and releases a compilation titled “Tom’s Album” with the aforementioned songs as well as cover versions of “Tom’s Diner by After One and Bingo Handjob (aka R.E.M. and Billy Bragg). "Tom’s Diner” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 17, 1996 – “Fashion Nugget”, the second album by Cake is released. Produced by Cake, it is recorded at Pus Cavern and Paradise Studios in Sacramento, CA from Late 1995 – Mid 1996. Formed five years earlier by lead singer John McCrea, the band release their debut album, the self financed and released “Motorcade Of Generosity” in 1994. It receives solid reviews and acclaim in the local indie rock scene, earning them a solid and loyal following. When the band are playing a gig at The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, CA, they are approached by local radio DJ Bonnie Simmons who offers to manage them. This leads to the band being signed to Capricorn Records, who reissue their first album. Shortly after, they return to the studio to begin work on the follow up. The second release by the Sacramento, CA based band is their breakthrough album. Finding favor immediately at Modern Rock radio, their second album spins off three singles including “The Distance” (#4 Modern Rock, #35 Hot 100 Airplay), and their cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” (#28 Modern Rock). “Fashion Nugget” peaks at number thirty six on the Billboard Top 200, number one on the Heatseekers chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 17, 1996 – “First Band On The Moon”, the third album by The Cardigans is released. Produced by Tore Johansson, it is recorded at Tambourine Studios in Malmö, Sweden from September 1995 – June 1996. The Swedish alternative rock band make their US debut two years earlier when tracks from their first two albums combined for their first domestic release “Life”. Issued on Chicago indie label Minty Fresh Records, the album earns them a cult following in the US. The buzz created by “Life” attract interest from major American Record labels, with Mercury Records signing the band. The Cardigans major label debut becomes their breakthrough on a worldwide basis when the single “Lovefool” (#1 Billboard Hot Airplay & Top 40 Mainstream) receives a high profile boost when it is also included on the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s film “Romeo + Juliet” (starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Clare Danes). “First Band On The Moon” peaks at number thirty five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 17, 1991 – “Use Your Illusion I” and “Use Your Illusion II”, the third and fourth albums by Guns ‘N’ Roses are released. Produced by Mike Clink and Guns ‘N’ Roses, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA, The Record Plant, Studio 56, Image Recording, Conway Studios, Metalworks Studios and Skip Saylor Studios in Los Angeles, CA from June 1990 – June 1991. Issued as the follow ups to the their breakthrough album “Appetite For Destruction”, the band make a major personnel change when original drummer Steven Adler (struggling with drug dependency) is fired and replaced with former Cult drummer Matt Sorum. G ‘N’ R also add keyboardist Dizzy Reed to the band. Recorded over the period of a year, the band record enough material for not one but two albums. Guns ‘N’ Roses decide to split the project into two separate albums, rather than selling it as double CD set. The albums are highly anticipated by fans, with many retailers opening at midnight on the day of its release to sell it. “Illusion I” and Illusion II" sell 685,000 and 770,000 copies respectively during their first week. They spin off several hit singles including “November Rain” (#3 Pop), “Don’t Cry” (#10 Pop), and You Could Be Mine" (#29 Pop) (featured in the film Terminator II: Judgment Day") “Use Your Illusion II” debuts at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and “Use Your Illusion I” at #2. The vinyl LP releases of the albums are reissued in 2008, with subsequent repressings in 2012, 2015 and 2016. Both albums are remastered and reissued as limited edition SHM-CD’s by Universal Japan in 2016, and on standard weight vinyl LP’s. “Use Your Illusion I” is certified 5x Platinum by the RIAA and “Use Your Illusion II” is certified 7x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 16, 1991 – “Laughing Stock”, the fifth album by Talk Talk is released. Produced by Tim Friese-Greene, it is recorded at Wessex Studios in London from September 1990 – April 1991. The bands first new album since departing their longtime label EMI Records (releasing it in the UK on Verve Records and in the US by Polydor Records, both distributed by Polygram Group Distribution), the band is also reduced to a duo at this point (consisting of lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Mark Hollis and drummer Lee Harris), with bassist Paul Webb having left prior to the recording sessions. In the studio, Hollis and Harris are musically supported by hired musicians and longtime producer Tim Friese-Greene. The album sees them going in an even more experimental direction than before, veering away from their trademark synth-pop/art-rock sound. The band often improvise during the recording sessions, with a number of the tracks having a jazz influenced sound. In many ways the album defies easy categorization, leaving Polygram at a loss as to how to market it properly, especially in the US. As a result of its poor sales, Talk Talk split up months after its release in 1992, though in time it is regarded as one of their finest works. “Laughing Stock” peaks at number twenty six on the UK album chart and does not chart on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: September 14, 1993 – “The Hits/B-Sides” by Prince is released. Produced by Prince, it is recorded at The Record Plant in Sausalito, CA, Alpha Studios in Burbank, CA, The Record Plant in Los Angeles, CA, Sunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood Sound, Ocean Way Recording Studios, Capitol Studios in Hollywood, CA, Monterey Sound Studios in Glendale, CA, Kiowa Trail Home Studio, Galpin Boulevard Home Studio, Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, MN, Lake Minnetonka Home Studio in Minnetonka, MN, The Warehouse in St. Louis Park, MN, First Avenue in Minneapolis, MN, Washington Park Warehouse, Flying Cloud Drive Warehouse in Eden Prairie, MN, and Olympic Studios in London from October 1977 – January 1993. The fifty-six track career spanning compilation covers Prince’s output from 1978 until 1993, plus five new and/or previously unreleased songs. Discs 1 & 2 (“The Hits 1” and “The Hits 2”) are sold separately, but the third disc containing rare non-album B-sides is only available with the full set. Prince’s former road manager Alan Leeds writes the liner notes for the set. The set is issued by Warner Bros after they refuse to release the album “Goldnigga”, the debut album by his band the New Power Generation (Prince releases the album on his own NPG Record label in July 1993). The label had wanted to issue a greatest hits compilation in 1991, but the project was put on the back burner when Prince gives them the “Diamonds And Pearls” album instead. There is also an accompanying hour long video compilation released the same day titled “The Hits Collection” (initially released on VHS and LaserDisc only, later issued on DVD on June 8, 1999), featuring thirteen music videos with twelve classics and the video for the new track “Peach”. “The Hits/B-Sides” peaks at number nineteen on the Billboard Hot 100, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 14, 1993 – “Millennium”, the sixteenth album by Earth Wind & Fire is released. Produced by Maurice White, it is recorded at Sonic Lab, Devonshire Studios, Andora Studio in Los Angeles, CA, and Capitol Studios in Hollywood, CA in Late 1992 – Mid 1993. Following the veteran R&B bands nearly twenty year stint on Columbia Records, “Millennium” marks Earth, Wind & Fire’s return to Warner Bros (released on the Reprise Records subsidiary) twenty-one years after they originally departed the label. The album features a stripped down line up that features band leader drummer and vocalist Maurice White with bassist (younger brother) Verdine White, vocalist Philip Bailey, drummer and percussionist Ralph Johnson, saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk and new guitarist Sheldon Reynolds. It spins off three singles including the Grammy nominated “Sunday Morning” (#20 R&B, #53 Pop). “Millennium” peaks at number eight on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number thirty nine on the Top 200.
On this day in music history: September 14, 1992 – “Blind Melon”, the debut album by Blind Melon is released. Produced by Rick Parashar and Blind Melon, it is recorded at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, WA from February – June 1992. The first album by the Los Angeles, CA based band is the result of a four song demo that lands them a contract with Capitol Records. A four song EP produced by David Briggs (Neil Young) titled “The Sippin’ Time Sessions” are scrapped and go unreleased when all feel it isn’t representative of the bands actual sound. The band leave L.A. for North Carolina and begin recording on their own, later hooking up with producer Rick Parashar (Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains) to record the rest of the album.The albums cover features a photo of band member Glen Graham’s sister Georgia (“The Bee Girl”) and provides the inspiration for the now iconic Samuel Bayer (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”) directed video (featuring child actress Heather DeLoach as the “Bee Girl”) for “No Rain” (#1 Modern Rock, #20 Pop). Heavy MTV rotation for the clip launches the band to stardom. The album is remastered and reissued on CD and as a double vinyl set in 2013 with the previously unreleased “Sippin’ Time Sessions” EP, as an added bonus. The original thirteen song album is reissued on vinyl both on marbled black and yellow vinyl, and a standard black vinyl 180 gram LP by Music On Vinyl in 2014. “Blind Melon” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 13, 1994 – “Ready To Die”, the debut album by The Notorious B.I.G. is released. Produced by DJ Premier, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Chucky Thompson, Easy Mo Bee, Lord Finesse, Poke, and Darnell Scott, it is recorded at The Hit Factory and D&D Recording Studios in New York City from Late 1993 – Mid 1994. Discovered by Uptown/MCA Records A&R man and producer Sean “Puffy” Combs in 1992 after he receives a demo tape from the Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY born rapper, B.I.G. appears on remixes of Mary J. Blige’s hits “Real Love”, “What’s The 411?” and release the single “Party And Bullsh*t” on Uptown/MCA, generating additional buzz on Biggie, but Combs is fired by Uptown CEO Andre Harrell before they can make a full length album. Combs quickly strikes a deal with Arista Records chairman Clive Davis for his own label, establishing Bad Boy Records in 1993. B.I.G. is the first artist signed to the label and they go to work quickly on his first album. Assembling a team of some of the top Hip Hop producers including Easy Mo Bee, Poke (of The Trackmasters), and DJ Premier of Gang Starr, album combines Biggie’s gift for often raw and very personal lyrics (often tempered with dark humor) with his one of a kind rhyme style. The album is praised as a triumph by critics and fans alike upon its release, successfully bridging the gap between the street and more accessible radio friendly tracks. It is a major critical and commercial success upon its release, spinning off three singles including “Juicy” (#3 Rap, #14 R&B. #27 Pop), “Big Poppa” (#1 Rap, #4 R&B, #6 Pop) and “One More Chance” (#1 Rap, #1 R&B, #2 Pop). The vinyl configuration of the album is released initially as a single LP with the original cover artwork (of a baby meant to resemble B.I.G.), and is reissued as a double LP set with a current photo of Biggie on the front (copies came packaged with a mini poster of the album cover art). The album is remastered for its tenth anniversary in 2004, with the CD edition featuring a bonus DVD with the music videos of the singles originally released from it, and a previously unreleased live performance of “Unbelievable”. The double vinyl set (first issued in 1995), is reissued in 2013 as a limited edition pressing for Record Store Day. Another vinyl reissue by the subscription club Vinyl Me, Please is released in September 2017. This limited reissue restores the original “baby” cover art from the 1994 pressing, but pressed on double vinyl like other reissues and on red with black and white splatter colors, and white with red and black splatter colors. “Ready To Die” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number fifteen on the Top 200, and is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.