On this day in music history: December 6, 1994 – “Vitalogy”, the third album by Pearl Jam is released. Produced by Brendan O’Brien and Pearl Jam, it is recorded at Bad Animals Studios in Seattle, WA, Southern Tracks Recording, Doppler Studios in Atlanta, GA and Kingsway Studios in New Orleans, LA from November 1993 – October 1994. The band begin writing songs their next album, during the tour for their previous release “Vs.”. Still coming to terms with their huge success, the members of Pearl Jam are fraught with tension. Exhausted from nearly three years of non stop activity, they are also frustrated by the corporate appropriation of the grunge music movement they’ve helped to lead. In response, they make a hard shift away from the sound of their first two multi-platinum selling albums. Lead singer Eddie Vedder takes on a much more assertive role, as well as playing guitar. Vedder also clashes with drummer Dave Abbruzzese, feeling he’s gone too far in embracing the “rock star lifestyle”. The singer speaks to him only minimally. Meanwhile, guitarist Mike McCready struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, eventually entering rehab to address his problems. The original working title for the album is “Life” which is changed to “Vitalogy” (meaning “the study of life”), which is the name of an early twentieth century medical book, of which lead singer Eddie Vedder owns a copy. Text and illustrations from the book are included in the booklet that comes packaged with the album. In an unconventional move, “Vitalogy” is released on vinyl two weeks ahead of the CD and cassette configurations, selling enough copies (35,000 units) for it to actually enter the chart at #55. It drops to #173 in its second week, but leaps to the top of the chart on December 24, 1994, two weeks after the CD and cassette versions are released, selling 877,000 copies that week. It spins off three singles including “Spin The Black Circle” (#18 Pop) and “Better Man” (#13 Pop). Pearl Jam wins the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance for “Spin” in 1996. Like the album itself, all three singles are pressed as vinyl 45’s with accompanying picture sleeves. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2011 with three additional bonus tracks, with an exclusive limited edition sold through retailer Best Buy, including a T-shirt. The same year, the vinyl LP is reissued, pressing it as a 180 gram two LP set for better sound quality over the original 1994 release, which was issued as a single LP. The single “Immortality” b/w “Rearviewmirror” is reissued as limited edition 7" replicating the original label and picture sleeve artwork, is released on Record Store Day in 2011 to promote the reissues of the album. “Vitalogy” spends one week at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 5x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 6, 1983 – “Japanese Whispers”, the fifth album by The Cure is released. Produced by Robert Smith, Chris Parry, Steve Nye and Phil Thornalley, it is recorded from November 1982 – April 1983. The set is a compilation put together by the band’s UK label Fiction Records (released in the US initially on Sire Records), and collects their recently released singles “Let’s Go To Bed”, “The Walk” and “The Lovecats” along with their respective B-sides. It remains in print for many years, until it is deleted when compilation albums “Standing On A Beach/Staring At The Sea” and the B-sides box set “Join The Dots”, include all of the material featured on “Whispers”. However, due to its long standing popularity with Cure fans, it is reissued once more on CD in 2006 (Europe only). “Japanese Whispers” peaks at twenty six on the UK album chart, and #181 on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: November 30, 1986 – “In Your Face”, the full length debut album by Fishbone is released. Produced by David Kahne, it is recorded at Sunset Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA, Ocean Way Recording Studios in Los Angeles, CA from June – September 1986. Having found success with their self-titled EP released in September of 1985, Columbia Records options a full album from Fishbone. Working once again with producer David Kahne, the L.A. based band write all of the material on their full length debut, drawing on all of their musical influences from funk and R&B, to ska and punk rock. Fishbone’s musical versatility along with their over the top energy and wry sense of humor produce another solid set. However, with CBS Records unsure of how to properly market the band, and with radio’s propensity to segregate artists based on color and musical style, the album largely falls through the cracks and fails to reach a wide audience. In spite of this, Fishbone continue to build a loyal following in part by landing a spot as the opening act for then label mates the Beastie Boys in early 1987, who are touring in support of their hugely successful album “Licensed To Ill”. “Face” spins off two singles including “It’s A Wonderful Life (Gonna Have A Good Time)” and “When Problems Arise”. The latter is accompanied by a memorable music video by Saturday Night Live short film director Gary Weis and choreographer Toni Basil. The video of “It’s A Wonderful Life” features performance footage of the band, inter cut with scenes from the classic holiday film of the same name, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. The album’s cover artwork features close up photos of the band on the front and back (taken by photographer John Scarpati). The original LP release features the artist, title graphics, track listing and a UPC barcode on both sides, making it difficult for fans and record store retailers to tell which side is the front and which is the back. Though it does include a “Parental Advisory” sticker on the outer shrinkwrap of the sleeve, indicating it is the front side. “In Your Face” does not chart on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: November 19, 1991 – “Achtung Baby”, the seventh studio album by U2 is released. Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, it is recorded at Hansa Studios in Berlin, Germany, Elsinore Studios in Dalkey, Ireland, STS Studios and Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, Ireland from October 1990 – September 1991. It marks the beginning of a major shift in U2’s musical direction. The album takes its title from a line in the Mel Brooks comedy “The Producers”, both as a tongue in cheek reference to the bands’ recording in Germany, and to add some levity to intensity of the music contained on it. Initial sessions for the album take place at Hansa Studios in Berlin which prove so arduous that the band nearly breaks up in frustration. The writing and recording of the track “One” (#10 Pop) allows them to regroup and creatively refocus their efforts, leading the way to the rest of the albums’ completion. The resulting work is a huge critical and commercial success, spinning off five singles including “Mysterious Ways” (#9 Pop) and “Even Better Than The Real Thing” (#32 Pop). The albums’ cover art, designed by Steve Averill, features a series of various photos (taken by photographer Anton Corbijn) also includes a full frontal nude picture of bassist Adam Clayton on the back cover. The original limited vinyl LP release features this photo uncensored, while the CD pressing includes the photo with an “X” drawn over Clayton’s private parts. The album is remastered and reissued to commemorate its twentieth anniversary in October of 2011, including a single CD, a double CD “Deluxe Edition”, and double vinyl LP releases (with a bonus 12" EP featuring remixes, pressed on blue vinyl). Also released is a “Super Deluxe” that contain six CD’s, four DVD’s and a ninety-two page hardbound book. And finally, a limited (to only six hundred copies) and numbered “Über Deluxe” edition containing all of the contents of the Super Deluxe version, plus the double LP set, and reproductions of all of the albums’ singles pressed on clear vinyl, and packaged with their corresponding picture sleeves. It also features a copy of Propaganda, the bands’ fan club magazine, art prints of the album cover artwork, four badges, stickers, and a pair of Bono’s “Fly” sunglasses. The vinyl LP is reissued as a stand alone release in 2018, pressed as a double 180 gram set. “Achtung Baby” debuts at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 8x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 18, 1985 – “Psychocandy”, the debut album by The Jesus And Mary Chain is released. Produced by The Jesus And Mary Chain, it is recorded at Southern Studios in Wood Green, London, UK from Early – Mid 1985. Formed in their hometown of East Kilbride, Scotland in 1980, brothers Jim and William Reid originally call themselves The Poppy Seeds, then Death By Joey before changing their name to The Jesus And Mary Chain in 1983. Purchasing a Tascam Portastudio, the brothers begin recording demos of the songs they’ve written, and begin sending them out to record labels in the UK. By early 1984, they recruit band members Douglas Hart (bass) and Murray Danglish (drums) (later replaced by Bobby Gillespie) to fill out the line up. The band are signed to indie label Creation Records by its founder Alan McGee and release the single “Upside Down” in late 1984. The record hits number one on the UK indie singles chart, but The Jesus And Mary Chain’s tenure at Creation is brief. In early 1985, they are quickly signed to WEA International distributed Blanco y Negro Records, and to the newly revived Warner Bros. subsidiary Reprise Records in the US. The bands’ unique blend of psychedelic tinged pop, tempered with guitar feedback quickly establishes them as pioneers of what becomes known as the “shoegazer movement” and precursors of alternative rock. The album itself garners raves from critics (landing on many publications’ best of lists), and earning the band a devoted following. It will spin off four singles including “Never Understand” (#47 UK), “Some Candy Talking” (#13 UK) and “Just Like Honey” (#45 UK). “Honey” is later featured in the film “Lost In Translation” in 2003. After the original Reprise CD goes out of print, it is re-released by American Recordings in the US in 1994. Remastered and reissued as a DualDisc in 2006, “Psychocandy” is also reissued in September of 2011 as a double CD/+ DVD set with the second CD featuring the A and B-sides of their first single on Creation Records, single B-sides, radio sessions recorded by legendary DJ John Peel and the bands’ original Portastudio demos recorded in 1984 and 1985. The DVD features the original music videos, and several television performances. “Psychocandy” peaks at number forty five on the UK album chart, is certified Gold in the UK by the BPI, and peaks at number one hundred eighty eight on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: November 17, 1986 – “Infected”, the second album by The The is released. Produced by Warne Livesey, Matt Johnson, Roli Mosimann and Gary Langan, it is recorded at The Garden Studios in London from Early 1985 – Mid 1986. Following the critically acclaimed major label debut “Soul Mining” released in 1983, musician Matt Johnson the mastermind behind The The spends the next two and a half years writing and conceiving the follow up. The subject matter of the songs cover a number of topics and concerns including world politics (specifically the US military involvement in the Middle East), the social class status of Great Britain and interpersonal relationships. Matt Johnson co-produces the album with Warne Livesey best known for his work with Midnight Oil, along with Swiss born musician Roli Mosimann (That Petrol Emotion, New Order, Skinny Puppy) and recording engineer Gary Langan (Yes, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, ABC). Johnson is supported by a large group of established studio musicians and friends including Dan K. Brown (The Fixx) (bass), Guy Barker (trumpet), Bashiri Johnson (percussion), Steve Brown (bass), Judd Lander (harmonica), Tessa Niles (background vocals), Neneh Cherry (vocals), and Anne Dudley (The Art of Noise) (arranger). During the production of the album, Johnson and his manager Some Bizarre Records founder Stevo Pearce talk The The’s label into advancing them nearly $700,000 to film a series of music videos as a visual accompaniment to the album. Much to their surprise, the label gives them the money. The already ambitious project is kicked up another notch when Matt Johnson works with cutting edge and visionary directors including Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, Mark Romanek, and Tim Pope on the visuals. The clip for the title track “Infected” along with “Mercy Beat” are filmed on location in the Peruvian jungle of Iquitos in South America. The video for the title song is inspired by German director Werner Herzog’s surreal film “Fitzcarraldo”. The finished product is released as a long form video companion piece to the full length LP. The album is well received by fans and critics alike, becoming The The’s best selling album (selling more than a million copies worldwide), and is regarded as a Post Punk/Modern Rock classic. It spins off four singles in the UK including “Slow Train To Dawn” (#64 UK), “Heartland” (#29 UK), and “Sweet Bird Of Truth” (#88 UK). “Infected” peaks at number fourteen on the UK album chart, certified Gold in the UK by the BPI, peaking at number eighty nine on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: November 12, 1984 – “Hatful Of Hollow” by The Smiths is released. Produced by John Porter, The Smiths, Roger Pusey and Dale “Buffin” Griffin it is recorded at BBC Radio 1 and Jam Studios in London from Spring 1983 – Summer 1984. The bands’ first compilation album, it is issued just seven months after their debut release. The album compiles single A and B-sides released in the UK, and contains several tracks recorded BBC Radio 1 originally broadcast on shows by DJ’s John Peel and David Jensen. The track “How Soon Is Now?” originally issued as a B-side in the UK is reissued in both the UK and US as a separate A-side in 1985. In spite of its UK success, the album is not released in the US until 1993. Also in 1993, a limited editon vinyl pressing of the album, pressed on two 10" discs is issued in the UK and Europe. “How Soon” is added to US edition of the bands’ second studio album “Meat Is Murder” in 1985. “Hollow” is remastered and reissued on CD and as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2011. “Hatful Of Hollow” peaks at number seven on the UK album chart.
On this day in music history: November 11, 1985 – “Catching Up With Depeche Mode” by Depeche Mode is released. Produced by Depeche Mode, Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones, it is recorded at Blackwing Studios, The Garden, Music Works Studios in London, Hansa Mischraum Studios in Berlin, West Germany and Genetic Studios in Reading, UK from December 1980 – July 1985. Released in North America and Mexico only, the thirteen track compilation collects singles released by the band between 1981 and 1985 including the non LP B-sides “Fly On The Windscreen” and “Flexible”. It also includes the recently released stand alone singles “It’s Called A Heart” and “Shake The Disease”(#33 Club Play) issued just prior to the LP. “Catching Up” is designed to be the American counterpart to the UK compilation “The Singles 81-85” which contains only single A-sides. A video compilation titled “Some Great Videos” which include many of the same tracks as the LP (and similar cover artwork) is released on VHS and Laserdisc concurrently with the album. Though not a huge success out of the box, it is a very steady selling catalog title over time, topping a half million copies by July of 1989, and over a million by August of 2000. In spite of its best selling status, there are no plans for the album to be reissued. Since its original release, more comprehensive compilations of Depeche Mode’s hit singles and B-side have been released. Unauthorized bootleg cassette copies of “Catching Up”, have surfaced in Europe since the early 90’s. “Catching Up With Depeche Mode” peaks at number one hundred thirteen on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 7, 1988 – “Green”, the sixth album by R.E.M. is released. Produced by Scott Litt and R.E.M., it is recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, TN and Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, NY from May – September 1988. Fulfilling their contract with I.R.S. Records with their fifth album “Document”, R.E.M. leave the label. Several labels court the band, before deciding on Warner Bros Records. Their decision is based on Warner Bros’ granting them full creative control, though they’re offered more money to sign with other majors. The deal is reported to be worth between $6 and $12 million dollars. The band write and record demos back home in Athens, GA, before moving into Ardent Studios in Memphis. Final recording and mixing are completed at Bearsville Studios in upstate New York. When “Green” is released, R.E.M. make the decision to not release the first track “Orange Crush” (#1 Modern Rock), as a commercial single in the US. Its enigmatic video is rotated heavily on MTV, though does not actually feature R.E.M. in it. The title makes reference to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War, having detrimental affects on all who are exposed to it. The second single is the polar opposite of the previous one. “Stand” (#6 Pop, #1 Modern Rock, #1 Mainstream Rock) is written after a discussion, about “super bubblegummy pop songs” that they had grown up listening to. Wanting to up the ante, lead singer Michael Stipe intentionally writes “the most inane lyrics” he can. “Stand” becomes R.E.M.’s biggest single to date, later used as the theme song for comedian Chris Elliott’s sitcom “Get A Life”. It is also later parodied by “Weird Al” Yankovic as “Spam”. The third single “Pop Song ‘89” (#86 Pop, #14 Modern Rock, #16 Mainstream Rock), is accompanied by a video directed by Stipe. He appears shirtless in the clip, dancing with three other women who are topless. When MTV tells him they have to put black censor bars over the women’s breasts in order for the video to be aired, Stipe asks that they cover his chest with the censor bars stating “a nipple is a nipple”. The final track “Untitled” is not listed on the back cover, and the space where the title is supposed to appear, is left blank. “Green” is another critical and commercial success for R.E.M., spinning off one final single with “Get Up”. The four singles are also issued as a limited edition 7" box set titled “Singleactiongreen”, and is packaged with a poster. “Green” is remastered and reissued on CD and vinyl (the latter does not contain bonus material) in 2013, to commemorate its 25th anniversary, including a live bonus disc recorded in Greensboro, NC in 1989. Five tracks from the live set are released as a limited edition vinyl EP on Record Store Day in April of 2013. “Green” peaks at number twelve on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 4, 1987 – “The Lion And The Cobra”, the debut album by Sinead O’Connor is released. Produced by Sinead O’Connor and Kevin Moloney, it is recorded at Oasis Studio in London from Late 1986 – Mid 1987. The first album by the then twenty year-old Irish singer and songwriter features musical support from Adam & The Ants guitarist Marco Pirroni and singer Enya. It spins off three singles including “Mandinka”, whose video receives heavy airplay on MTV, and “I Want Your (Hands On Me)” (duet with MC Lyte on the remixed version). The latter appears in the film “Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master”. O’Connor receives a Grammy nomination for “Mandinka” in 1989, performing the song on the live Grammy telecast. The albums cover photo (taken by Kate Garner of the band Haysi Fantayzee) features different photos of the singer. The original European release uses a shot of O’Connor with her arms crossed in mid-scream. The US cover uses similar shot with her in a more subdued and pensive pose. Out of print on vinyl since the early 90’s, the album is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP by Music On Vinyl in 2015, featuring the original European cover photo. “The Lion And The Cobra” peaks at number thirty six on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.