Today in rock history: On this date in 1981, British art-rock/new wave/new romantic band Japan released its outstanding fifth album, Tin Drum. Sadly, this would be the band’s final release, but, as most dedicated followers of the band will more than likely agree, it is by far the best and most consistent release of Japan's catalog. Led by moody and emotive songwriter David Sylvian, Tin Drum covers a massive terrain of musical territory, but leans heavily towards the band’s fascination with Eastern sounds and textures. A huge hit in the band’s native England, the band — which is far too often overlooked and not properly credited for its influence and impact on the modern music scene — released four of the album’s eight tracks as singles in England, and they all charted respectably. The biggest hit from the record, and the song for which the band is most often remembered, was the haunting ballad “Ghosts,” which still sounds as contemporary and dynamic as it did in '81. The band would part ways soon after the album’s release, but Sylvian, bassist Mick Karn, drummer Steve Jansen and keyboardist Richard Barbieri would each create their own musical works and take part in a variety of bands and projects including Dali’s Car, Porcupine Tree, Dolphin Brothers and more. A truly groundbreaking yet underrated band, Japan was the catalyst for other bands like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and many other acts from the early '80s New Romantic era.
Today in rock history: On this date in 1959, the alternatively titled 50,000,000 Elvis Presley Fans Can’t Be Wrong was released. Although this compilation of previously released singles was actually called Elvis' Gold Records, Vol. 2, the heading across the top of the album’s cover instead boasted the bold statement, which spoke to Elvis Presley’s enormous throng of fans and massive popularity at the time. The album is notable since it features one of the most iconic covers in the history of rock and roll: Multiple images of Presley himself donning the now famous gold lamé suit, a visual that’s been imitated and reused several times throughout the years by a variety of artists and acts. Previous hits that appeared on this fine collection include Elvis classics like “Don’t,” “A Big Hunk o’ Love” and “One Night.” Another swift seller, the album continued Elvis’ reign as the most popular artist of the day and kept him near the top of sales charts all around the world.
Today in rock history: On this date in 1990, Vision Thing, the third album by kingpin British goth-rock group The Sisters of Mercy was released. Slightly changing its sound and undergoing some lineup changes, the album was a bit of a departure for the band. Enlisting the talents of bombastic, over-the-top record producer Jim Steinman (who is best known for this work with former bandmate Meat Loaf) for the record’s lead single, “More,” the new sound alienated some longtime fans. Nonetheless, the record was a bold step for The Sisters, and it featured fantastic material and superb vocal performances by longtime lead singer Andrew Eldritch. Other singles from the album include “Doctor Jeep” and the title track, which became an alternative dance club hit. Joined by former Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik member Tony James, Vision Thing saw The Sisters of Mercy playing in a more aggressive, hard-rock vein and showed a different side of the revered darkwave band.
Today in rock history: On this date in 1995, The Rolling Stones released Stripped, an album that, as its title would suggest, consisted of stripped-down, acoustic versions of many of the songs from the band’s rich catalog. Viewed and embraced as a return to the Stones' roots, the album was unanimously praised by fans and by the rock press, which felt that The Stones tapped back into the true spirit of the band with this scaled-back release. Recorded around the world while the band was on its tour promoting Voodoo Lounge, Stripped contained new, scintillating versions of classics like “Street Fighting Man,” “I’m Free” and “Angie” among many others. Also included in the set was a rousing rendition of the Bob Dylan classic “Like a Rolling Stone” as well as a cover of blues legend Willie Dixon’s “Little Baby.” The album was a hit around the world and broke into the Top 10 on sales charts in several regions. Stripped also topped the million-sales mark here in the U.S. and became yet another platinum-selling album for the legendary band.