Today in rock history: On this date in 1988, an incredibly influential and important album in the advancement of hip-hop music was released. Critical Beatdown, the debut album from groundbreaking Bronx, New York hip-hop outfit Ultramagnetic MCs was unleashed 30 years ago today. Cited for its forward-thinking and highly original production style and its unique sound, the album is widely regarded to be a major catalyst in the development of hip-hop music. The group featured influential and highly original rapper Kool Keith, who’d later go on to great success as a solo artist, as well as Ced-Gee, who’d become known as a highly regarded hip-hop record producer in later years. Critical Beatdown sounded like nothing else at the time of its release thanks to its original style of rhymes and its unusual production style. While it wasn’t a significant performer on sales charts, it’s been cited as being a major influence on the rise of underground hip-hop. Several songs were released as singles from this groundbreaking album with “Ego Trippin’” undoubtedly being the most recognizable. Tracks from this magnificent album have been sampled by artists as diverse as Nas, The Prodigy and Gang Starr. Unanimously reviewed positively upon its release and noted for its significance, Critical Beatdown is now considered to be an undeniable, crucial, classic hip-hop release.
Today in rock history: On this date in 1982, British reggae-inspired dance-pop band Culture Club released its outstanding debut album, Kissing to Be Clever. The album performed poorly upon its original release, and two singles were released from the record in England, but neither one made any significant chart impact. It wasn’t until the album’s third single release, the infectious, soulful, reggae-influenced ballad “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” that the band and its debut album started to get noticed. With the gifted, colorful and gender-bending vocalist Boy George at the forefront, Culture Club was hard to ignore. George’s soul-drenched voice and his androgynous looks instantly made him one of the most recognizable and iconic musical figures of the 1980s. “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” went all the way to No. 1 on British singles charts and landed in the Top 10 on singles charts in several countries around the world. The album would be released in the U.S. two months after its U.K. release and would fare well on American shores. Another hit single, “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” was also an international hit its a third single “Time (Clock of the Heart)," which did not appear on the original British release but was included on the American pressing of the album, did well in the States too. Culture Club became the first band to have a debut album birth three consecutive Top 10 hits in America since The Beatles had achieved the feat in the early 1960s.
Today in rock history: On this date in 1980, international superstar rock band Queen rolled into the No. 1 spot on the Billboard pop singles chart in America with its soul/funk/disco crossover smash hit, “Another One Bites the Dust.” The song became Queen’s best-selling single of its long career with international sales exceeding 8 million copies sold. The single remained at the No. 1 spot in the U.S. for three straight weeks and occupied a spot on that chart for more than half the year in 1980. Charting well on R&B and dance charts, the song introduced the British band to a wider cross-section of listeners than it ever imagined it would attract. Written by the band’s bassist, John Deacon, the inspiration came to Deacon while hanging out with Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of soul/dance group Chic at that group’s recording studio. Performing most of the instrumentation on the track himself, Deacon wound up creating the biggest and most successful single the band would ever score. The song was never intended to be released as a single but, at the insistence of Queen fan and international superstar performer Michael Jackson, the group decided to make “Another One Bites the Dust” one of the five singles to be released from The Game, Queen's blockbuster album of the same year.
Today in rock history: On this date in 1963, The Yardbirds, a legendary British blues-influenced rock and roll band, welcomed a brand new guitarist to its lineup. After landing a gig as the house band at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, England, the band started to gain a following thanks to its urgent, rock and roll-inspired take on blues music and it’s phenomenal cover versions of blues standards originally recorded and released by giants like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson to name a few. After the band’s original guitarist Anthony Topham left the band, a 17-year old British guitar wiz named Eric Clapton came on board and made his live debut with the band at the Crawdaddy on this date, 55 years ago today. Clapton would remain with the group for two years before leaving to become a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, a more traditional blues inspired band, in 1965.