Today in rock history: on this date in 1973, David Bowie released his sixth studio album, Aladdin Sane. As the follow up to his breakthrough album, 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, all eyes were on the astounding glam rocker as Bowie-mania had struck in both America and England. In keeping with the Ziggy persona that had been created for the album’s predecessor, David maintained the look of the fictional character and delivered another fine album of great rock and pop songs along with some experimentations. “The Jean Genie,” (purported to be about Bowie’s musical contemporary and future collaborator, Iggy Pop) and “Drive-In Saturday” were both released as singles in advance of the album’s arrival. The singles performed well in England as they kept Bowie’s rabid fans happy in between full-length album releases. Featuring a front cover image that’s arguably David Bowie’s most iconic and recognizable image, Aladdin Sane contained a rollicking, sped up version of The Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Time” (a dramatic ballad that contains some of David’s best and most expressive vocal work) and the avant-jazz inspired title track. All went towards proving that this was not at all a carbon copy of its wildly successful precursor. Adding sparkle and muscle to the record was David’s lead guitarist and ace musician Mick Ronson whose work is especially dazzling on this fine album. As expected, the record performed exceptionally on sales charts; it reached No. 1 in England and peaked at No. 17 in America which, at the time, was the highest chart position Bowie had ever achieved in the States. Aladdin Sane achieved platinum sales status on both sides of the Atlantic and kept the fanaticism David Bowie had acquired at the height of his popularity burning bright through the early 1970s.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1973, reggae music legend Bob Marley released one of the most important and significant albums of his remarkable career. Catch a Fire was the first Marley album to be released on Island Records, the label where he’d make his home for the duration of his tenure as one of the most popular musicians in the world. Catch a Fire is often alluded to being the first record to introduce Marley and his engaging, warm sound to many Americans who were previously unfamiliar with his work. Containing Marley staples like “Stir It Up,” “Concrete Jungle” and the Peter Tosh-penned “Stop that Train,” the album is considered by many to be the quintessential record of his enormous catalog. Initial pressings of the album came packaged in an elaborate sleeve that resembled a Zippo lighter with a makeshift hinged lid that really swung open. The design was only used for the first 20,000 copies of the album that were pressed; original copies with the cover intact have long been highly sought-after collectibles that sell for big money. The record that made audiences take notice of this musical giant charted respectably in America and in England and started Bob Marley’s impressive and steady climb to worldwide stardom.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1981, American rocker Billy Squier released his second solo album, Don’t Say No. After breaking away from pop/rock band Piper with which he released two albums in the late 1970s, Squier released his debut album in 1980 which did, despite not being a particularly strong seller, receive airplay on rock radio stations in major markets around the U.S. What followed couldn’t have been predicted by any of his fans or listeners or by Squier himself: Don’t Say No proved to be one of the best-selling albums of 1981 and made Billy Squier a bona fide rock star due to its enormous success. Containing Billy’s best-known hit, the hard and steady rocker “The Stroke,” the record was an instant smash and remained on Billboard’s pop albums charts for over two years thanks to its popularity and the regular airplay all the singles from the album received. Other hits from “Don’t Say No” included “My Kinda Lover” and “In The Dark,” which all helped the album reach multi-platinum sales numbers by the end of 1981 and launched Squier into becoming one of the most successful arena rockers of the ‘80s.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1946, Albert Leornes Greene was born in Forrest City, Arkansas. After adopting the shortened stage name of Al Green, the gifted singer became one of the most beloved and heralded R&B singers of the 1970s when his career as a seductive, emotive soul crooner took off. After the success of his 1971 classic single, “Let’s Stay Together,” Green instantly rose to the forefront of the impressive array of soul artists that dominated radio airwaves throughout the 1970s. Other standout tunes like “Take Me to the River” (which was later covered by New York art rockers, Talking Heads), “Love and Happiness,” “Tired of Being Alone” and so many others solidified Green’s place as one of the all-time best male vocalists of any genre. As the decade came to a close, Green was ordained as a minister and opted to bring his soul and R&B career to a halt and exclusively record only gospel music which he did until the late 1980s when he chose to return to recording secular music. Still writing, recording and performing, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee celebrates his 72nd birthday today.