Today in rock history: on this date in 1973, Elton John was at the top of his game. The wildly successful British piano player, singer, songwriter and entertainer was riding a hot streak of hit albums and singles and, upon this date, came what might be his most beloved and revered album of all. The double-LP classic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was released on this date and was an instant worldwide smash. John’s seventh album kept him ranked as the most successful solo artist of his time thanks to its four mega-hit singles: “Bennie and the Jets,” “Candle In The Wind,” “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” and the album’s title track. Elaborately packaged and featuring illustrations throughout the record sleeves, the album cover was almost as stunning as the two phenomenal records inside. A chart topper in America, England, Canada and Australia, the album performed well around the globe and has sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide since its release.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1970, British blues-inspired hard rock giants Led Zeppelin released its third album, simply titled Led Zeppelin III. Riding the wave of accolades and attention it had drawn from the first two barnstorming albums, Zep decided to scale it down a bit and feature some lighter, softer, more acoustically-inclined numbers for its third act. Songs like “Tangerine” and “That’s The Way” showed off singer Robert Plant’s versatile, emotive, vocal abilities while Jimmy Page’s guitar virtuosity reached new heights on this amazing record. The album wasn’t without its fair share of Led Zep rockers though; “Immigrant Song” and "Gallows Pole” did plenty to keep the hard rock champs at the very top of the list of powerful and mighty rock bands of the day. One of the more uniquely packaged records of the rock era, the front cover featured a kaleidoscopic, rotating wheel that contains colorful, eye-catching artwork making it probably the most memorable and clever of all the band’s album covers. The album reached no. 1 on both American and British sales charts; a feat most of the band’s albums would achieve throughout its lifespan.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1981, young British synth-pop quartet Depeche Mode released its very first album, Speak & Spell. A Top 10 smash in England, the album was the only to feature founding member and primary songwriter Vince Clarke who’d soon leave to form dance pop duo Yazoo and, later, the more enduring Erasure. Lighter and more carefree than later Depeche records, the album is upbeat throughout and only hints at the heights the still vital band would rise to.
Track listings on the U.S. and U.K. pressings of the album varied; the American version featured the very first Mode single to ever be released, “Dreaming of Me” which was omitted from the British counterpart. Conversely, the U.K. version featured a song titled “Sometimes Wish I Was Dead” which didn’t make it onto American pressings. “Just Can’t Get Enough” which hails from this album, was Depeche Mode’s first international hit and was popular all around the world ranking highly on British, American and Australian singles charts. The album is the first chapter in the long and incredibly successful tenure of this, one of the most popular bands on the globe.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1968, legendary blues master Muddy Waters released his fifth studio album, Electric Mud. The album was meant as an attempt for Waters to create a record that would appeal to rock and roll audiences by incorporating elements of rock and psychedelia to the mix. Released on renowned blues record label Chess Records, the album attracted rock fans, as intended, but alienated blues purists who felt that the combination of contemporary sounds didn’t mesh well with the traditional blues they’d come to expect from Waters. The record sold respectably upon its release and was the first Muddy Waters album to ever appear on American album sales charts. Electric Mud features Muddy’s take on three tracks penned by fellow blues legend Willie Dixon, a rendition of the Rolling Stones classic “Let’s Spend The Night Together” as well as Waters’s own classic “I’m A Man (Mannish Boy).”
Review: Joe Jackson's sold-out Clearwater debut is a top-class musical journey (w/photos+setlist)
Today in rock history: on this date in 1979, the amazing Joe Jackson, one of the very best singer-songwriters of the new wave era, released his second album of that year. Following an explosive and defining debut, Look Sharp! in March of ’79, I’m The Man was the second installment in the one-two punch Jackson unleashed as the 70s came to a close. Witty, inspiring, smart, thoughtful and immensely talented, Jackson’s sophomore album was every bit as dynamic as his first effort. Featuring signature tunes like “On Your Radio,” “It’s Different For Girls” and “Kinda Kute,” this is one of Jackson’s very best from his vast and varied catalog. The album fared better in Jackson’s native England where it climbed as high as no. 12 on album charts but scored respectably in the U.S. as well where it peaked at no. 22 on Billboard’s Pop Albums chart, a feat that wasn’t easy to achieve during a time where many radio stations continued to resist incorporating punk rock and new wave into their rigid playlists. Read our review of Jackson's recent Clearwater set here.