Today in rock history, Madness, The Specials and Wailers release big ones, and more

Tom Petty's 'Torpedoes,' plus sophomore LPS by Prince and Pearl Jam, too.

Today in rock history: this date in 1979 was an important one for fans of the ska revival. Debut albums by two of the purveyors of the revitalization of the Jamaican genre that originated in the 1950s and influenced the birth of reggae music were released on this date as the 1970s were coming to a close. One Step Beyond the first of many stunning releases by pop/ska band Madness spawned several hit singles in the band’s native England, most notably the mostly-instrumental title track that ranks among one of the most infectious, energetic and danceable tunes from the band’s lengthy discography. The first release by The Specials was released on the very same day, making this an all-important date for fans of the music and the bands. Produced by Elvis Costello, The Specials has been often regarded as the quintessential British ska album and the defining moment in the rebirth of this style of music. “A Message To You, Rudy” and “Too Much Too Young” were the single releases from this classic album whose appeal and influence is still felt today.

Today in rock history: on this date in 1973, Burnin’, the sixth album by the Wailers (led by Bob Marley) was released. The very last record to feature reggae giants Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer as part of the band’s lineup, the record is a pivotal release in the grand catalog of Bob Marley and in the introduction of reggae music to many around the world. Featuring “I Shot The Sheriff,” a song British guitarist and singer Eric Clapton would turn into a global smash in 1974, the album is also where “Get Up, Stand Up,” the Marley/Tosh enduring anthem would first appear. All future Wailers albums after this one would be officially credited to Bob Marley and the Wailers in honor of the man who would soon lead the band to international success.

Today in rock history: on this date in 1979, at age 21, up and coming Minneapolis singer and songwriter Prince released his second album, simply titled Prince. The young genius played all the instruments on the album as well as handling all the vocals and taking care of production and arranging duties. Featuring the young artist’s first bona fide hit single, the pop and r&b charting dance classic “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” the record put Prince on the map and in the consciousness of record buyers of all ages and races. Another single, “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” hinted at the artist's wide range of talents by including some tasty guitar work on it…which was nothing compared to the album’s true axe workout, the searing cut “Bambi.” An early success in Prince’s stratospheric career, the album was his first million seller and only scratched the surface of what he’d conquer just a few short years after the release of this dynamic album.

Today in rock history: on this date in 1979, Florida-born Tom Petty rose to enormous fame with the release of this third long player, the hugely successful Damn The Torpedoes.  Petty’s first two albums were moderately successful yet both received critical acclaim. With this album, Petty utilized the services of producer Jimmy Iovine (who’d previously worked with Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith) and the results were astonishing. Widely recognized as one of Petty’s best albums with his band The Heartbreakers in tow, the record was a rock radio smash and featured the classic Petty singles “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Refugee” and “Here Comes My Girl.” Released one day prior to Tom’s 29th birthday, the triple platinum selling album rose as high as No. 2 on Billboard’s pop albums chart (Petty’s highest success up to then) and stayed there for seven weeks, being kept from the top spot by Pink Floyd’s epic The Wall album which was released the same year.

R.I.P. — Tom Petty dead at 66 (UPDATED)

Released on this date in 1973: The Who’s masterful double-LP rock opera, Quadrophenia. Following the tremendous successes of the band’s two previous studio albums, 1969’s epic Tommy and 1971’s rock masterpiece Who’s Next, expectations were high for chief songwriter Pete Townshend. The animated guitarist and genius songwriter delivered one of the band’s best and most ambitious pieces of work, an introspective album that centers around a young man named Jimmy whose plight it is to discover himself while living as part of Britain’s mod movement. The album and its complex plotline were critically praised and celebrated. The album, which came packaged in a deluxe gatefold sleeve and lavish booklet inside, peaked at No. 2 on album sales charts in England and the United States. Singles from the album include “5.15,” “Love, Reign o’er Me” and “The Real Me.”

Today in rock history: at the height of his popularity during his “Ziggy Stardust” phase, David Bowie released his covers album, Pin Ups. The album found Bowie paying tribute to many of the bands that influenced his musical journey as a singer, songwriter and performer in an attempt to help shed some light on groups and songs that his fan base might not have been previously familiar with. On the record, Bowie re-imagines songs by artists like The Pretty Things, Them, The Kinks and The Who among others and puts his own spin on them. Pictured on the front cover alongside the day’s top supermodel Twiggy, the eye-catching sleeve housed one of Bowie’s most imaginative albums which was a huge hit in Britain, peaking at No. 1 on album sales charts there. The record’s only single, “Sorrow” was a version of a song first recorded by Rick Derringer’s first band The McCoys (and then later by British band The Merseys) and it peaked at #3 on U.K. singles charts.

Today in rock history: on this date in 1993, Seattle rockers Pearl Jam had the precarious task of following up its monster debut album Ten and did so in grand style when it released Vs.. A harder rocking album than its predecessor, the fantastic sophomore album debuted at the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s albums chart the very first week it was eligible to chart and stayed there for five straight weeks.  At the time, the record was the fastest-selling album of all time, a record it held for many years. The spotlight on the band was intense after the unprecedented success of their first album and this release more than proved the sheer firepower and the strength of this now legendary band. Featuring singles and radio hits “Go,” “Dissident,” “Daughter” and “Animal”, this superb record showed that Pearl Jam was no fluke, a point it has proven year after year with each successful album and tour it has unleashed throughout its 25-plus year tenure.

Today in rock history: on this date in 1987, the album that lifted Australian rock band INXS to worldwide superstardom was released. The band’s sixth album, Kick hit shelves thirty years ago today and made the band internationally known. After several successful albums, this was the one that blew the doors off the band’s steadily growing momentum. A platinum-selling success in just about every country that tracks record sales, this blazing album featured the mega hits “Need You Tonight,” “New Sensation,” “Devil Inside” and “Never Tear Us Apart.” The best-selling album of the band’s catalog, worldwide sales for this, one of the most popular albums of the 1980s, have exceeded 20 million copies. The success of this rhythmically pristine raised the band from playing theater-sized venues to large arenas almost instantly.

About The Author

Gabe Echazabal

I was born on a Sunday Morning.I soon received The Gift of loving music.Through music, I Found A Reason for living.It was when I discovered rock and roll that I Was Beginning To See The Light.Because through music, I'm Set Free.It's always helped me keep my Head Held High.When I started dancing to that fine, fine...
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