Today in rock history: on this date in 1987, renowned pop artist Andy Warhol passed away in New York City after complications from a gallbladder surgery. Known as the innovator and the catalyst in bringing influential band The Velvet Underground to the forefront, Warhol was responsible for the band’s early management as well as receiving a credit as producer of its groundbreaking 1967 debut album. Additionally, Warhol designed the recognizable banana cover of the record which initially featured a peel-able banana skin on the cover’s artwork. Warhol too created many more striking album covers with the most famous being the close-up crotch view artwork on The Rolling Stones’ 1971 classic “Sticky Fingers” which featured a fully operative zipper on the cover. Other artists who enlisted Warhol for their album covers included Aretha Franklin, Billy Squier, Liza Minnelli and former Velvet Underground member, John Cale. The respected and regarded artist is responsible for some of the most striking and influential art of the twentieth century which includes the many album covers he designed.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1986, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the debut of The Monkees’ popular weekly sitcom, MTV dedicated an entire day to running all 46 of the show’s original episodes back-to-back. Dubbed the “Pleasant Valley Sunday” marathon, named after one of the band’s most popular singles, the day-long marathon introduced the zany foursome and its music to a whole new audience as well as letting original fans who may not have seen the original episodes (which originally aired from 1966 to 1968) a chance to revisit them all. The marathon was well received and generated a renewed interest in the band that led the way to an imminent reunion. Original members Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork reformed (without fourth member, Mike Nesmith who, at the time, wasn’t able to fit the reunion into his personal schedule), embarked on an extremely successful concert tour around the world and began to record new music together.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1989, after being lambasted for not recognizing heavy metal or hard rock as viable genres, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences introduced a new category to that year’s Grammy Awards ceremony to recognize those genres. The result was the newly-adopted category entitled “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental.” Nominated for the newly introduced award was Metallica (which was favored to win), AC/DC, Jane’s Addiction, Iggy Pop and the veteran prog rock band, Jethro Tull who seemed a little out of place in the list of nominees. In a strange and unexpected move, Jethro Tull were named the winners which shocked both audience members and the presenters of the trophy. Rockers Lita Ford and Alice Cooper announced the winner of the award onstage and were visibly surprised as a choir of boos rang from the audience. The selection proved to music fans how out of touch the Academy was with music and its many genres.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1980, British synth-pop group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released its self-titled, debut album. Regarded as one of the pioneers of modern-day synthesizer-oriented music, the group’s first full-length album was met with positive reviews and had a respectable showing on British sales charts. Consisting mainly of chief songwriters and singers Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, the group had already released its debut single, “Electricity” to wide acclaim and generally positive reviews. On the strength of that single, the group landed an album deal which kicked off with this fine record. Highly influenced by the music of Kraftwerk and Brian Eno, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (which would later truncate its name to the simpler O.M.D.) enlisted the assistance of two additional musicians to record this first album. Embraced by influential British DJ John Peel, the band received lots of airplay in England which helped propel this album to reach no. 27 on British charts. Featuring a detailed, intricate, die-cut cover designed by Peter Saville, the graphic artist who’d designed record covers for Joy Division, the album produced the singles “Messages” and “Red Frame/White Light” and helped spawn the rise of several other synth-pop outfits who were inspired by this electronic music classic album. The band is set to play State Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida on April 13 — more information on the show is available here.