Today in rock history, on this date in 1979. Queen released its very first live album, the 2-LP set Live Killers. Recorded during the band’s European tour in support of its 1978 album Jazz, the record finds the band at its absolute peak and wonderfully showcases all of the many talents of the individual band members, especially the rich, soaring vocals skills of late singer Freddie Mercury. Widely panned upon its release, the record has fared better in retrospective hindsight since the nearly 40 years from its release. The record kicks off with a red hot, revved up, hard rock version of “We Will Rock You” and never lets up from there. The band would release many more live recordings throughout its tenure, but this is easily the best of their many concert recordings.
Today in rock history, on this date in 1971. Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell released her fourth album, and breakthrough release, Blue. Leaning more on her folk roots for her earlier releases, for Blue, Mitchell delved deeper into more of a pop sound and showed more of the introspective, vulnerable and quizzical side of her persona. Accompanied only by piano, guitar and dulcimer, the record sounds pure and unadorned yet its elegance and beauty are unmistakable. One of Mitchell’s finest compositions of all time, “A Case Of You,” is the centerpiece of this incredible album yet every song featured is an absolute gem. Not merely one of the most significant and influential albums released by a female artist, the album is hardly bound by any gender-specific praise; it’s undoubtedly and firmly one of the greatest albums released by any recording artist of all time thanks to its honesty, its warmth and its timeless nature.
Today in rock history, on this date in 1963. A 13-year old by the name of Little Stevie Wonder made his chart debut with his very first single, the live recording of “Fingertips.” The single featured part one of the song on the A-side and part two on the flipside. It was recorded live at the Regal Theater in Chicago, Illinois in June of 1962 and featured Marvin Gaye on drums before he’d become a pop star in his own right. The single went straight to no. 1 on U.S. singles charts and was the first in a long line of hits Stevie Wonder would rack up during his long, illustrious career that’s still going strong.
Today in rock history, on this date in 1985. Canadian rocker Bryan Adams scored his very first no. 1 hit song in America with the power ballad, “Heaven.” The song was featured in the 1983 film A Night In Heaven which fizzled at the box office but shed plenty of light and exposure on the up and coming Adams who was just starting to carve a name for himself on American radio airwaves. Featured on Bryan’s 1984 multi-platinum hit album Reckless, the song was one of six mega hit singles that hail from that massively successful album. Adams is set to play a show at Clearwater's Coachman Park on September 10. Details on the show are available here.
Born on this date in 1953 in New York City — the always colorful and effervescent Cyndi Lauper. Rising to fame in the mid-1980s on the strength of her anthem “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and her blockbuster debut album She’s So Unusual, Lauper has retained a fiercely loyal fan base since then thanks to her many hit records, her reputation as a dynamic live performer and her incredibly versatile vocal talents. A devoted supporter of LBGT rights for decades, Lauper has remained an activist and has participated in a host of charity events for many, many years. Most recently involved with the Broadway production of the musical Kinky Boots, Lauper is a truly unique and multi-faceted artist.
Born on this date in 1948 in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania — the wizard, the true star, Todd Rundgren. From his early days with garage pop/rock group Nazz through his work with pop group Utopia and through all the outstanding records he’s released as a solo artist, Rundgren is for sure one of the most innovative and unpredictable artists of the rock era. A gifted multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, Todd’s impressive resume also includes his role as a sought-after record producer who has left his indelible mark on albums from artists as diverse as New York Dolls, Grand Funk Railroad, Hall & Oates, XTC, Psychedelic Furs and Shaun Cassidy. Happy 69th birthday to the always imaginative and ingenious Todd Rundgren. Read our interview with Rundgren and then click here to see a review of his most recent live set at Mahaffey Theater.
Read past rock history lessons here.