Today in rock history: on this date in 1976, New York City rock and roll band, The Ramones released its self-titled, debut album. The short, sharp, raw and ragged album is regularly regarded as the catalyst that kicked off the punk rock movement that would spread to England and influence countless bands in that country as well as all around America. The record was not a particularly strong seller, and it fared poorly on sales charts in both America and England, but its impact and importance is immeasurable. Fans of rock and roll felt that the genre had become self-indulgent, narcissistic and bloated by the mid-1970s; but with the release of Ramones, many viewed the record as a turning of the tide and a return to the basic, primal energy and firepower rock music is supposed to pack. Two singles were released from this legendary album: “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and what’s arguably the band’s most recognized song, “Blitzkrieg Bop,” which opens with the familiar chant “Hey ho! Let’s go!,” Like the album from which they hail, the singles made very little impact on sales charts and were all but ignored by radio stations around the country. The iconic front cover image, one of the most imitated in rock history, was taken by photographer Roberta Bayley who earned a total of $125 for snapping what’s become a historic and quintessential photo. The entire album took one week to record and cost just over $6,000 to complete.
Today in rock history: on this date in 2002, the official, physical release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the fourth album from Chicago-based rock band Wilco, hit record store shelves. Although the record was completed and recorded much earlier than this release date, the album was plagued with setbacks and problems prior to its anticipated release date in 2001. After a corporate merger occurred between AOL and Time Warner (which owned the band’s record label, Reprise Records), it was decided that many changes would be made within the record labels and their branches. One of these changes involved the decision to not release the album Wilco had just completed. After offering to pay the label to be released from its roster and take the music with them, Wilco was pleasantly surprised to be granted those concessions without having to pay a dime. The hunt began for a new label to release the record but, in the process, files and MP3s of the albums songs began to leak on the internet. Wilco battled that setback by streaming the entire album on its website making it possible to listen to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in its entirety. Wilco finally settled on Nonesuch Records which, ironically, is a Time Warner affiliate. The record became a hit upon its physical release and peaked at No. 13 on Billboard’s pop albums chart, the strongest showing any of the band’s albums had made until that point. Highly regarded and reviewed positively, the record became a pivotal release in Wilco’s catalog and is still regarded as the band’s most consistent and strongest work.
TODAY IN ROCK HISTORY
Wilco's debut album arrives, Blondie's "Rapture" goes No. 1 and more
Today in rock history: on this date in 1936, rock legend Roy Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas. Known for his expressive, towering vocal style, Orbison enjoyed his most successful period in the mid-1960s when several of his singles became huge hits and performed extremely well on sales charts. Although he’d gotten his start as more of a country and rockabilly artist and was originally signed to the Memphis-based Sun Records label, Orbison’s commercial peak came when he became associated with the Monument Records label where he released rock classics like “Running Scared,” “Only the Lonely,” “In Dreams” and, his most popular, “Oh! Pretty Woman.” Orbison’s popularity waned after the 60s but he enjoyed a resurgence in the 1980s when he formed The Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan. The group scored a major hit with “Handle With Care” on which all members shared vocal duties. The popularity of the song led to a newfound interest in the still-magnificent voice Orbison possessed. A new solo album, Mystery Girl was recorded with Jeff Lynne handling production duties. A single from the album, “You Got It” became an international smash hit and returned Orbison to the top of record sales charts; a place he hadn’t frequented in a very long time. Sadly, the attention came a little too late as Roy passed away in 1988 at the age of 52 before he was able to enjoy the renewed interest in his last solo album. The man who is considered one of the greatest vocalists of all time was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and won several Grammy awards throughout his long career.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1991, guitarist, singer and songwriter Johnny Thunders passed away at the age of 38. Born John Anthony Genzale in the New York City borough of Queens in 1952, Johnny developed a love and passion for rock and roll early in his life. By the early 1970s, Thunders was instrumental in creating New York Dolls, the glam-rock inspired New York rock and roll band that’s often credited with beginning the city’s rock scene that would later give way to punk rock and new wave. Thunders appeared on the band’s first two albums, its 1973 self-titled debut and the follow up, 1974’s Too Much Too Soon. Both albums are considered to be catalysts for the New York City punk rock explosion that would gain steam within the next few years thanks to acts like Ramones, Blondie, Television and Patti Smith Group. After leaving the Dolls, Thunders formed The Heartbreakers and worked as a solo artist for many years as well. Struggling with drug addiction for a great portion of his life, Thunders seemed to be on the path to recovery in the early 1990s and traveled to New Orleans to work on new music and record. Foul play has always been suspected in the sketchy details that led to his eventual death in a Crescent City hotel room. LSD was found in his system at the time of his death but, reportedly, the amount wasn’t potent enough to kill him. It’s been alleged that Thunders was actually drugged, robbed and left for dead in the hotel room he was occupying at the time although the case has never been thoroughly investigated. For many, Johnny Thunders embodied rock and roll and the fantastic, influential records he created throughout his career will always serve as inspiration for fans of raw and ragged rock and roll.