Today in Rock History: Pavement releases Slanted and Enchanted, Freddy Mercury memorial concert reaches a billion viewers

Plus, we remember guitar heroes Steve Marriott and Robin Trower.

On this date in 1992, Slanted and Enchanted, the debut solo album by California-based indie-rock band Pavement was released. After moving from Chicago’s independent Drag City record label, the band made its home on New York’s Matador Records. Their first release for the label was this, their debut album, and the acclaim and positive reviews it received were astounding. Accolades and praise were plentiful for Slanted and Enchanted and the record has gone on to be regarded as one of the most important and influential indie-rock releases of the 1990s. Lead singer and chief songwriter Stephen Malkmus also received high marks for his contributions to the record on which he alone wrote the majority of the songs included. A single from the album, “Summer Babe” had originally been released while the band was still part of the Drag City roster but was re-recorded for the album. The new version of the song, entitled “Summer Babe (Winter Version)” became the first single from the album as well as being the opening cut on this universally lauded album. 

On this date in 1992, a commemorative concert as held in honor of the late, great lead singer and showman from Queen, Freddie Mercury. Seventy-two thousand fans jammed England’s Wembley Stadium to celebrate the life of arguably the greatest rock and roll frontman of all time to witness the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness. The three surviving members of Queen enlisted the help of a virtual who’s who of the day’s top rock performers to participate in the event; guest performers included Axl Rose, Elton John, Robert Plant, members of Def Leppard and Metallica, David Bowie, Annie Lennox and Lisa Stansfield. The event’s most memorable performance came when George Michael belted a soulful, heartfelt rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” that mesmerized the audience. The performance was so grand that George went on to release the recording as a single; it became a huge hit around the world. The concert was broadcast live to over 75 countries to an estimated 1 billion viewers. The proceeds from the event were used to start up the Mercury Phoenix Trust, an AIDS charity organization based out of England. 

On this date in 1991, one of the most important and integral players from the British rock scene of the 1960s and 1970s, Steve Marriott, died at his home in England as a result of a house fire. Marriott founded and led the quintessential English mod band The Small Faces who were as recognized for their dashing style and fashion sense as they were for their superb hit records. Songs like “All or Nothing,” “Itchycoo Park” and “Tin Soldier” rank among the group’s most recognizable songs and all feature Marriott’s unmistakable, raspy R&B-influenced vocal style. After the dissolution of Small Faces, Marriott ventured in another direction with his follow-up band, Humble Pie. Leaning more towards harder, blues-influenced rock and roll, the band became known for barn burners like “Hot ‘n’ Nasty,” “30 Days in the Hole” and “Shine On." Marriott kept a loyal fanbase right up until his untimely death and is regularly cited as being one of the true innovators and unsung heroes of British rock thanks to his wide and varied catalog. 

On this date in 1974, guitar virtuoso Robin Trower released his landmark album, Bridge of Sighs. The record was Trower’s second solo release after his exit from legendary British band Procol Harum and it proved to be his most successful to date. Often cited as being one of the best guitar albums of all time, the record also benefits from the strong, commanding vocals of James Dewar, who also served as bassist for Trower’s powerhouse trio that released a string of impressive albums throughout the 1970s. Several songs from the album, including "Too Rolling Stoned," "Day of the Eagle," "Little Bit of Sympathy" and the title track, helped make this Trower’s commercial breakthrough which made the Top 10 on both British and American charts for many weeks. Bridge of Sighs, which gets its title from the name of a racehorse Trower noticed while reading newspaper sports pages, quickly achieved gold sales status in America and remained on U.S. sales charts for almost all of 1974.