Today in rock history: on this date in 1994, Seattle-based indie emo band Sunny Day Real Estate released its debut album, Diary. One of the defining albums from its time and genre, Diary has been hailed as one of the greatest emo, post-hardcore albums of all time. Released on legendary Seattle indie label Sub Pop Records, the album was a surprise hit and, due to its large appeal, has become one of the best-selling albums in Sub Pop’s catalog. The band, which amassed a loyal and devout following during its existence, had a long history of breaking up and regrouping; one of its spells apart led to two members, Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith becoming members of Dave Grohl’s post-Nirvana band, Foo Fighters. Diary has been reissued several times on either different colored vinyl or on CD with bonus tracks added to its original track listing but still remains one of the most beloved and celebrated albums of the 1990s.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1935, premier rock and roll and R&B singer Larry Williams was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. An accomplished pianist, producer and songwriter, Williams released a string of essential rock and roll songs in the late 1950s that made a huge impact on many of the British Invasion bands who’d emerge in the early 1960s. Hits like “Bony Maronie,” “Slow Down,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzie,” “Short Fat Fannie,” “Bad Boy” and “She Said Yeah” were hits for Williams but many were also covered by an array of British rock bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Animals. Recording for Specialty Records, the record label whose best-selling artist was Little Richard, Williams was groomed to follow in the footsteps of Richard’s success after he’d dropped out of the rock scene to become a minister. Sadly, Williams died at the young age of 44 in 1980 due to a self-inflicted gunshot following a long bout with drug addiction.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1981, German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk released its eighth album, Computer World. Centering its focus on the significance of computers in modern day society, the album was a big success in England where it reached the top 20 on British sales charts and had several singles released from it. One of the album’s singles, “Pocket Calculator,” was also recorded and released in different languages including Italian, Japanese, French and the band’s native tongue, German. “Computer Love” and “Numbers” were also significant singles from the album and went on to become quite influential in the rise of hip-hop and electro-funk, especially when an integral force in both of those genres, DJ and emcee Afrika Bambaataa, sampled songs from this album within his music, namely on his funk classic “Planet Rock.” Computer World is often recognized as one of the most innovative and influential albums of the 1980s and is one of Kraftwerk’s best-selling albums of its substantial tenure.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1974, glam punk group, New York Dolls, released its sophomore album, Too Much Too Soon. Although the band’s 1973, self-titled, Todd Rundgren-produced debut album made quite a splash, especially with its eye-catching cover depicting the male band members donning makeup and women’s clothing, the band was never really satisfied with the final product. For its second outing, the band hired producer Shadow Morton, known for his work on many classic girl group-era records, to handle production duties. Besides its original compositions, the record also contained raucous covers of 1950s songs like “Stranded in the Jungle” originally recorded by doo-wop group The Jay Hawks and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Don’t Start Me Talkin’.” Of the original material, the most significant track was “Chatterbox” which marked the first time guitarist Johnny Thunders would handle lead vocal duties instead of the group’s full time singer, David Johansen. Poor sales of the record led to the band being dropped from its record label, Mercury Records, but the impact and the influence of Too Much Too Soon is undeniable. A clear precursor to the rise of punk rock and an integral part of the NYC scene that would usher in bands like Ramones, Blondie and Patti Smith, Too Much Too Soon was received well by critics which, sadly, didn’t transfer to significant sales numbers.