Today in rock history: on this date in 1976, genius singer, songwriter and innovator Stevie Wonder released the most ambitious and best-selling album of his career, the 2-LP masterpiece, Songs in the Key Of Life. An instant success upon its release, the incredibly well-received and highly revered album features the Wonder classics “I Wish,” “Sir Duke” and “Isn’t She Lovely” (among many others) and debuted at the no. 1 spot on Billboard Magazine’s pop albums chart. Initial pressings of the lavishly packaged album included a bonus 4-song 7” EP as well as an illustrated, deluxe lyric booklet inside. The record features a host of guest artists like jazz heavyweights Herbie Hancock and George Benson as well as soul singers Minnie Riperton and Deniece Williams who supply backing vocals throughout. Wonder himself produced this amazing album and was recognized with four Grammy awards in 1977 for the album in the categories of Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, Producer of the Year as well as the prestigious Album of the Year statue. The record has sold in excess of 10 million copies in the U.S. alone and is one of the best-selling albums of all time on the Motown Records roster. NPR's Stretch and Bobbito recently executed a great interview with Wonder. You can listen to it below and see pictures of Stretch DJ-ing at Crowbar in Ybor City here.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1963, popular New York City radio DJ Murray The K played “She Loves You” by The Beatles on station WINS-AM for the very first time. The event was significant as it marked the very first time a Beatles song was played on U.S. airwaves. Murray The K is often credited with helping break the band in North America and by doing so, contributing to the rise of Beatlemania in the U.S.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1980, rock trio The Police was at the top of the British singles chart with its third chart-topper, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.” The song hails from the band’s third album, Zenyatta Mondatta which was also a no. 1 success in England. The song, which deals with the taboo subject of a female student developing a crush on a male teacher and engaging in an illicit affair with him, won the band a Grammy award in the category of Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1982. The song was re-recorded in 1986 with a new arrangement for inclusion on a greatest hits package the band released that year and was a again released as a single, but did not fare as well as it did in its original form.
Today in rock history: this date in 1987 was a good record-buying day for alternative music fans. On this same date, influential Boston quartet The Pixies released its debut mini-LP on renowned indie record label 4AD, the eight-song Come On Pilgrim which drew rave reviews and led the band to be signed to a major label not long after its release.
British synth-pop giants Depeche Mode released its sixth album, the platinum-selling blockbuster Music For The Masses which included the singles “Strangelove,” “Never Let Me Down,” “Behind The Wheel” and “Little 15.” The album led the band to embark on its biggest and most successful tour to date which culminated with the band selling out the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California in front of 60,000 fans, a show that was captured and released as the band’s follow up album, the live 2-LP set, 101.
Strangeways, Here We Come, the fourth and final album by Manchester, England indie rock giants The Smiths was also released on this historic date. Considered by many to be the band’s most consistent and strongest album, the Smiths’ swan song includes the classic singles “Girlfriend In A Coma,” “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before,” “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” and “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me.” The album made it as high as no. 2 on British album charts and is often cited by the band’s main songwriters and leaders, Johnny Marr and Morrissey, as being their personal favorite release of the band’s catalog.