Category: 90’s

On this day in music history: December 6, 1994 – “Vitalogy”, the third album by Pearl Jam is released. Produced by Brendan O’Brien and Pearl Jam, it is recorded at Bad Animals Studios in Seattle, WA, Southern Tracks Recording, Doppler Studios in Atlanta, GA and Kingsway Studios in New Orleans, LA from November 1993 – October 1994. The band begin writing songs their next album, during the tour for their previous release “Vs.”. Still coming to terms with their huge success, the members of Pearl Jam are fraught with tension. Exhausted from nearly three years of non stop activity, they are also frustrated by the corporate appropriation of the grunge music movement they’ve helped to lead. In response, they make a hard shift away from the sound of their first two multi-platinum selling albums. Lead singer Eddie Vedder takes on a much more assertive role, as well as playing guitar. Vedder also clashes with drummer Dave Abbruzzese, feeling he’s gone too far in embracing the “rock star lifestyle”. The singer speaks to him only minimally. Meanwhile, guitarist Mike McCready struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, eventually entering rehab to address his problems. The original working title for the album is “Life” which is changed to “Vitalogy” (meaning “the study of life”), which is the name of an early twentieth century medical book, of which lead singer Eddie Vedder owns a copy. Text and illustrations from the book are included in the booklet that comes packaged with the album. In an unconventional move, “Vitalogy” is released on vinyl two weeks ahead of the CD and cassette configurations, selling enough copies (35,000 units) for it to actually enter the chart at #55. It drops to #173 in its second week, but leaps to the top of the chart on December 24, 1994, two weeks after the CD and cassette versions are released, selling 877,000 copies that week. It spins off three singles including “Spin The Black Circle” (#18 Pop) and “Better Man” (#13 Pop). Pearl Jam wins the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance for “Spin” in 1996. Like the album itself, all three singles are pressed as vinyl 45’s with accompanying picture sleeves. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2011 with three additional bonus tracks, with an exclusive limited edition sold through retailer Best Buy, including a T-shirt. The same year, the vinyl LP is reissued, pressing it as a 180 gram two LP set for better sound quality over the original 1994 release, which was issued as a single LP. The single “Immortality” b/w “Rearviewmirror” is reissued as limited edition 7" replicating the original label and picture sleeve artwork, is released on Record Store Day in 2011 to promote the reissues of the album. “Vitalogy” spends one week at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 5x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 4, 1990 – “The Simpsons Sing The Blues”, the debut album by The Simpsons is released. Produced by John Boylan, Jeff “DJ Jazzy Jeff” Townes and Bryan Loren, it is recorded at Lion Share Recording Studios, Record One Studios in Los Angeles, CA, The Warehouse in Philadelphia, PA, Right Track Recording Studios in New York City and Metropolis Audio in Melbourne, Victoria Australia in September 1990. An immediate success since its network television debut on the Fox Network on December 17, 1989, “The Simpsons” make the leap from the small screen to the record store. Record label executive David Geffen approaches the series creators, with the idea of making an album based on The Simpsons, in time for release in time for the 1990 Christmas holiday season. Series creator Matt Groening and producers James L. Brooks, Al Jean and Sam Simon agree to do the record, but with work on the series on a very tight time line, it leaves little time to spare in producing the spin off album. Featuring the voices of actors Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Matt Groening (Maggie), Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns, Smithers), and Ron Taylor (“Bleeding Gums” Murphy). The ten song album is a mix of original songs co-written by the series writers, covers, and participation from some noted musicians. Among those making cameo appearances on the album include B.B. King, Dr. John, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Marcy Levy (aka Marcella Detroit of Shakespear’s Sister). Released just three weeks before Christmas, the album is an instant smash, and the first television related album since the “Miami Vice” soundtrack to reach the US top ten. The first single “Do The Bartman” is written and produced by Bryan Loren, and though is denied at the time, features background vocals by Michael Jackson. Though not released as a commercial single in the US, the song is launched with an animated music video, that debuts on December 6, 1990. As part of the promotion for the single at US radio, the promo CD single comes packaged with an animated flip book of Bart doing the Bartman dance. The record rockets to the top of the UK singles chart, also hitting #1 in Ireland, Norway, Australia and New Zealand. It spins off one more single with the DJ Jazzy Jeff produced “Deep Deep Trouble” (with “School Day” being issued in Spain and Argentina only). The huge success of The Simpsons album, inspires other albums based on animated TV shows, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Mario Bros, Dinosaurs, and Little Mermaid character Sebastian The Crab. The Simpsons album is later followed up with “Songs In The Key Of Springfield” and “The Yellow Album”, though both are much less successful the first release. “The Simpsons Sings The Blues” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 4, 1990 – “One For All”, the debut album by Brand Nubian is released. Produced by Brand Nubian, Dante Ross, Skeff Anselm, Dave “Jam” Hall and Stimulated Dummies, it is recorded at Calliope Studios in New York City from Mid 1989 – Late 1990. Formed in their hometown New Rochelle, NY in 1989, Brand Nubian consists of group members Maxwell “Grand Puba” Dixon, Derek “Sadat X (formerly Derek X)” Murphy, Lorenzo “Lord Jamar” Dechalus and K.A. “DJ Alamo” Jones. The group are signed to Elektra Records by label A&R man and producer Dante Ross (De La Soul). With group members aligned with the Five Percenters sect of the Nation Of Islam, some of their songs sport a militant pro-black stance and politically conscious lyrics which draws some controversy, leading MTV to ban the video for the single “Wake Up” (#5 Rap, #92 R&B) featuring a black man wearing white face make up. The album is also praised for its production, innovative use of samples, and the lyrical prowess and MC skills of Grand Puba, Lord Jamar and Sadat X. An immediate hit at street level, the album spins off a total of four singles including the anti drug anthem “Slow Down” (#3 Rap, #63 R&B), and “All For One” (#17 Rap). Regarded as a classic of hip hop’s golden era during the first half of the 90’s, the albums’ sales do not match the major praise and acclaim given to it, with heavy bootlegging taking a huge chunk out of actual sales. To date, “One For All” has not reached Gold status in the US, with current Soundscan sales just north of 400,000 units in spite of never going out of print. “One For All” peaks at number thirty four on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number one hundred thirty on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: December 3, 1994 – “On Bended Knee” by Boyz II Men hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks (non-consecutive), also peaking at #2 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written and produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, it is the third chart topping single for the Philadelphia, PA based R&B vocal quartet. The group meet the producers at the NBA All Star Game in Minneapolis when they approach Jam & Lewis about writing something for their new album. A couple of months later, they respond with “On Bended Knee”. Issued as the follow up to “I’ll Make Love To You” on November 1, 1994, it is another immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #14 on November 19, 1994, it poles vault to the top of the chart two weeks later. “Knee” is in a tussle for the top spot with Ini Kamoze’s “Here Comes The Hotstepper”, with Kamoze bumping the Boyz from the top spot after two weeks, “Hotstepper” holds at number one for two weeks. “On Bended Knee” regains the top spot, spending another four weeks at the top. Boyz II Men make history as the first group in over thirty years to replace themselves at the top of the Billboard pop singles chart. Having just ended a record breaking fourteen week run at number one with their previous single “I’ll Make Love To You”, “Knee” replaces it in the top spot. The Beatles had previously achieved this feat in March of 1964 when “She Loves You” replaces “I Want To Hold Your Hand” at number one. “On Bended Knee” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 3, 1990 – Madonna appears on the ABC News program “Nightline” and is interviewed by Forrest Sawyer. During the interview, ABC shows the controversial video for “Justify My Love” in its entirety. Though MTV has the banned clip from airplay, it does not stop the singles’ upward chart momentum. Instead, the video (directed by Jean Baptiste-Mondino) is issued as a single on VHS tape, selling over one million copies. “Justify My Love” hits number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on January 5, 1991, spending 2 weeks at the top.

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On this day in music history: December 2, 1995 – “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 16 weeks, peaking at #2 for 9 weeks on the R&B singles chart on the same date, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 13 weeks on December 30, 1995. Written by Mariah Carey, Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman, Wanya Morris, Michael McCary and Walter Afanasieff, it is the tenth chart topping single for the pop vocalist from Huntington, L.I., NY and the fourth chart topper for the R&B vocal quartet from Philadelphia, PA. While writing songs for her fifth album “Daydream”, singer Mariah Carey receives news that her friend, producer, songwriter and musician David Cole of C + C Music Factory, has died in January of 1995 at the age of only 32. Stunned and saddened by the loss, Carey looks to pay tribute to him and other friends and family she has lost. Having written a chorus and melody, Mariah contacts Nate Morris of Boyz II Men to ask if the group will sing with her on the song she’s writing. They agree, and in the course of talking to each other, discovers that Morris and the rest of the group had been writing a similar song, to pay tribute to their road manager Roderick “Khalil” Rountree, who was murdered in a robbery attempt while on their first national tour opening for MC Hammer and Jodeci. Carey and Boyz II Men along with her producer Walter Afanasieff collaborate together to complete what becomes “One Sweet Day”. The vocals are recorded at The Hit Factory in New York City in February 1995, in only three and a half hours. With Boyz II Men on their second major US tour at the time, they are too busy to make a staged music video with Mariah, so cameras are present at the recording session, with the footage being edited together to produce a clip for the song. Issued as the second single from Carey’s album “Daydream” on November 14, 1995, “One Sweet Day” is an immediate smash. Debuting at number one on the Hot 100, it spends an unprecedented four solid months at the top of the chart, making it the longest running chart topping pop single in the history of Billboard Magazine, a record that it still holds today. The song receives a pair of Grammy nominations for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals and Record Of The Year in 1996, with Mariah and Boyz II Men turning in a memorable performance of the song during the awards telecast. “One Sweet Day” is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 1, 1990 – “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 1 week on the same date. Written and produced by L.A. Reid and Babyface, it is the fourth R&B and eight number one single on the pop chart for the superstar vocalist. Amid criticism from fans and critics that her music has become “too pop”, Houston is paired with the superstar R&B production team of L.A. & Babyface (having produced fifteen R&B number ones at that point) to re-establish Houston with her black fan base. The title track first single to Whitney’s third album, it is released in October, more than a month ahead of the full length. Entering the Hot 100 at #42 on October 20, 1990, it climbs to the top of the chart six weeks later. “Baby” also becomes the first number one pop single for L.A. & Babyface as songwriters and producers. The song is also spoofed on the comedy series “In Living Color” with Kim Wayans" as Houston singing “Got Your Babies Tonight” to Marlon Wayans as Bobby Brown". “I’m Your Baby Tonight” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 30, 1991 – “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss” by P.M. Dawn hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #16 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Attrell Cordes and Gary Kemp, it is the biggest hit for pop/rap duo from Jersey City, NJ. Consisting of brothers Prince Be (Attrell Cordes) and DJ Minutemix (Jarrett Cordes), the duo make their debut in 1989 with the single “Ode to a Forgetful Mind”. The record flops in the US, but fares much better in the UK when their US label Warlock Records licenses it to Gee Street Records. After Gee Street is purchased by Island Records in 1990, P.M. Dawn begin work on their first album. While working on the album, Prince Be hears Spandau Ballet’s 1983 hit “True”, and comes up with the idea to base a new song around a sample of that songs’ intro. Calling it “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss”, they also add samples of hip hop staples like The Soul Searchers “Ashley’s Roachclip”, and Bob James’ “Take Me To The Mardi Gras” to the track. The lyrics make reference to a number of different songs including Joni Mitchell’s “The Boho Dance”, George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”, The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance”, and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebum”, with the latter’s lyric altered to name check actress Christina Applegate. For its single release, the track is remixed by Youth (birth name Martin Glover) of the British post punk band Killing Joke.  Released in the UK first, it peaks at #3 on UK singles chart before it is released in the US in September of 1991, as the second single from PM Dawn’s debut album “Of The Heart, Of The Soul And Of The Cross: The Utopian Experience”. Entering the Hot 100 at #50 on October 19, 1991, it vaults to the top of the chart six weeks later. The music video for the song features a cameo appearance by Spandau Ballet lead vocalist Tony Hadley. “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss” makes history as the first single to hit number one on the US pop chart using the Soundscan and BDS (Broadcast Data Systems) computer systems to tabulate radio airplay (the actual number of spins on air) and sales information (the number of copies sold in record stores). “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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Born on this day: November 30, 1955 – 80’s rock icon Billy Idol (born William Michael Albert Broad in Stanmore, Middlesex, UK). Happy 64th Birthday, Billy!!!

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On this day in music history: November 29, 1994 – “My Life”, the second album by Mary J. Blige is released. Produced by Chucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Nashiem Myrick, Mr. Dalvin, Herb Middleton, Mark Ledford, Poke and Prince Charles Alexander, it is recorded at Daddy’s House, Sound On Sound Recording Studios, Axis Studios, Clinton Recording Studios and The Hit Factory in New York City from Late 1993 – Mid 1994. Following the multi-Platinum success of her debut album “What’s The 411?” in 1992 and its spin off remix album “What’s the 411? Remix” a year and a half later, Mary J. Blige plans to begin work on her sophomore release. Initially she and executive producer Sean “Puffy” Combs intend for her to work with the same group of producers that helmed her first album, but are not invited back when they demand greater sums of money to produce tracks. Instead, Chucky Thompson and Combs wind up producing the majority of the record, with Mr. Dalvin from Jodeci, Poke of The TrackMasters, Nashiem Myrick (of The Hitmen) and others work on the project. Many of the songs on the album which are co-written by Mary herself, are drawn directly from her own tumultuous life at the time. Struggling with clinical depression, drug and alcohol abuse and an often abusive relationship with Jodeci vocalist K-Ci Hailey provide the inspiration for much of the material. Supported by strong production throughout and topped by Blige’s emotional and heartfelt vocals, it is her most personal musical statement to date. The album is led by the funky down tempo “Be Happy” (#6 R&B, #29 Pop), sampling Curtis Mayfield’s “You’re So Good To Me”.  The album is enthusiastically received upon its release, spinning four more singles including a cover version of Rose Royce’s classic “I’m Goin’ Down” (#13 R&B, #22 Pop), the double A-sided “You Bring Me Joy”/“I Love You” (#29 R&B, #57 Pop) (the former sampling Barry White’s “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me”) and “Mary Jane (All Night Long)” (#37 R&B, #39 Pop). Though not released as a commercial single in the US, the title track “My Life” sampling Roy Ayers’ mellow jazz funk classic, also becomes a major fan favorite. The album debuts at the top of the Billboard R&B album chart and at #9 on the Top 200 becoming another big hit for “The Queen Of Hip Hop Soul”. “My Life” spends eight weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number seven on the Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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