On this day in music history: July 11, 1995 – “311” (aka “The Blue Album”), the fifth album by 311 is released. Produced by Ron Saint Germain, it is recorded at NRG Studios in North Hollywood, CA from Early – Mid 1995. Formed in 1988 in their native Omaha, NE, 311 (Three Eleven) originally consists of band members Nick Hexum (vocals, guitar), Jim Watson (lead guitar) (replaced by Tim Mahoney in 1991), Chad Sexton (drums) and Aaron “P-Nut” Willis (bass). The band record an EP and two albums independently,over three years. In 1992, the band are signed to Capricorn Records, the legendary label co-formed by Phil Walden, the former manager of R&B icon Otis Redding. 311 are part of the relaunch of the Capricorn in the early 90’s, reinventing itself as a center for the 90’s alt-rock movement. Prior to this, they add second vocalist and DJ SA Martinez (born Douglas Vincent Martinez), cementing their line up. Relocating to L.A., they record “Music” and “Grassroots” in 1993 and 1994. Previously produced by Eddy Offord (Yes), they hire Ron Saint Germain for their next album, best known for his work as a mix engineer, and for producing the Bad Brains, Sonic Youth, and Living Colour. He proves to be an ally and asset to 311, offering his expertise both technically and giving moral support. Unlike previous releases which had been painstakingly tracked and overdubbed, the band record their new album almost entirely live. Having worked out the material in advance, they cut more than twenty five songs in six weeks, paring them down to the final fourteen that make the finished album. Following in the tradition of bands that the members grew up admiring like Led Zeppelin, the Ramones and The Stooges, they decide to self-title their album. Also known by fans as “The Blue Album” due to its blue background, emblazoned with the 311 band logo. Initially released through independent distributor RED (Relativity Entertainment Distribution), it gets off to a slow start. Mercury Records president Danny Goldberg then picks up Capricorn Records for national distribution. With the marketing and promotional muscle of Polygram Group Distribution behind it, “311” takes flight. With the release of “Down” (#1 Modern Rock, #14 Mainstream Rock) and the album’s seamless blend of rock, rap, reggae and funk metal, it becomes a huge commercial success. The music video for “Down” and its follow up “All Mixed Up” (#4 Modern Rock, #34 Mainstream Rock), both become mainstays on MTV, and “The Blue Album” becomes 311’s breakthrough. Originally issued on a limited basis as a vinyl LP in 1995, the album is remastered and reissued as a numbered double 180 gram vinyl set for Record Store Day in April of 2014. A second non-numbered edition is released shortly after, and currently remains in print. “311” (aka “The Blue Album”) peaks at number twelve on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
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