Category: hard rock

On this day in music history: November 12, 1974 – “Sheer Heart Attack”, the third album by Queen is released (UK release is on November 1, 1974). Produced by Queen and Roy Thomas Baker, it is recorded at AIR Studios, Trident Studios and Wessex Studios in London and Rockfield Studios in Rockfield, Monmouthshire, Wales, UK from July – September 1974. While touring in support of their second album “Queen II”, the band are forced to abort the tour in May of 1974, when guitarist Brian May falls ill with a bout of hepatitis. Returning home to the UK, the rest of the band use the down time to begin working on material for their next album while May recovers. He re-joins is band mates midway through work on what becomes “Sheer Heart Attack” during the Summer of 1974. The British rock bands’ third release is the one that launches them into the mainstream both in the UK and internationally. Anchored by the single “Killer Queen” (#2 UK, #12 US Pop), it establishes Queen’s trademark sound, moving away from the more progressive rock sound of their first two releases. It also yields the classics “Stone Cold Crazy” and “Now I’m Here”, which both become staples of Queen’s live performances. Most ironically, the title track “Sheer Heart Attack does not appear on the album. It’s left off due to it being an incomplete demo written and sung by Roger Taylor. It does not surface until three years later, when it is included on “News Of The World” in late 1977. That version features Freddie Mercury on lead vocals, rather than Taylor. The album is most recently remastered on CD in 2011, with a 180 gram vinyl LP released in September of 2015. The vinyl edition is also remastered and pressed on red vinyl, as part of the box set “Queen – Studio Albums Collection”. “Sheer Heart Attack” peaks at number two on the UK album chart, number twelve on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 11, 1997 – “BBC Sessions”, the second live album (fifteenth overall) by Led Zeppelin is released. Produced by Jimmy Page, it is recorded at The Playhouse Theatre, Maida Vale Studio 4, BBC Aeolian Hall, and The Paris Theatre in London from March 3, 19 and June 16, 24, and 27, 1969, and April 1, 1971. The twenty four track double CD compilation features in studio and live concert performances by the band performed for radio broadcast on the BBC in 1969 and 1971. It is the first official release of these recordings (and the first new Zeppelin release in fifteen years), having been widely circulated among fans on bootlegs for years. Though there is some criticism at the decision to edit and exclude some material, it is warmly received by most fans. At the time of its original release, the album is also issued as a limited edition four LP box set, released jointly between Atlantic Records and audiophile label Classic Records. The vinyl edition is subsequently re-pressed in 2005, but remains in print for only a short period before it is deleted. The “BBC Sessions” is remastered and reissued in expanded form in September of 2016, including previously unreleased material not on the original release. “The Complete BBC Sessions” is released as a three CD or five LP box set. “BBC Sessions” peaks at number twelve 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: November 8, 1980 – “Ace Of Spades”, the fourth album by Motörhead is released. Produced by Vic Maile, it is recorded at Jackson’s Studios in Rickmansworth, Hertsfordshire, UK from August 4 – September 15, 1980. For their fourth release, the British heavy metal band hires veteran engineer and producer Vic Maile, best known for his work with The Who, The Kinks, The Animals and Led Zeppelin, marking the beginning of a long and productive working relationship. The resulting sessions sees the band more focused, with the album having higher production values and tighter cohesion between band members. The LP’s classic cover shot features Motörhead dressed as cowboys standing in a sandpit (taken in the London borough of Barnet by photographer Alan Ballard). It is a major hit upon its release, and in time is widely regarded by fans and critics as one of the best heavy metal albums of all time. The title track (#15 UK) becomes the veteran UK band’s signature song. Originally released on CD in 1986, it is remastered and reissued in 1996 with three additional bonus tracks. The album is reissued again in 2001 as a DVD-A disc, featuring new 5.1 surround mixes as well as the original stereo mix.  "Ace" is reissued again for its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2005, as a two CD deluxe edition. The second disc includes fifteen bonus tracks including B-sides and alternate takes. The second disc is reissued on its own in 2010. The album is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2010, with subsequent re-pressings in 2012, 2014 and 2015. “Ace Of Spades” peaks at number four on the UK album chart, and bubbles under the Billboard Top 200 at number two hundred one.

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On this day in music history: November 8, 1971 – “Led Zeppelin IV (aka Four Symbols, ZoSo, and Untitled)”, the fourth album by Led Zeppelin is released. Produced by Jimmy Page, it is recorded at Island Studios in London, Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA, and Headley Grange with The Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Studio in Headley, East Hampshire, UK from December 1970 – August 1971. Sessions begin at the newly opened Island Studios in London in late 1970. After a short period of time recording there, the band decides that a less pressured environment than a formal recording studio is needed. They move into a Victorian house called Headley Grange in the English countryside, using The Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. The bulk of the sessions are recorded at the house over the next few months, with much of the material being written on the spot while jamming. Bothered by the critical response to their previous album, Jimmy Page decides to release Led Zeppelin’s new album without a title or any information on the outer cover. The band’s label, Atlantic Records are not initially keen on the idea of releasing the album without a title or band’s name on it, believing that they are committing “professional suicide” by doing so. The only identifying marks in the cover artwork are four symbols that are to represent each member of the band. The cryptic symbols are added to the inner sleeve of the albums artwork featuring a painting (purchased by Robert Plant in an antique shop) of an elderly man with a bundle of kindling on his back on the front cover. The painting is photographed mounted to the wall of a partially demolished house. In spite of Atlantic’s misgivings, the album is a huge critical and commercial success, spinning off several classics including “Rock And Roll” (#47 Pop), “Black Dog” (#15 Pop), and the legendary “Stairway To Heaven”. It goes on to become the biggest selling album of Led Zeppelin’s career, and is currently the third best selling album of all time in the US. In October of 2014, the album is reissued on CD and vinyl, with both configurations available separately. It is also issued as a Super Deluxe box set with both included, along with an eighty eight page hardbound book, a numbered color lithograph of the cover artwork, and a download card with hi-rez files of the audio. “Led Zeppelin IV” spends four weeks at number two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 23x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, earning a Double Diamond Certification.

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On this day in music history: November 6, 1987 – “Less Than Zero – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is released. Produced by Rick Rubin, Aerosmith, Vincent Bell, Russell Simmons, Bill Drescher, Carl Ryder, Hank Shocklee and Eric Sadler, is it recorded at Greene Street Studios, Chung King House Of Metal in New York City, and other studios from Early – Mid 1987. Supervised by Rick Rubin, the soundtrack to the film starring Andrew McCarthy, Robert Downey, Jr. and Jami Gertz, features tracks by The Bangles (“Hazy Shade Of Winter”), Public Enemy (“Bring The Noise”), LL Cool J (“Going Back To Cali”), Slayer, Poison, Aerosmith, Roy Orbison, Glenn Danzig & The Power And Fury Orchestra, Alyson Williams & Oran “Juice” Jones, The Black Flames, and Joan Jett And The Blackhearts. The Bangles cover of the Simon & Garfunkel classic is the biggest hit from the album peaking at #2 on the Hot 100 in February of 1988. “Less Than Zero” peaks at number thirty one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 22, 1976 – “The Song Remains The Same”, the eighth album by Led Zeppelin is released. Produced by Jimmy Page, it is recorded at Madison Square Garden in New York City from July 27 – 29, 1973. Issued as the soundtrack to the live concert film of the same name, the album is compiled from three sold out shows the band performs during their sold out North American tour in support of the “Houses Of The Holy” album. The original LP release and film differ from each other, with the film including six songs not on the initial release. The soundtrack album is reissued in 2007 in remixed and expanded form to more closely mirror the material included in the film version. In 2008, it is also reissued as a lavishly packaged four LP 180g vinyl boxed edition containing a twelve page color booklet with previously unpublished photos. The vinyl comes packaged in four individual jackets with unique artwork. The album is remastered and reissued again in 2018, featuring the expanded edition released in 2008. Besides the two CD release, and four LP box set, it is also issued as a high resolution Blu-ray audio disc. The Blu-ray disc contains the original stereo mix, as well as a 5.1  surround mix, remixed by Kevin Shirley. “The Song Remains The Same” spends three weeks at number two on the Billboard Top 200 on November 13, 1976 (behind Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key Of Life”), and is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 22, 1974 – “Hotter Than Hell”, the second album by KISS is released. Produced by Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise, it is recorded at The Village Recorder in West Los Angeles, CA in August 1974. Just six months after releasing their self-titled debut album,  KISS relocates to Los Angeles to record the follow up to their debut with producers Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise. Though the band power through the sessions in a few short weeks, they do not find L.A. to their liking, with Paul Stanley having his guitar stolen on the first day in town. They are also unhappy with the dark and murky sound of the albums’ final mix. “Hotter Than Hell” yields several songs that become staples of the band’s live act including “Got To Choose”, “Parasite” and “Goin’ Blind”, though initially it sells poorly due to it being released as Casablanca’s distribution deal with Warner Bros is ending. The album’s memorable and striking cover photo is taken by legendary photographer Norman Seeff (Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, The Jacksons), and designed graphic artist John Van Hamersveld (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead). The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1997, with it being reissued on vinyl in 2014. “Hottter Than Hell” peaks at number one hundred on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 22, 1969 – “Led Zeppelin II”, the second album by Led Zeppelin is released. Produced by Jimmy Page, it is recorded at Olympic Studios, Morgan Studios in London, A&M Studios, Quantum Studios, Sunset Sound, Mirror Sound, Mystic Studios in Los Angeles, CA, A&R Studios, Juggy Sound, Groove Studios, Mayfair Studios in New York City, “The Hut” in Vancouver, BC, Canada and Ardent Studios in Memphis, TN from January – August 1969. Quickly following the success of their self-titled debut, Led Zeppelin’s sophomore release is written on the road, and recorded in numerous studios in the US and UK on days off between tour dates. “Led Zeppelin II” quickly surpasses their debut in sales, cementing the bands’ musical reputation as well as establishing a template in which countless hard rock and heavy metal bands will adapt and follow. It spins off several classics that become rock radio staples including “Heartbreaker”, Ramble On", and “Whole Lotta Love” (#4 Pop), the latter of which is issued as a single. The initial US pressing of the LP, mastered by Bob Ludwig turns out to be problematic for some, as loud and dynamic passages on the record cause it to skip on cheaper turntables of the day, initiating sizable returns. Atlantic is forced to remaster the album (this time by George Marino), with the bass and high end significantly rolled off. These original “loud cut” pressings of “II” becomes sought after by collectors over the years. The now iconic cover artwork for “Led Zeppelin II” designed by David Juniper, features the faces of the four band members superimposed on to an airbrushed vintage photograph of German World War I Air Force pilots. Also added to the photo is actress Glynis Johns, as an in joke directed at recording engineer Glyn Johns, whom John Lennon had sardonically referred to as “Glynis” while working with The Beatles on “Let It Be”. Juniper’s cover art receives a Grammy nomination for Best Album Cover in 1970. The album is remastered and reissued in June of 2014 on CD and vinyl, with a boxed “Super Deluxe” box set featuring the both the CD and vinyl versions, along with alternate mixes and outtakes, a lithograph of the cover artwork and a hardbound book with rare and previously unpublished photos. “Led Zeppelin II” spends seven weeks at number one (non-consecutive) on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 12x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, earning a Diamond Certification.

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On this day in music history: October 16, 1976 – “Johnny The Fox”, the seventh studio album by Thin Lizzy is released. Produced by John Alcock, it is recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany, Ramport Studios in Battersea, London, UK and Olympic Studios in Barnes, London, UK in August 1976. The band begin work on the album while lead singer and bassist Phil Lynott is recovering from a bout of hepatitis, causing the band to abort a tour of the US for the “Jailbreak” album. Lynott composes the songs while in the hospital with an acoustic guitar. Thin Lizzy decides to record in Germany rather than in the UK for tax purposes, but return home to the UK after only two weeks when the band members have disagreements over musical direction. The album spins off two singles including the title track, that later becomes a staple in Hip Hop culture when its opening drum break becomes a favorite of DJ’s and B-Boys. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1996, with an expanded double CD deluxe edition released in Europe and Japan in 2011. The first CD contains the original ten track album, with the second disc featuring remixes, previously unreleased tracks and live performances recorded for the BBC in November of 1976. It is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2011 on the Back On Black label, and by Mercury Records in 2014. “Johnny The Fox” peaks at number eleven on the UK album chart, and number fifty two on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: October 9, 1978 – “Killing Machine” (aka “Hell Bent For Leather”), the fifth album by Judas Priest is released (US released is on February 28, 1979). Produced by Judas Priest and James Guthrie, it is recorded at Utopia Studios and CBS Studios in London from August – September 1978. Only six months after the release of their second major label album “Stained Class”, Judas Priest return to the studio to work on the follow up. Continuing to evolve, the band begin developing the sound that will make them icons of heavy metal. While still heavy and dark sonically, the songs are more “commercial and accessible” unlike their first two independent label releases. At this time, Judas Priest also changes their look, wearing black leather and studs, an image that becomes synonymous with the band and their lead singer Rob Halford. Working with Pink Floyd engineer James Guthrie, Priest record their fifth album in under a month. It is also the last release to feature Les Binks, who is replaced by Dave Holland in late 1979. The album features several songs that become standards in Judas Priest’s catalog including “Evening Star”, “Rock Forever” and “Take On The World”. With “Stained Class” still on the charts in the US, “Killing Machine” is held back from release until February of 1979. A cover of the Fleetwood Mac song  "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)“ is also added to the US version. The title is also changed for its American release to "Hell Bent For Leather” after another song on the album. Change comes when executives from CBS Records in the US feel that the title is too controversial, and will draw negative attention. The move is highly ironic considering the major controversy that Judas Priest faces over a decade later from the “Stained Class” track “Better By You, Better Than Me”. Original UK LP pressings are issued on red vinyl on a limited basis. “Killing Machine/Hell Bent For Leather” is remastered and reissued on CD in 2001 with two additional live bonus tracks. It is reissued on vinyl in 2010 by UK label Back On Black Records, featuring two bonus tracks, and pressed on red, green and black vinyl. The album is also reissued by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in 2014, as part of their “Silver Label Vinyl Series”. “Killing Machine/Hell Bent For Leather” peaks at number one hundred twenty eight, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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