Everybody has those records
they can’t live without…
…and we’re going to play you ours. We’re kicking off 2021 by playing the most essential records in our station’s history – The 40 Albums That Made 93X.
Listen at the top of each hour (starting at 10am) to hear the A-sides, the B-sides and the stories behind each of these albums – all the greatest records in rock, all day long…
Each week we’ll post the next 5 albums on our list along with album facts, trivia, and book and video recommendations for fans looking to take a deeper dive into these iconic albums and bands.
The Downward Spiral - Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails’ second album, The Downward Spiral, was an instant classic. Released on the same day as Soundgarden’s Superunknown, the album entered the charts at #2 behind Soundgarden. The album was shrouded in controversy due to the recording location (see: Trivia) and the lyrical content, among other things. The album would go on to sell 4 million copies and contains “March of the Pigs and the hit, “Closer”. Despite not being officially released as a single, “Hurt” received considerable radio airplay and peaked at #8 on the Billboard Alternative charts.
Trivia: NIN’s The Downward Spiral LP and Broken EP, as well as Marilyn Manson’s Portrait of an American Family were all recorded in the house where the Manson Family carried out the Tate/LaBianca murders.
Watch: 25 Facts About NIN ‘The Downward Spiral’ You May Not Know – it’s a concept album about a character named Mr. Self Destruct and features samples from several movies and Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life”. Watch on YouTube.
Read: Into the Never: Nine Inch Nails and the Creation of the Downward Spiral by Adam Steiner (Backbeat Books, 2020)
Listen: The Downward Spiral on Spotify
The Sound of Madness - Shinedown
The Sound of Madness is Shinedown’s only album as a five-piece. Singer Brent Smith wrote over 60 songs in hopes of creating a big hard rock record with crossover potential. The result is Shinedown’s only multi-platinum album, with over 2 million copies sold.
Trivia: Of the album’s six singles, five went to #1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock charts. “If You Only Knew” peaked at #2.
Watch: Shinedown’s Brent Smith on The Sound of Madness – Smith discusses falling out of love with music before writing The Sound of Madness, writing the album’s lyrics on a hotel room wall after running out of paper and more. Watch on YouTube.
Read: Shinedown Embrace the Perfect Storm on Career-Defining ‘The Sound of Madness’ Album
Listen: The Sound of Madness on Spotify
Siamese Dream - Smashing Pumpkins
Billy Corgan and producer Butch Vig spent 13-14 hours a day, 6-7 days a week for months, just to get the sound Corgan was looking for on Smashing Pumpkins’ sophomore album. In some cases, it meant overdubbing his bandmates’ parts when they weren’t achieving the perfection he required. The resulting album, Siamese Dream, is a classic of alternative, grunge and shoegaze rock. It contains the Top 10 Billboard Alternative singles “Today”, “Disarm” and “Cherub Rock”. “Disarm” would also end up going Top 5 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock charts.
Trivia: Several of the songs end with elements best heard with headphones on. These include opera singers, a televangelist talking about resisting the devil, and a woman discussing her marriage’s intimacy problems.
Watch: Billy Corgan on Relationships & Siamese Dream – short, animated interview with Billy Corgan reveals the meaning behind the phrase “Siamese Dream”. Watch on YouTube.
Read: Smashing Pumpkins: Tales of a Scorched Earth by Amy Hanson (Helter Skelter Publishing, 2004)
Listen: Siamese Dream on Spotify
Enema of the State - Blink-182
After parting ways with their original drummer, Blink-182 asked Travis Barker of The Aquabats to fill in on drums on tour. Everything clicked, and the classic-era Blink-182 lineup was born. For LP3, Enema of the State, the band hired producer Jerry Finn. Finn (mix engineer of Green Day’s Dookie and Insomniac) brought a more pop-oriented sound out of the band, and even added keyboards, courtesy of Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Jellyfish/Beck/Air). The album exceeded everyone’s expectations by selling 15 million copies worldwide and peaking at #9 on the Billboard 200. The album contains three of Blink’s biggest hits: “What’s My Age Again?”, “Adam’s Song” and the huge crossover hit, “All the Small Things.”
Trivia: Before settling on Enema of the State, the band intended to call the album Viking Wizard Eyes, Wizard Full of Lies.
Watch: Enema of the State – Artwork Versions – YouTuber 182 Collector shows off the three slightly different Enema of the State album covers and explains why several adjustments were made after the album’s release. Watch on YouTube.
Read: Blink-182: Tales from Beneath Your Mom by Blink-182 with Anne Hoppus
Listen: Enema of the State on Spotify
In Utero - Nirvana
Disappointed with the glossy production of Nevermind, Kurt Cobain chose engineer Steve Albini to produce In Utero because of his work on his favorite albums; Surfer Rosa by Pixies and Pod by The Breeders. The album was recorded in two weeks at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, MN. Despite DGC Records’ plan to not overhype the album through promotion, In Utero debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, with both of the album’s singles (“Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies”) going #1 on the Billboard’s Alternative singles chart. The album sold half as many copies as Nevermind, but still managed to sell 5 million in the US, and 10 million worldwide.
Trivia: Cobain considered calling the album “I Hate Myself and I Want to Die”; his sarcastic reply anytime he was asked how he was doing.
Watch: Kurt Cobain: About a Son – this documentary compiles audio from hours of interviews Kurt Cobain did with journalist Michael Azerrad for the book Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Stream on Prime Video.
Read: Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana by Michael Azerrad
Listen: In Utero on Spotify
Licensed to Ill - Beastie Boys
Def Jam, 1986
Beasties Boys’ debut LP, Licensed to Ill is an undeniable classic in hip-hop. It is the first rap album in history to go to #1 on the Billboard 200, and held the top spot for 7 straight weeks. Kerry King of Slayer plays lead guitar on “No Sleep till Brooklyn” and “Fight for Your Right”. The classic debut has sold over 10 million copies in the US. Licensed to Ill remains the Beasties’ biggest album, selling more than 3 times as many copies as their next biggest albums, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty.
Trivia: “Time to Get Ill” features 14 different samples of songs by Led Zeppelin, Joan Jett, Barry White, Creedence Clearwater Revival, a couple of television theme songs and more.
Watch: The Samples: BEASTIE BOYS: Licensed To Ill Edition – Comprehensive list and demonstration of all the samples used on Licensed to Ill.Watch on YouTube.
Read: Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond & Adam Horovitz (Random House, 2018)
Listen: Licensed to Ill on Spotify
Nightmare - Avenged Sevenfold
Warner Bros, 2010
All demos for Avenged Sevenfold’s fifth album were complete before drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan passed away at age 28. To honor his legacy, they brought in one of his idols, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, to play all drum parts exactly as The Rev would have played them. The resulting album, Nightmare, resulted in what the band refers to as “Jimmy’s masterpiece”. Nightmare debuted at #1 and contains the three #1 singles “Nightmare”, “Welcome to the Family” and “So Far Away”.
Trivia: The tombstone on the album’s cover reads “FoREVer”. A7X’s tribute to their late, beloved drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan.
Watch: Interview with M. Shadows – Pablo talks to the A7X front man about 2010’s Nightmare, the loss of drummer & childhood friend Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, and how their fans have kept them going. Watch on 93X.com
Read: Avenged Sevenfold’s ‘Nightmare’: The Tragedy and Triumph Behind 2010 No. 1 Album (Revolver Magazine)
Listen: Nightmare on Spotify
Sixteen Stone - Bush
Bush’s debut album, Sixteen Stone, boasts five Top 5 singles, each of them solid and in constant rotation on modern rock radio after more than 25 years. In addition to “Everything Zen”, “Little Things” and “Machinehead”, Sixteen Stone contained two #1 Modern Rock Tracks; “Come Down” and “Glyercine” both enjoyed a two week stint at the top of the charts. The album peaked at #4 and remains Bush’s biggest album with over 6 million sold in the US.
Trivia: In a 2019 interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Gavin Rossdale stated that Bush has 17 successful singles, and he tries to play them all when performing live; rather than playing “obscure, deep cut[s] badly”.
Watch: Gavin Rossdale Interview with Woody – Gavin discusses his profane 1996 MTV awards performance, being forced to perform in a rain storm, the continued thrill of creating music and much more. Watch on 93X.com
Listen: Sixteen Stone on Spotify
American Idiot - Green Day
After a string of Platinum albums, 2000’s Warning: barely went Gold. Green Day came back in a major way with 2004’s American Idiot. It was their very first album to go to #1 in the US. It featured three #1 US Alternative singles (“American Idiot”, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Holiday”) and earned them their second Grammy (Best Rock Album) on its way to 14 million sold worldwide. American Idiot remains their second biggest album behind 1994’s Dookie.
Trivia: American Idiot contains the two longest songs the band has ever recorded. “Jesus of Suburbia” (9:08) and “Homecoming” (9:18).
Watch: Heart Like a Hand Grenade – features music videos and the behind the scenes recording process for American Idiot. Stream on Prime Video
Read: Nobody Likes You: Inside the Turbulent Life, Times, and Music of Green Day by Marc Spitz (Hachette Books, 2006)
Listen: American Idiot on Spotify
Hybrid Theory - Linkin Park
Warner Bros., 2000
Linkin Park’s massive debut album sold 500,000 copies in its first five weeks. Four singles were issued from Hybrid Theory including “One Step Closer”, “Crawling” and “In the End”. “Crawling” took home the Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, beating out Rage Against the Machine’s “Renegades of Funk. “In the End” spent 5 weeks a piece at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Play and Mainstream Top 40 charts. Hybrid Theory has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, peaking at #2 behind Creed’s Weathered.
Trivia: Hybrid Theory is the bestselling debut album of the 21st century.
Watch: Hybrid Theory: 10 Facts Only Superfans Would Know – such as “Hybrid Theory” being the band’s original name, the hit song Chester Bennington wasn’t a fan of at first, and the label wanting to replace founding member Mike Shinoda. Watch on YouTube
Read: One Step Closer: From Xero to #1: Becoming Linkin Park by Jeff Blue (Permuted Press, 2020)
Listen: Hybrid Theory on Spotify
Sublime - Sublime
Coming out of the skate and surf scene, Sublime, like the Beach Boys 35 years before them, managed to appeal to an audience unassociated with the scene. Tragically, lead singer Bradley Nowell succumbed to his addictions towards the end of the recording sessions. The self-titled posthumous album was released two months later and contained three Top 5 singles on the Billboard Alternative chart: “Santeria” (#3), “Wrong Way” (#3) and “What I Got”, which spent three weeks at #1. Despite being unable to promote the album through touring, Sublime went on to sell 6 million copies and generated renewed interest in the band’s back catalog, with their debut album (40oz. to Freedom) going on to sell 2 million.
Trivia: Sublime’s music has been used in the soundtrack of 38 films, shows and video games. Sublime’s “Santeria” has been used the most, making 11 appearances in the aforementioned media.
Watch: VH1: Sublime Behind the Music – “Sublime are The Beach Boys on crack. They combine the beauty with the horror.” Watch on YouTube.
Read: Sublime’s Brad Nowell: Crazy Fool (Portrait of a Punk) by Heidi Siegmund Cuda (Lou Dog Publishing, 2000)
Listen: Sublime on Spotify
Highway to Hell - AC/DC
Highway to Hell is undeniably one of the greatest rock n’ roll albums of all time. After five studio albums produced by Harry Vanda & George Young, AC/DC’s label urged the band to record the next album with a producer who would get them played on American radio. “Mutt” Lange’s production and guidance clearly did the trick. The album’s title track went to #47 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the album would go on to sell 7 million copies in the US. Although it was the final album with singer Bon Scott, it helped set the stage for the band’s US success, on their way to having the second biggest selling album of all time (Back in Black).
Trivia: Highway to Hell was the first of three classic albums produced by “Mutt” Lange. Lange’s meticulous production lead to Bon Scott’s breath control while singing and Angus Young’s improved soloing.
Watch: 10 Things About AC/DC’s Highway To Hell You May Not Know – a serial killer’s obsession, a Robin Williams reference and more. Watch on YouTube
Read: Highway to Hell: The Life and Death of AC/DC Legend Bon Scott by Clinton Walker (Verse Chorus Press; second edition, 2007)
Listen: Highway to Hell on Spotify
Superunknown - Soundgarden
Soundgarden’s Superunknown was released on the same day as NIN’s The Downward Spiral, entering the charts at #1. After two albums with heavy metal producer Terry Date, Soundgarden changed things up by bringing in Michael Beinhorn, whose résumé included production for Soul Asylum, Violent Femmes and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Four of the album’s five singles remain in heavy rotation on modern rock radio, which includes “The Day I Tried to Live”, “Fell on Black Days” and Grammy winners “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun”. Superunknown spent a week at #1 on the Billboard 200, and re-entered the charts when the 20th Anniversary reissue peaked at #9 on Billboard’s US Vinyl Albums chart.
Trivia: The album’s title track was inspired by a television clown called JP Patches. A hungover Chris Cornell saw the VHS cover that said “SuperKlown” and misread it as “Superunknown”. He began to conjure images of what the superunknown could be, and knew he had to at least write a song with that title.
Watch: Soundgarden At: Guitar Center – the band discuss the risk in trying to improve upon Badmotorfinger with new tunings and experiments on Superunknown, and the different styles and influences each member brings to the band. Watch on YouTube
Read: Total F*cking Godhead: The Biography of Chris Cornell by Corbin Reiff (Post Hill Press, 2020)
Listen: Superunknown on Spotify
Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Warner Bros., 1999
On the brink of breaking up after 1995’s One Hot Minute, the Chili Peppers asked the newly clean and spiritually aware John Frusciante to return. The guitarist convinced the group to shy away from their funk roots in favor of music that was more mellow and melodic. The resulting album is their second biggest album behind Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Californication contains the #1 singles “Scar Tissue”, “Otherside” and “Californication” and earned the band five Grammy nominations.
Trivia: Before bringing in Rick Rubin to produce their third straight album, the Chili Peppers approached David Bowie, who respectfully declined.
Watch: Anthony Kiedis & John Frusciante: The Lost Interview with Steve Rosen (1999) – Red Hot Chili Peppers’ singer and guitarist go in-depth regarding the writing and recording of Californication. Listen on YouTube.
Read: Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis with Larry Sloman (Hachette Books, 2005)
Listen: Californication on Spotify
Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) - Slipknot
Like RHCP’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik 12 years earlier, Slipknot’s third album was recorded at Rick Rubin’s reportedly haunted recording studio, The Mansion. Acoustic instruments were included on a Slipknot album for the first time, drawing comparisons to System of a Down’s Toxicity. “Before I Forget” took home the Grammy for Best Metal Performance, beating out Ministry, Rammstein, Mudvayne and Shadows Fall.
Trivia: Other than the words “bitched” and “bastards”, Vol. 3’s lyrics are completely clean. Corey Taylor avoided explicit lyrics after hearing that he relied on profanity too much.
Watch: Corey Taylor Interview with Pablo – Corey discusses the writing & recording process, COVID’s effect on tour life (or lack thereof), what goes into playing a live-streamed rock show, and his opinion of Pablo’s Halloween Horror Film binge list. Watch on 93X.com
Read: Slipknot: Dysfunctional Family Portraits by Paul Harries (OmniBus, 2015)
Blizzard of Ozz - Ozzy Osbourne
A year after being fired from Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne set about recording an album with his new band, which included guitarist Randy Rhoads. Blizzard of Ozz arrived five months after Heaven & Hell, Black Sabbath’s first album with vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Blizzard of Ozz’s lead single, “Crazy Train”, peaked at #9 and sold 4 million copies on its own. Ozzy set out to show he could exist without Black Sabbath, and he did just that. Blizzard of Ozz has sold five times as many copies as Heaven & Hell.
Trivia: The album was originally intended to be the self-titled debut from a band called Blizzard of Ozz
Watch: 1980 BBC Interview: Ozzy discusses the Blizzard of Ozz band – Ozzy discusses Black Sabbath, the Blizzard of Ozz band and more. Listen on YouTube.
Read: Off the Rails: Aboard the Crazy Train in the Blizzard of Ozz by Rudy Sarzo (Too Smart Publications, 2008)
Listen: Blizzard of Ozz on Spotify
Black Holes and Revelations - Muse
Warner Brothers, 2006
Drawing from a wide range of influences including Depeche Mode, Prince, Elvis Presley, and Sly and the Family Stone, Muse’s fourth album of progressive “space rock” is widely regarded as their masterpiece. The album was shortlisted for the 2006 Mercury Prize (losing to Arctic Monkey’s debut album) and has been included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
Trivia: The album cover was their second one designed by Storm Thorgerson. Thorgerson created iconic album covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and T. Rex, as well as Mars Volta, Audioslave and Biffy Clyro.
Watch: Muse Answer their Most Googled Questions – What are Muse’s fans called? Are Muse emo? Are Muse a Christian band? Watch on YouTube
Read: Out of this World: The Story of Muse by Mark Beaumont (Omnibus Press, 2010)
Follow The Leader - Korn
Korn are well aware of their position as pioneers of the Nu Metal genre. No one sounded like them with the release of their eponymous debut, and the success of their second album spawned a lot of copycat bands. So, Korn cheekily titled LP3 Follow the Leader. The smash #1 album features modern rock radio staples “Got the Life” and “Freak on a Leash,” as well as guest appearances from Fred Durst and Ice Cube.
Trivia: The initial pressing of the album started with one minute of silence as a tribute to a young fan named Justin. Justin was dying of intestinal cancer, and his dying wish was to hang out with Korn.
Watch: Follow the Leader: Band Interviews – behind the scenes video reveals all the beer & liquor, and money spent on beer & liquor while recording their expensive, classic third album. Watch on YouTube.
Read: Save Me from Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story by Brian “Head” Welch (HarperOne, 2009)
Listen: Follow The Leader on Spotify
Weezer (The Blue Album) - Weezer
When it comes to ’90s power-pop, it doesn’t get much better than Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend, The Posies’ Frosting on the Beater, and Weezer’s debut LP (“The Blue Album”). Featuring songs that namecheck KISS and RATT, the “Blue Album” contains the sing-the-chorus-at-the-top-of-your-lungs singles “Buddy Holly”, “Say It Ain’t So” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.” After 14 albums, Weezer’s debut remains their biggest with 3.3 million sold.
Trivia: On the album cover, bassist Matt Sharp (second from right) didn’t like the way he looked. His head was photoshopped from a different shot from the cover shoot.
Watch: Rivers Cuomo Interview with Woody – Rivers talks about everything from model airplanes, The Simpsons, covering Nirvana and more! He even performs three acoustic songs including “Say It Ain’t So”. Watch on 93X.com
Read: Rivers’ Edge: The Weezer Story by John D. Luerssen (ECW Press, 2004)
Listen: Weezer on Spotify
Metallica (The Black Album) - Metallica
After touring in support of an album (…AJFA) whose average song was 7½ minutes long, Metallica decided they needed to write shorter songs. Impressed with the production on Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood, they hired producer Bob Rock. Metallica’s production, songs that got to the point and improved vocal performances from James Hetfield resulted in their first of six straight #1 albums, their third straight Grammy win for “Best Metal Performance, and nearly 17 million copies sold in the US.
Trivia: James Hetfield’s improved singing on “Nothing Else Matters” and “The Unforgiven” were inspired by Chris Isaak’s 1989 hit, “Wicked Game”.
Watch: Metallica’s Black Album Turns 25 (2016): Members of Shinedown, Distrubed, Deftones, Steel Panther and more discuss “The Black Album” and its influence on their lives and respective bands. Watch on YouTube
Read: Enter Night: A Biography of Metallica by Mick Wall (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012)
Elephant - White Stripes
Jack White fulfilled a vision of a back-to-basics recording technique for The White Stripes’ fourth album. The entire album was recorded without computers, on recording equipment that dated back to 1963 at the earliest. The result is an astonishing garage/blues rock classic. Elephant received five Grammy nominations and earned the band their first of three straight wins for Best Alternative Music Album.
Trivia: The White Stripes’ biggest hit got its name from Jack White who thought as a kid, that The Salvation Army was called “The Seven Nation Army”.
Watch: The Big Interview with Dan Rather: Jack White – Jack White discusses his love for the blues, listening to music on vinyl, making the move from Detroit to Nashville and more. Watch on YouTube.
Read: Fell in Love with a Band: The Story of The White Stripes by Chris Handyside (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004)
Listen: Elephant on Spotify
The Colour And The Shape - Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters brought in perfectionist producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Counting Crows, Jimmy Eat World) for their second album (first as a full band). Norton’s production resulted in better performances and improved songwriting. The resulting album earned the band two Grammy nominations, three Top Ten mainstream rock singles (“Monkey Wrench”, “My Hero”, “Everlong”) and two Platinum albums.
Trivia: The title of the album is an inside joke regarding their tour manager who purchased a second-hand bowling pin because he liked “the colour and the shape.”
Watch: Foo Fighters: Back and Forth – this 2011 documentary takes you from Nirvana’s Nevermind through tense The Colour And The Shape recording sessions and the band’s first US #1 album, Wasting Light. Watch on YouTube.
Read: This Is a Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl by Paul Brannigan (De Capo Press, 2013)
War Is the Answer - Five Finger Death Punch
Prospect Park, 2009
Five Finger Death Punch’s first Platinum album, War Is the Answer, debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200, and peaked at #3 on Billboard’s US Hard Rock Albums chart. Producer Kevin Churko had a big hand in shaping FFDP’s sound and receives a writing credit on all of the album’s twelve original songs. Originally intended to be a bonus track, their cover of Bad Company’s “Bad Company” would become their biggest selling single, and has nearly 200 million streams on Spotify.
Trivia: War Is the Answer is Five Finger Death Punch’s first Top 10 album, first to go Platinum, and is the album from which they’ve released the most singles (6).
Watch: Pablo reminisces with Zoltan Bathory from Five Finger Death Punch about their 2009 record, War Is The Answer. Hear more about the blood, sweat & ass-kicking it took to complete their sophomore album, some of the crazy stories along the way, and what success means to the band. Watch or Listen on 93X.com
Read: Death Punch’d: Surviving Five Finger Death Punch’s Metal Mayhem by Jeremy Spencer (Dey Street Books, 2015)
Listen: War Is the Answer on Spotify
Dr. Feelgood - Mötley Crüe
Mötley Crüe’s fifth album is their biggest, and arguably, best album. The #1 hard rock album featured the monster singles “Dr. Feelgood” and “Kickstart My Heart”, both of which earned Grammy nominations. Bob Rock’s production caught the ear of Metallica who tapped him to produce their eponymous “Black Album”.
Trivia: “Dr. Feelgood” and “Kickstart My Heart” were nominated for Grammys in 1990 & 1991, respectively. Mötley Crüe lost to Living Colour both times.
Watch: Mötley Crüe: Dr. Feelgood The Videos – in typical un-PC, NSFW style, the Crüe discuss (sort of) the Dr. Feelgood music videos. Watch on YouTube.
Read: The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Mötley Crüe with Neil Strauss (Dey Street Books, 2002)
Listen: Dr. Feelgood on Spotify
Blood Sugar Sex Magik - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Warner Brothers, 1991
The Red Hot Chili Peppers really came into their own with their Rick Rubin-produced fifth album. One major change was Flea’s bass playing. He took a more simplified and melodic approach after reading an article where Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon ripped the macho-jock way white guys play funk. Blood Sugar Sex Magik became their first Top 5 record, peaking at #3 in the US. It features “Under the Bridge”, “Suck My Kiss” and the Grammy-winning “Give It Away”.
Trivia: Two years sober, Anthony Kiedis wrote “Under the Bridge” as a poem to express his loneliness and alienation from his partying friends. Producer Rick Rubin found the poem in Kiedis’ notebook and encouraged him to try singing it.
Watch: Chad Smith Talks Anniversary of Blood Sugar Sex Magik – the drummer talks about why the album was his favorite to make, and releasing the album on the same day as Nirvana’s Nevermind. Watch on YouTube
Read: Acid for the Children: A Memoir by Flea (Grand Central, 2019)
Listen: Blood Sugar Sex Magik on Spotify
Dirt - Alice in Chains
Alice In Chains’ second album mixing “grunge” and metal included some of the finest rock singles of the era. The multiplatinum Dirt featured “Would?”, “Down in a Hole” and “Rooster” and earned them their first Grammy nomination. They currently hold the record for most Grammy nominations (8) without a win.
Trivia: The model on the cover of Dirt is Mariah O’Brien, former wife of actor Giovanni Ribisi. O’Brien previously appeared on the cover of Spinal Tap’s “Bitch School” the same year.
Watch: Gibson TV – Icons: Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains – the guitarist discusses his early influences, playing with Eddie Van Halen, the origin stories behind songs like “Rooster” and so much more. Watch on YouTube
Read: Alice in Chains: The Untold Story by David de Sola (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2018)
Listen: Dirt on Spotify
When Legends Rise - Godsmack
With When Legends Rise, Godsmack successfully shed the metal label (heavy, alternative, nu, or otherwise) for a more desired hard rock sound. It’s their sixth album to go Top 10, and all four singles topped the charts for a combined 12 weeks.
Trivia: Godsmack are number four on the list of bands with the most number ones (11) on the Mainstream Rock charts. The bands with more are Van Halen (13), Three Days Grace (15) and Shinedown (16).
Watch: Sully Erna’s 2020 Interview with Woody – Sully chats about quarantine life, his YouTube show, a timeline for Godsmack’s return to touring, and their video for “Unforgettable.” Watch on 93X.com or YouTube
Read: The Paths We Choose: A Memoir by Sully Erna (Bartleby Press, 2011)
Listen: When Legends Rise on Spotify
Ænima - Tool
Ænima has the distinction of having gone Top 10 twice, with a 23 year gap between appearances. The album’s eventual release to streaming platforms in 2019 resulted in streams that equated to 33,000 units sold. Tool’s sophomore album featured three Top 10 singles in “Stinkfist”, “Forty Six & 2” and “Ænema”.
Trivia: The lyrics to “Die Eier von Satan” are spoken in German, and are a recipe for cannabis cookies.
Watch: Tool’s Ænima: 10 Facts Superfans Probably Already Know – including the double entendre behind the album’s name, the aforementioned cookie recipe and more. Watch on YouTube
Read: A Perfect Union of Contrary Things by Maynard James Keenan (Backbeat, 2016)
Listen: Ænema on Spotify
Dookie - Green Day
The success of Green Day’s third album, Dookie, helped shine a spotlight on punk rock and bring it to the mainstream. The 20 million selling (worldwide) album boasts five Top 10 Modern Rock singles, including three that went to #1. The landmark album earned Green Day their first Grammy when they took home the prize for Best Alternative Music Performance.
Trivia: The album cover features drawings of the woman on the cover of Black Sabbath’s debut album (center left), Angus Young (rooftop, center right) and Patti Smith’s Easter (in a window, lower right). The original release of the album also featured an “Ernie” puppet from Sesame Street, on the back cover.
Watch: VH1 Ultimate Albums: Dookie – the documentary details Green Day’s risky major label signing and unexpected rise. Watch on YouTube
Read: Smash!: Green Day, The Offspring, Bad Religion, NOFX, and the ’90s Punk Explosion by Ian Winwood (Da Capo Press, 2018)
Listen: Dookie on Spotify
Back in Black - AC/DC
Arriving only 5 months after the death of previous singer, Bon Scott, Back in Black was completed in the Bahamas in only seven weeks. Back in Black has sold 50 million copies worldwide thanks to the incredible classic/modern rock of “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, “Hells Bells” and “Back in Black”. It’s the second biggest album of all time behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Trivia: Back in Black has sold over 25,000,000 copies in the US, but never made it to #1. It peaked at #4
Watch: AC/DC: Dirty Deeds – taking an in depth look at the history of one of the greatest rock bands in history. From their inception in 1973 through the Black Ice World Tour. Stream on Prime Video.
Read: AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll: The Ultimate Story of the World’s Greatest Rock-and-Roll Band by Murray Engleheart with Arnaud Durieux (It Books, 2008)
Listen: Back in Black on Spotify
Core - Stone Temple Pilots
Stone Temple Pilots’ biggest album remains their debut, Core. The album features “Creep”, the Grammy winning #1 single “Plush”, and popular live set closer, “Sex Type Thing”. The 25th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition released in 2017 includes demos, 16 live tracks from 1993, and their MTV Unplugged appearance.
Trivia: The album’s title is a reference to the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Bible’s book of Genesis.
Watch: Backspin: Stone Temple Pilots Talk Core Anniversary – the three surviving original members discuss Scott Weiland, their early days and bonding over similar influences. Watch on YouTube
Read: Not Dead & Not for Sale: A Memoir by Scott Weiland with David Ritz (Scribner, 2011)
Listen: Core on Spotify
Evil Empire - Rage Against The Machine
Containing the rock radio staple “Bulls on Parade”, Rage’s classic second album of sociopolitical vitriol debuted at #1. The triple platinum Evil Empire, named after President Reagan’s term for the Soviet Union, earned the band their first Grammy nominations (and first win).
Trivia: Despite not being a single, not having a music video, and not being played on radio, “Tire Me” won a Grammy in 1997 for Best Metal Performance.
Watch: Rage Against the Machine – this 1997 video compiles concert footage from 1992-1996 and includes uncensored music videos. Watch on Prime Video
Read: Know Your Enemy: The Story of Rage Against the Machine by Joel Mclver (Omnibus Press, 2014)
Listen: Evil Empire on Spotify
Ten - Pearl Jam
With the tragic end of Mother Love Bone, and the resulting Temple of the Dog tribute album, the members of the band who would become Pearl Jam recorded their debut album, Ten in less than a month. Ten earned the band their first Grammy nomination and 13 platinum albums thanks to considerable airplay of “Alive”, “Even Flow” and “Jeremy”. The latter’s controversial music video was also put into heavy rotation on MTV.
Trivia: Before they settled on “Pearl Jam”, they called themselves “Mookie Blaylock” after the NBA all-star and New Jersey Nets point guard. They titled their debut album Ten in honor of Blaylock’s jersey number.
Watch: Hype! – the 1996 documentary about grunge, specifically in the Northwest. Featuring performances from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and more. Stream on Prime Video
Read: Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yarm (Crown Publishing Group, 2012)
Listen: Ten on Spotify
Paranoid - Black Sabbath
Four months after releasing their debut album, Black Sabbath were back in the studio working on Paranoid. The album is shrouded in controversy, supposed Satanism and “lyrics about death and destruction. No wonder we never got any chicks at our gigs. (Ozzy Osbourne, I Am Ozzy)”. It’s the band’s biggest selling album in the US; and at #12, it’s their third highest charting album in the US behind Master of Reality (#8, 1971) and 13 (#1, 2013).
Trivia: “Paranoid” is actually about depression, because Tommy Iommi didn’t know the difference between “depression” and “paranoia”.
Watch: Black Sabbath: Up Close and Personal – the band detail their history in compilation of radio and television interviews going as far back as 1968. Stream on Prime Video
Read: The Complete History of Black Sabbath: What Evil Lurks by Joel Mciver (Race Point Publishing, 2016)
Listen: Paranoid on Spotify
Brothers - The Black Keys
The Akron duo’s sixth LP, Brothers, was their first to go Top 5 after 2008’s Attack & Release flirted with the Top Ten. The album peaked at #3, gave them their first #1 single (“Tighten Up”), and earned them three Grammys including Best Alternative Music Album.
Trivia: Brothers’ black CD label was printed with heat-sensitive ink that turns white when heated by your CD player. Check it out on YouTube.
Watch: The Big Come Up: The Black Keys Relive Their Accidental Start – The Black Keys discuss their influences, recording a demo in order to start booking club gigs, and the fib that lead to their record deal. Watch on YouTube
Read: Rebels and Underdogs: The Story of Ohio Rock and Roll by Garin Pirnia (Red Lightning Books, 2018)
Listen: Brothers on Spotify
Appetite for Destruction - Guns N' Roses
Appetite for Destruction is one of the greatest debut albums in the history of rock. An album considered “all killer, no filler”. A debut album chock full of sex, drugs, rock & roll, and controversy. Appetite for Destruction contained three Top 10 singles and spent five non-consecutive weeks at #1 (trading places with Def Leppard’s Hysteria a couple of times) before going on to sell 30 million copies across the world.
Trivia: “November Rain” was originally considered for inclusion on Appetite for Destruction, but was left off the album because it already contained one ballad (“Sweet Child o’ Mine”).
Watch: Guns N’ Roses: VH1 Behind the Music – the band members discuss substance abuse, fights among band members, redefining rock music and much more. Watch it on YouTube
Read: Reckless Road: Guns N’ Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction by Marc Canter & Jason Porath (Shoot Hip Press, 2008)
Toxicity - System of a Down
American Recordings, 2001
System of a Down doesn’t sound like anyone else. A metal band that also blends elements of folk with progressive-rock, and boasting a unique vocalist with a vocal range of 4.2 octaves. Working again with producer Rick Rubin, Toxicity was able to capture a larger audience, and gave the band their first #1 single (“Aerials”) and their first Grammy nominations for “Chop Suey” (Best Metal Performance) and “Aerials” (Best Hard Rock Performance).
Trivia: “Bounce”, a song about group sex, was featured in the animated children’s film, The Secret Life of Pets.
Watch: Rick Rubin on BBC Radio 1 – Rick Rubin, co-producer of Toxicity, talks with BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe about System of a Down’s “crazy” music, political lyrics, and bringing folk elements to heavy metal. Watch on YouTube
Read: System Of A Down: Right Here In Hollywood by Ben Myers (Disinformation Books, 2007)
Listen: Toxicity on Spotify
Smash - Offspring
The Offspring’s breakout third album, Smash, far-exceeded expectations of their independent label, Epitaph. The album featured some dark topics including violent road rage and school violence. Featuring three Top 10 Alternative singles – “Come Out and Play” (#1), “Self Esteem” (#4), “Gotta Get Away” (#6) – Smash remains The Offspring’s biggest selling album with 11 million copies sold worldwide.
Trivia: The line “you gotta keep ’em separated” was voiced by their friend, Jason “Blackball” McLean. For his trouble, the band bought him lunch at In-N-Out Burger.
Watch: The Offspring | Rare Interview | The Lost Tapes – Dexter Holland and Noodles discuss their early influences, trying to avoid the “sophomore slump” while expanding their horizons with the follow up to Smash. Watch on YouTube
Read: Smash!: Green Day, The Offspring, Bad Religion, NOFX, and the ’90s Punk Explosion by Ian Winwood (Da Capo Press, 2018)
Listen: Smash on Spotify
Master of Puppets - Metallica
Master of Puppets is a magnificent achievement in thrash metal. Quickly selling 300,000 copies in its first three weeks, the final album to feature the great Cliff Burton on bass is regarded by fans as their best. The album peaked at #29 on the Billboard 200 and has sold over 6 million copies.
Trivia: The title for “Leper Messiah” was lifted from David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” – “making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into his mind, like a leper messiah”
Watch: Hypnotizing Power: The Story of Master of Puppets – in their own words, Metallica discusses the recording process for the thrash metal classic. Watch on YouTube
Read: Metallica: Back to the Front: A Fully Authorized Visual History of the Master of Puppets Album and Tour written by Matt Taylor, Foreword by James Hetfield, Afterword by Ray Burton (Insight Editions, 2016)
Listen: Master of Puppets on Spotify
Nevermind - Nirvana
The grunge trio from Aberdeen, Washington arguably changed the landscape of popular music (and fashion sense) with the release of their second LP. Nevermind ended the four-week reign of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous, and spent two non-consecutive week’s at #1, on its way to 30 million in sales thanks to the massively popular singles “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Come As You Are”, “Lithium” and “In Bloom”.
Trivia: KISS’ Love Gun album appears on the back cover of Nevermind. (Just above Chim Chim the monkey’s head).
Read: Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana by Michael Azerrad (Crown, 1993)
Listen: Nevermind on Spotify