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)