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).
WATCH: Classic Albums: Nirvana Nevermind – this 2005 documentary features behind-the-scenes interviews with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Butch Vig. Available on Amazon and YouTube
READ: Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana by Michael Azerrad (Crown, 1993)
LISTEN: Nevermind on Spotify