Back in the late 1990s (when album sales were robust and a CDs actual release date was more important than its leak date), every Tuesday in November and December was a “Super Tuesday,” usually featuring a handful of big-name releases all hitting stores at the same time. Artists competed for gargantuan first-week album sales and spots on “TRL.” 10 years ago, November 2 was one of those massive Tuesdays, featuring a handful of big acts putting out new, high-profile records. Foo Fighters dropped There’s Nothing Left to Lose (their most successful album and the winner of the Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2000). On the same day, Mariah Carey unleashed Rainbow, lead by the smash hit “Heartbreaker” (a collaboration with Jay-Z). Counting Crows busted out their third release This Desert Life, which picked up some traction when first single “Hanginaround” became something of a graduation anthem for high school seniors. Lil Wayne put out Tha Block is Hot, his watershed solo debut on Cash Money. Elsewhere in hip-hop, Flipmode Squad’s Rah Digga released her underrated solo debut Dirty Harriet, while the Roots put out their excellent live album The Roots Come Alive.
But with all those names putting out albums on November 2, 1999, who played live on “TRL” that day? Rage Against the Machine, who performed in Times Square to celebrate the release of their third album The Battle of Los Angeles, their most accomplished, complex and mature album. Lead by the single “Guerrilla Radio,” the band balanced the savagery of Tom Morello’s guitar assault with the funky low end and Zack De La Rocha’s pointed agit-prop rapping. The band broke up soon after but reunited a few years back, though The Battle of Los Angeles was the last original album they put out. But it still holds up, and it’s amazing to think that a collective could be so well versed in politics but also know how to move a crowd so well. Check out the excellent video for “Guerrilla Radio.”