Could you imagine if Bono decided to leave U2 in pursuit of a solo career, and then the band carried on with the singer from Snow Patrol or something? It's impossible to consider, and yet something exactly like that happened on this day in 1985. Van Halen were arguably the biggest band in the world at the time, and they were coming off their fantastically successful album 1984 (which contained the huge crossover hits "Jump," "Panama" and "Hot For Teacher") and were selling out stadiums around the globe. But frontman David Lee Roth was not getting along with guitarist Eddie Van Halen, and the solo bug had already bitten him (he had already released his cover of "California Girls" to considerable acclaim). So on April 1, 1985, Roth quit Van Halen and moved on.
The two entities — Roth and the rest of Van Halen — went in significantly different directions. Van Halen recruited Sammy Hagar to replace Roth, and the band ultimately became bigger than they ever were, dropping huge albums like 1986's 5150 and 1991's For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Roth had less success as a solo artist, though he remained popular on the live circuit. (He eventually walked away from music entirely, taking a job as an EMT near the turn of the century.) Of course, Roth eventually came back into the Van Halen fold (twice), and a new album from the band — their first with Roth in 27 years — is expected soon.
It's apparently an exit-centric day, as this is also my final day as the editor of the MTV Newsroom blog. It's been a great run, and like Roth, I'd like to think I'm exiting on a high note (though I have much warmer feelings to my co-workers than Roth had for the Van Halen brothers). In honor of both of our exits, crank up "Unchained."
Wake-Up Video has been a staple of the MTV Newsroom blog since the summer of 2009, and each morning it delivers a little slice of music history alongside a music video that is meant to get the blood flowing in the first hours of the day. (Then again, sometimes it's just a bunch of nonsense about how cool "The X-Files" was.) So how is it that the series has gone this long without an appearance by Kris Kross? Luckily, today marks the anniversary of the release of the pre-adolescent hip-hop duo's debut album Totally Krossed Out, as it hit the streets on this day in 1992. Actually, it's possible that the album may have dropped two weeks earlier on March 17, as research points to both dates being accurate. But considering how fast and loose everybody played with release dates back in '92, let's call it today.)
Kris Kross consisted of Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly and Chris "Daddy Mac" Smith, a pair of juvenile rappers discovered by a not-that-much-older Jermaine Dupri in a mall in Atlanta. Dupri signed the pair when they were only 11 years old and not only produced their debut album Totally Krossed Out but also helped developed their individual personalities and their clothing styles, which consisted of wearing their clothes backwards. Though their rhymes were safe as milk (they had a single called "I Missed the Bus"), they were still skilled enough to be initially embraced by the hip-hop community and also sell as huge crossover stars.
Totally Krossed Out went on to sell four million copies, though puberty was not kind to Kris Kross. Their follow-up, 1993's Da Bomb, sold respectably, their star was already fading, and by the time they got to 1996's more adult-sounding Young, Rich and Dangerous, the luster had worn off. Both members of Kris Kross still work in the music business, but they still remain the kids who brought "Jump" to the world.
Iron Maiden have built a career out of delivering fantastically savage riffs with a healthy dose of horror movie imagery and just enough tongue-in-cheek self-awareness. Of all the metal bands to take technical mastery really seriously, they are one of the few who also commit to crafting truly sharp songs, and they began the transition from robotic automatons to full-blooded rock icons on this day in 1982 when they released their third album The Number of the Beast.
The Number of the Beast marked the vocal debut of Bruce Dickinson, who replaced former singer Paul Di'Anno (who was fired because of performance issues and drug and alcohol abuse). Dickinson had previously been the frontman of Samson, another band that came up as a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, a movement that helped shape the worldwide metal community and inspired the likes of Metallica and Anthrax (among many others). While Samson was an excellent band, Iron Maiden was something else entirely, a group who had already embraced a visual aesthetic (solidified by their official "mascot," an undead creature named Eddie) and delivered powerful songs built for maximum impact.
Though they wouldn't grab a true crossover hit until 1984's Powerslave (which contained the hit "2 Minutes to Midnight"), The Number of the Beast is not only considered to be Iron Maiden's greatest album but also one of the greatest metal albums ever created. It contains the iconic tracks "Run to the Hills" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (both of which still pop up in most Iron Maiden set lists when the band plays live) as well as the title track, which had an absolutely killer video.
The 1994 film "The Crow" is considered a cult classic for a number of different reasons. Star Brandon Lee (son of legendary martial artist and actor Bruce Lee) died during the making of the movie, creating an eerie parallel with his father and forever preserving Lee in the body of the Crow character. The film itself was a fantastically moody, violent supernatural revenge tale, full of noir touches that fully showcased the skills of director Alex Proyas (who would later go on to direct the moody sci-fi fantasies "Dark City" and "I, Robot"). But "The Crow" became notorious in rock circles for having one of the greatest soundtracks of the era. That soundtrack was released on this day in 1994.
The soundtrack to "The Crow" features some of the biggest rock acts of the era, including Stone Temple Pilots (who launched the single "Big Empty" from the album, which also appeared on their second album Purple, released several months later in 1994), Nine Inch Nails (covering the Joy Division classic "Dead Souls"), Rage Against the Machine (doing a re-recorded version of their b-side "Darkness of Greed") and Pantera (tackling Poison Idea's "The Badge"). The cumulative effect was an air of darkness and foreboding, which provided a perfect tag team partner for the movie itself.
Both the film and the soundtrack were a great success, and they each spent time on top of their respective sales charts. In addition to all the hard rock, the soundtrack also featured a ton of goth tracks from the likes of the Cure, My Life With the Thrill Kill Cult and Jesus and Mary Chain. In honor of one of the greatest movie-related collections of the '90s, check out Jesus and Mary Chain's "Happy When It Rains."
Of all the hip-hop icons who have died well before their time (and there are far too many), perhaps nobody is missed more deeply than Ol' Dirty Bastard. The clown prince of the Wu-Tang Clan delivered a playful, unhinged energy that was both hilarious and dangerous, and personalities like that are far too rare in the current rap climate. Though his recorded output is by far the smallest among the core members of the Wu, his first two solo albums are both stone cold classics. On this day in 1995, ODB dropped Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, his first solo album, the second solo joint from a Wu member following the release of Return to the 36 Chambers and one of the greatest rap collections of the '90s (and of all time).
ODB's delivery was uniquely unhinged, and he stood out among his Wu-Tang brethren because he was not a technical mastermind like Raekwon nor a math-obsessed wizard like RZA. ODB's raps were full of absurd imagery, strange boasts, gritty street details and plenty of junk culture references. When juxtaposed with RZA's sparse, jagged beats, the result was a sound that was constantly at odds with itself. The whole thing was held together by ODB's boundless charisma, which overflows from Return to the 36 Chambers.
Just about all of the tracks on Return to the 36 Chambers are keepers in some way, from the eerie "Don't U Know" to the playful "Raw Hide" to the claustrophobic "Brooklyn Zoo." But the key track also happens to be the album's biggest single, as "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" happens to capture everything that was wonderful about ODB in the span of three minutes.
It would be easy to dismiss the fact that Notorious B.I.G. released an album called Life After Death on this day in 1997 (only a few weeks after his own murder) as just a sick coincidence, but in reality it was party of a larger theme for the man born Christopher Wallace. For all of his raps about living large, Biggie was obsessed with death. After all, this is a man who titled his debut album Ready to Die and often rapped about his own funeral. He was constantly aware of his own mortality, and it permeated every inch of his musical persona.
Still, the whole idea of Life After Death hitting store shelves only 16 days after Biggie passed away is more than a little bit haunting. The album cover depicted the MC standing next to an old style hearse, draped in spooky shadows with a ghostly look on his face. Despite the greatness of flashy singles like "Hypnotize" and "Mo Money, Mo Problems," the best songs on the two-disc affair are loaded with dark imagery that vividly portrays the dark side of the gangster lifestyle, including the claustrophobic album opener "Somebody's Gotta Die" and the bracing "You're Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You)."
Tragically, that was Biggie at his best. His biggest hits were about his the high-class pimp lifestyle ("Big Poppa") or love jams ("One More Chance"), but he was never better as a rapper when he tapped into that rare combination of hunger and paranoia that fueled his death-filled fantasies. The Biggie that gave the world "Warning" — that's the Biggie that will live forever in the minds of hip-hop fans everywhere.
Despite the fact that many of today's bands draw heavily from the genre's tropes, New Wave still gets sort of a bad rap. People tend to remember the terrible hair, the neon-colored clothes and the empty keyboard bloops (not to mention the entirety of the Culture Club catalog). But there were gems, and luckily modern bands are taking from the best. For example, take Psychedelic Furs, the English group formed by singer Richard Butler in the late 1970s. Sometimes derided as a one-hit wonder (people tend to remember the song "Pretty In Pink," which came from the hit movie of the same name), the Furs turned out seven excellent albums between 1980 and 1991.
Their self-titled debut is a raw but warm collection of tunes that found the band still trying to nail down their core sound. They had it figured out by 1981's Talk Talk Talk, a classic in the genre and one of the best releases of the decade (it contained "Pretty In Pink" as well as the awesome "Into You Like a Train"). They followed that with the stellar Forever Now, which was produced by Todd Rundgren and contained the hit "Love My Way" (which got a second life when it was included on the soundtrack to the hit Adam Sandler film "The Wedding Singer").
The band continued with 1984's Mirror Moves, 1987's Midnight to Midnight and 1989's Book of Days. It was an incredible run, though the band ended in 1991 (frontman Butler then formed Love Spit Love, a profoundly underrated modern rock outfit most famous for a cover of the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" that appeared on the soundtrack to "The Craft"). Butler is one of the great unheralded songwriters in rock, and his work tells the tale. Rock out to "Pretty In Pink" and listen to some Psychedelic Furs today.
The fact that British electronic combo Depeche Mode have managed to thrive over the course of a three decade career is a testament to the songwriting prowess of Martin Gore and the indisputable charisma of frontman Dave Gahan. They first found success during the New Wave takeover of the pop charts, as their electronic masterpieces played well with the keyboard-kissed pop of the time. They soon took on goth leanings and explored darker, more complicated territory. Logically, they probably should have been swept into the afterthought box once alternative rock took over in the '90s, but instead the group continued churning out great music that was widely embraced by fans of all genres.
On this day in 1993, Depeche Mode put out Songs of Faith and Devotion, one of their finest collections. Recorded more "live" and with more guitars than any previous album the group had done, Songs of Faith and Devotion has a particular immediacy that had otherwise been lacking from the band's sound. The live quality of the music perfectly complimented Gahan's lyrics, which continued to tackle big questions about commitment and relationships using his haunting baritone as a vessel.
While Songs of Faith and Devotion didn't match the huge success of the band's previous album Violator (which contained the gigantic hits "Personal Jesus" and "Enjoy the Silence"), it still topped the charts in both the U.S. and the U.K. and gave Depeche Mode another handful of hits, including lead single "I Feel You" and the edgy "Walking In My Shoes."
Slasher movies are one of the most derided subgenres in all of film, and though they're really easy to do, they're extremely difficult to do well. Though many of the best characters from those films are watered down thanks to countless sequels (the '80s were an especially bad era for this), there are still a handful of icons in the horror world who have been featured in some true classics.
One of the most durable horror franchises (and indeed one of the most enduring in the history of film) has been the "Friday the 13th" series, a line of flicks that began as a cheap experiment in the woods and ended up becoming a huge, complicated operation. Though it seemed like killer Jason Voorhees was down for the count following 1984's "Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter," the series returned on this day in 1985 with "Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning."
Though it's one of the weakest films in the franchise, "Friday the 13th Part V" is an important entry in the series. The plot (as much as there is one) centers around a halfway house where a bunch of troubled teens hang around and make out. They are soon picked off one by one care of a killer in a hockey mask. But is it Jason or just an impostor using his visage to strike fear in the hearts of young people everywhere? (Spoiler alert: It's the latter!)
"Friday the 13th Part V" is bookended by two of the better entries in the series, as 1984's "The Final Chapter" is probably the best and 1986's "Jason Lives" officially transitions Jason from mere mortal to supernatural being. In honor of Jason's path of destruction, crank up Lush's "Ladykillers."
Normally, the landmarks and accomplishments memorialized in this space focus specifically on events within the United States, but today is different, mostly because there's an excellent excuse to post the awesomely adorable video below. On this day in 1999, Blur took the number one spot on the album chart in the United Kingdom with 13, netting them their fourth number one in the U.K. in the '90s. Only two other artists managed to match that feat: R.E.M. and, inexplicably, Simply Red. It's a great notch in the belt for Blur, especially considering their early decade rivalry with Oasis (who probably would have had four chart-topping albums in the '90s if they only were able to get it together enough to release four albums).
13 was Blur's follow-up to their huge self-titled album from 1997, which contained the still-massive hit "Song 2" (or, as it's known in football stadiums all over the world, "The Woo-Hoo Song"). While that album began to move away from the group's signature Britpop sound into something a little more raw and sinister, 13 found itself knee-deep in prog structures, strange electronic noises and an extra layer of indie fuzz. Frontman Damon Albarn wrote most of the album in the midst of his break-up with Elastica leader Justine Frischmann, and there are open emotional wounds all over it. The first single, "Tender," further explored Albarn's interest in sad-eyed country ballads and manages to balance a haunting melody with some sonic surreality.
The signature tune from 13 is the single "Coffee & TV," which drapes a simple campfire singalong in psychedelic sludge and featured a video created by Hammer & Tongs ("The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") starring an anthropomorphic milk carton.