Definitive moments in Music History
10) Eminem releases Marshall Mathers LP
Marshall Mathers III, or Eminem as he is more commonly known, was already a global star by the time he released his second studio album in 2000, but no one can have predicted that he was about to become the superstar that he did. Everything about him, from the highly controversial lyrics, to the bleached blonde hair, to the fact that he was a white rapper in, at that the time, a black dominated industry, made him stand out, but was not exactly a recipe for mainstream success. To the buying public though, none of this mattered. This became the highest selling hip-hop album of all time, and was also the fastest selling solo album of all time. None of this success can have been expected, even by someone as confident and bullish as Eminem. Yes, there was a lot of controversy around the album, but over time it has been recognised as one of the most iconic albums ever made, in any music genre. Songs like Stan and The Real Slim Shady are just as good now as they were 17 years ago.
9) Elvis plays The Ed Sullivan Show
This isn’t just a singular performance that was infamous, contrary to popular belief, but a series of 3 in September 1956, October 1956 & January 1957. Ed Sullivan was the King of Sunday night TV, and had a wholesome fun show for all the family, and initially didn’t feel that the “King of Rock & Roll” was a great fit. All of this changed when he saw the ratings from Elvis’ performance on Steve Allen, so an offer was made, and the rest is history! There were rumours of all 3 performances shooting Elvis from the waist up, so as not to upset the God-Fearing middle American audience. This wasn’t really the case though until the 3rd performance, and only considered by the censors after morally outraged audiences in Nashville began to burn effigies of him….which is a little drastic, but America was a very different place back then! These raucous performances changed how musical performances are shown on live TV forever.
8) Rappers Delight released
The day that rap music broke the mainstream. The Sugarhill Gang, aka Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank & Master Gee, released Rappers Delight in 1979, and it became the first rap single ever to break the Billboard top 40. And it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Coming off the back of the disco boom, this song sampled Good Times by Chic (which got them into a little bit of legal trouble), but was an absolute game-changer for American music. Recorded in a single take (allegedly), this turned out to be the only hit the band ever had in the US, although “Apache” did have a resurgence in popularity around the world later on. Sugarhill Gang were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014. Not bad for a 1 hit wonder….
7) Phil Spector invents the wall of sound
A disclaimer from Damson Global before we begin….Phil Spector, is not, and never was, a good man. Not by any stretch. The fact that he is serving a 19 year sentence murder shows that. That being said, his influence on how music is made even now cannot be underestimated. Spector is a record producer and multi-instrumental musician who developed a concept known as the “Wall of Sound” in the 1960’s. This was essentially the art of creating multi-layered pop songs, using many different instruments and making them “fit together like a jigsaw”. This was brought into the mainstream by Brian Wilson (more on him later), and the concept of “layered” music has been used time and time again over the years, by artists ranging from Bruce Springsteen, to Tina Turner, to Sigur Ros.
6) Nirvana release Nevermind
Nirvana had already released Bleach on the famous Sup-Pop records in 1989, and were firmly established as part of the Seattle Grunge scene, but the release of Nevermind in 1991 which brought them worldwide recognition. The unexpected success of lead single “Smells like teen spirit” is credited for widely popularizing alternative rock, and it remains, to this day, one of the most recognisable songs ever. Everyone knows the story of what happened to Kurt Cobain in the years following this, but the fact remains that this is very possibly the most popular and influential alternative rock album ever made, and I highly doubt that will change anytime soon.
5) Jimmi Hendrix plays star spangled banner at Woodstock
August 18th, 1969. The Woodstock festival for this year is most famously known for Jimi’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the American national anthem. At this time, he was the highest paid rock musician in the world, and had a reputation as the worlds greatest guitarist. At the time, Hendrix used a huge amount of distortion and feedback from the amplifiers to create a sound similar to the one made by bombs and rockets. This lead to many presuming he was protesting against the ongoing war in Vietnam, although Jimi himself never 100% confirmed this. The performance has been immortalised in 1970 Documentary “Woodstock”, and has been described as the most electrifying moment in Woodstock history and probably the single greatest musical moment of the 60’s. Would he have gone on to become an even bigger star than he was at that moment?? Probably, but we will sadly never know as he passed away the following year.
4) Beach Boys release pet sounds
The Beach Boys, are, as you would expect from their songs, an American Band from California, and in our opinion, one of the finest examples of “pop” music ever created, with their use of layered vocals and harmonies. Pet Sounds, released in 1966, is far and away their most popular, and greatest LP. Led by Brian Wilson, this was his swan song with the band and contains some of their greatest hits such as God only knows, Sloop John B and Wouldn’t it be nice. The influence this album has had on popular is incredibly far-reaching, regularly topping lists in music publications around the world. In 2004, Pet Sounds was preserved in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant”. You will struggle to find a finer summer record. Flawless.
3) John Lennon Assassination
8th December 1980 is a date that will forever be etched into the musical landscape, but unfortunately not for a good reason. John Lennon, co-founder and co-frontman or arguably the most popular band ever, The Beatles, was shot and killed by Mark Chapman, a supposed Beatles Fan, in the archway of the Dakota building, Lennon’s residence in New York. The outpouring of grief around the world was almost unprecedented for someone that wasn’t a politician or a Royal. This showed the effect that Lennon had on people everywhere, not necessarily just fans of him or fans of The Beatles. Jay Cocks of TIME Magazine summed him up perfectly: “That was what made the impact, and the difference—the shock of his imagination, the penetrating and pervasive traces of his genius—and it was the loss of all that, in so abrupt and awful a way, that was mourned last week, all over the world” He is remembered forever at the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park, New York, which has become a must-visit spot for any self-respecting music fan
2) Michael Jackson dies
On 25th June 2009, possibly the biggest pop star in the world died. Michael Jackson was not without his troubles throughout his life, all of which are very well documented, but his death was still a shock to the system as he was 3 weeks from starting the This Is It tour in London. More shock was to follow when the coroner ruled the death as a Homicide, with Jackson’s private Physician, Conrad Murray, was convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter and served a 2 year jail sentence. There will never, ever be another Michael Jackson. Sure, there are amazing current artists, and there will continue to be pretenders to the King of Pop’s throne that come out of the woodwork for years to come, but for sheer talent, ambition, drive, creativity, and every other superlative you can think of, there will only ever be one Michael Jackson. VH1 ranked this as number 1 on the 100 most shocking moments in music, and while we are not necessarily ranking these in any particular order, it is hard to disagree.
1) Live Aid
The iconic image from Live Aid is that of Queens Freddie Mercury holding the Wembley crowd in the palm of his hand during their 25 minute set, in one of the finest frontman performance of all time, but there was much, much more to it than that. The event was held at 2 venues simultaneously, Wembley Stadium in London and the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. It was conceived as a follow up to charity single “Do they know it’s Christmas?” and was arranged to raise funds for the ongoing famine in Ethiopia by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, on the back of an idea from Boy George. It was a collaborative effort from start to finish, and brought together some of the all-time musical greats such as Queen, U2, David Bowie, The Who, Elton John, Duran Duran, Neil Young and the reforming Led Zeppelin, but good luck finding footage of their performance anywhere! There were a few notable absences in with Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and others declining the invitation to perform, but in the end the shows did not need them. They were an absolute success, with an incredible amount of money raised. Stadium shows across the world would never be the same again.