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Johnny Sharp  |  Sep 13, 2022
With its stripped-back arrangements, confessional lyrics and unflashy sleeve art, the singer's debut album was an antidote to the sounds and style of the Summer of Love. It also laid the foundation for the poet-turned-musician's celebrated 50-year career

Necessity, a wise person once wrote, is the mother of invention. And for Leonard Cohen, she also performed that role for his reinvention from garlanded poet and novelist to singer-songwriter. He once said the idea of becoming a professional songwriter came out of a desire to make a decent living, after realising he was never going to rise far out of the struggling artist garret on the back of written verse and prose.

Mike Barnes  |  Jul 05, 2022
In 1961, a youth culture movie musical accelerated Cliff Richard's rapid transition from rock 'n' roll heartthrob to household name, and was quickly followed by a soundtrack album that scored a trio of Top 10 hits and stayed in the UK charts for 42 weeks

The story starts in the basement of the 2i's coffee bar in Old Compton Street, Soho, where live music had been put on since 1956. This was the time of the UK skiffle boom, a style of music that had developed in America out of rhythm and blues and folk, with elements of jazz. But while it had a hint of swing it was rhythmically more straight ahead, and was popular with young musicians because you didn't have to be a virtuoso to play it. If you had a washboard or could knock together a tea chest bass, you could be in a skiffle rhythm section.

Johnny Sharp  |  Jun 24, 2022
After the end of her relationship with Graham Nash, the Canadian singer-songwriter travelled to Crete in search of inspiration, relaxation... and a guitar. Her experiences there would lead her to write and record her starkly personal – and much loved – fourth album

It's not uncommon for people in their 20s to go travelling around the world, but very few are burgeoning celebrities widely regarded among the finest singer-songwriters of their generation. Yet in 1970, Joni Mitchell did just that after recording her third album, Ladies Of The Canyon.

Mike Barnes  |  May 13, 2022
Although planned as the American proto punk's first solo record under new management, Raw Power wound up being a third album for a reconfigured lineup of The Stooges – with David Bowie roped in to try to channel the band's unique energy into a listenable mix

Ever since the early days of rock 'n' roll, fans have vicariously got their kicks from its stars – the larger than life characters who did things us normal folk would never dream of, or would be too scared to try. But while many artists merely flirted with the idea of danger, James Osterburg, aka Iggy Pop, lead singer with The Stooges, located the self-destruct button and kept pressing it over and over again.

Johnny Sharp  |  Apr 22, 2022
In 1989, a trio of young New York rappers turned the hip-hop world on its head with a playful, skit-filled debut that coined the term 'sampladelic'. Yet over 30 years later, legal wrangles and label fallouts mean we are still waiting for a definitive high-quality release

Given the LP's almost childlike sense of fun, inadvertent originality and youthful irreverence for genre rules, it makes sense that 3 Feet High And Rising first took shape in a suburban high school. It was 1986, and 17-year-old Kelvin Mercer (aka Posdnuous), Dave Jolicoeur (aka Trugoy The Dove) and 16-year-old Vincent Mason (aka Maseo) had been working on their own hip-hop jams, the latter already an aspiring DJ providing onstage beats for local MC Gangster B.

Mike Barnes  |  Mar 17, 2022
Miles Davis, The Mahavishnu Orchestra... this American drummer was the first to fuse jazz with rock and, with his debut solo album, the first to take this freshly forged genre into the charts. His percussion powered one of Massive Attack's smash hits too...

William E Cobham Jr was born in Colón on the Caribbean coast of Panama in 1944. His mother was a singer and his father worked as a hospital statistician, but he also played piano at weekends. As such, Billy grew up listening to jazz, classical and Latin music.

Johnny Sharp  |  Feb 17, 2022
The debut album from the Manchester-based soul band put Mick Hucknall's voice centre stage, while his lyrics reflected the new-found social conscience of mid-1980s UK. Yet it took an American producer and recording sessions in the Netherlands to make it all work

I'd like to leave behind seven or eight really good albums that can stand the test of time', Mick Hucknall told The Irish Times in 1996. 'That's what I was going for from my very first album.' At the last count he's managed 12, several of which can stake a claim to being 'really good'. However, while some have outstripped his debut in terms of sales, Simply Red's 1985 album Picture Book set a standard that he has arguably yet to surpass.

Mike Barnes  |  Jan 14, 2022
In 1986, the singer-songwriter bowed out of pop duo Wham! with a sell-out farewell concert at Wembley Stadium. A year later he was back with his first solo album, having swapped the flash suits and swimming trunks for stubble, leather and shades...

In Spring 1986, Wham! announced they were splitting, with a farewell album and single, and a final concert at Wembley Stadium in June. In doing so they pulled the plug on a group that had enjoyed a string of international hit singles and albums over the previous four years, and who had become one of the biggest pop outfits in the world.

Johnny Sharp  |  Dec 10, 2021
With like-minded producer Nigel Godrich onboard, the Brit band's experimental side came to the fore on their platinum-selling third album, released in 1997. And if you listen closely, you might just hear the sounds of ghosts wailing in the Somerset night...

Difficult second album? Been there, done that, sold the T-shirts. Now, about that blissfully easy third album...

Mike Barnes  |  Nov 19, 2021
Produced by Rick Rubin, this fifth studio album for Warner Bros marked a change of style for the American group, with less heavy metal and a more melodic bias. And it propelled the Peppers to superstardom, with over 90,000 copies sold in the UK alone

The Red Hot Chili Peppers were formed by a quartet of friends in 1983 at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles: singer Anthony Kiedis, bass player Flea (aka Michael Balzary), drummer Jack Irons and guitarist Hillel Slovak. However, Irons and Slovak were also in a band called What Is This? and when they got a deal the pair quit.

Mike Barnes  |  Oct 19, 2021
It was a debut LP with a difference as three seasoned musicians set about serving up an edgy yet smooth blend of melodic pop and soft reggae to an audience still hungry for the energy of punk. Would the fans of the emerging new-wave of bands bite?

In the UK in the late '70s, the convulsion that was punk may have been short-lived but the ripples it sent out were far reaching. According to The Jam, this was now The Modern World, so if you considered yourself a new-wave band, or were venturing into the pop field and didn't want to look like some kind of throwback, you needed to look sharp or look 'street'. And it helped if you had a snappy name that included a definitive article. Hence monikers like The Motors, The Yachts, The Rich Kids, and The Police.

Mike Barnes  |  Sep 10, 2021
After recruiting vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, the second lineup of this one-time pyschedelic band would produce one of the most pivotal albums in the history of hard rock, enabling them finally to break through in Europe after prior US success

Initially named Roundabout, Deep Purple formed in 1968. Jon Lord had played keyboards in The Artwoods, who were an R&B group in the mould of The Animals, while guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had made his name as a hotshot session player with producer Joe Meek [HFN Aug '16], and thus had recorded and played live with 'Screaming' Lord Sutch.

Mike Barnes  |  Aug 17, 2021
It took over a year to create and when 'The Boss' first heard it, he threw the reference disc into a hotel pool. But the album went on to sell six million copies in the US and reach No 3 in the Billboard 200 chart, catapulting the singer from cult act to global star

In May 1974 rock critic Jon Landau's review of a Bruce Springsteen concert was published in Boston's The Real Paper. It included what became one of the most famous lines by a journalist in rock music history, 'I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen'.

Mike Barnes  |  Jul 15, 2021
The '80s is generally looked back upon as a time of glossy escapist pop, yet by writing songs about topics such as vegetarianism, street violence and despair, Mancunian quartet The Smiths became one of the biggest and best-loved indie bands of the decade

The Smiths' debut single 'Hand In Glove' was released in May 1983. Although ostensibly indie guitar-pop, it was a fresh take on the genre. Ushered in by blasts of wheezy harmonica and punctuated by cymbal crashes, the singer intoned, in sinuous melody lines, a tale of a pair of defiant lovers in the verses, while the instrumental choruses were based around an intricate guitar refrain.

Mike Barnes  |  Jun 25, 2021
When four unsuccessful musicians joined forces in Birmingham in 1968, little did they know that by the end of the following year they would have transformed themselves from blues-rock hopefuls to a group who helped change the face of rock music forever

Few bands have realigned their whole modus operandi around a single song. But for Black Sabbath, the title track from their self-titled 1970 debut album represented a stylistic shift that changed the group irrevocably and would be the single most important step in formulating what would become known as heavy metal.

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