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Today in Rock :: Blog

AC/DC's 'Back in Black' - a retrospective

Monday, July 25: 5:50 p.m.
Posted by Jason Hanley

On July 25, 1980 AC/DC released Back In Black, an album that became an instant classic and is still one of the top selling rock albums worldwide.  It is not hard to hear why.  In the liner notes to the 2003 re-issue of the album David Fricke wrote that “Back In Black was, and still is, a marvel of rock & roll synchronicity.”  The record features songs that are still classic rock anthems today including “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.”  Produced by rock legend John “Mutt” Lange, the entire forty-two minutes are filled with heavy melodic guitar riffs, a steady pounding rock rhythm section, and the gritty, screeching voice of…Brian Johnson.

The story of Johnson’s role as lead singer is what pushes Back In Black past the realm of classic albums and into the space of rock mythology.  The album was a rebirth for the band only months after previous lead singer Bon Scott passed away February 19, 1980.  At the time, it seemed amazing that AC/DC could find a new singer who captured the passion, growl, and attitude of Scott’s voice – a voice that was at ...


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A Night Never to be Forgotten

Thursday, July 28: 11:41 a.m.
Posted by Jim Henke
Bono performs during final stop of the 360┬░ Tour. Photo courtesy of Ivor Karabatkovic

U2 played the next-to-last show on their 360° World Tour on Tuesday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. I was fortunate to have been there to witness this amazing spectacle. The tour kicked off back in 2009, ostensibly in support of the band’s No Line on the Horizon album, and it has grossed more than $700 million. The stage set is unbelievable, with a claw-shaped stage structure that is 168 feet tall, with massive video screens. I’ve never seen a stage set that comes close to this one.

U2 opened the concert with four songs from their 1991 Achtung Baby album: “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” “The Fly,” “Mysterious Ways” and “Until the End of the World.” They then played “I Will Follow” from their 1980 debut album, Boy. “Get on Your Boots” and “Stay” followed. Astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, then appeared on the giant video screens to say, “Hello, Pittsburgh!” and introduce the next song, “Beautiful Day.” From that point, the show continued to get better and better, as U2 played hit after hit, including “Elevation,” “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “City of Blinding Lights,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Vertigo,” “Walk On ...


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Today in Rock: The Beatles' record-breaking 1965 Shea Stadium show

Monday, August 15: 1:32 p.m.
Posted by Jim Henke
The second Beatles Shea Stadium show concert poster, on display at the Rock Hall.

The Beatles played Shea Stadium in New York City on August 15, 1965. They were the first rock group to play an outdoor sports stadium, and the show attracted 55,600 fans - the most attended show of the time. The promoter of the show, Sid Bernstein, said that the concert grossed $304,000, the largest gross from any event in show business up to that point.  “It was the biggest crowd we ever played to anywhere in the world,” John Lennon said of the  Shea show. “I heard a jet taking off, and I thought one of our amplifiers had blown up. We couldn’t hear ourselves sing.” The noise was so deafening that at the end of the show, during “I’m Down,” Lennon began playing a keyboard with his elbows while the whole group laughed hysterically. A documentary about the show, The Beatles at Shea Stadium, was produced by Ed Sullivan and was broadcast on ABC-TV the following year.  The Beatles played a second show at Shea on August 23, 1966. It was one of their final live performances.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s newly revamped Beatles exhibit includes the jacket that Paul ...


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Today in Rock: Chrissie Hynde is Born

Wednesday, September 7: 9 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
The Pretenders led by Chrissie Hynde

Akron native Chrissie Hynde is a rock pioneer and for decades the only constant in the lineup of 2005 Rock and Roll of Fame inductees, the Pretenders.  Born on September 7, 1951, she was one of the first women to front a popular rock band - not only as the singer, but also as main songwriter and bandleader - presenting a hard, unsentimental image that was far removed from the likes of Linda Ronstadt or Stevie Nicks. She seemed tough, and her songs, including “Tattooed Love Boys,” “Up the Neck” and “The Phone Call,”  could at times be unsparing, though she’d counterpoint those with sweeter tunes like “Kid” and “Don’t Get Me Wrong.”

In the early 1970s, Hynde moved to London in hopes of finding her footing in the music business. By 1978, budding vocalist and guitarist Hynde assembled the definitive Pretenders lineup with guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, bassist Pete Farndon and drummer Martin Chambers – all from rustic Hereford. The band took off almost instantly, mastering the blistering pace and aggression of punk (fitting as she was friendly with members of the Sex Pistols and The Clash) though with added dimension. Hynde's songs possessed the melodic sheen of well-turned pop ...


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Today in Rock: Remembering Keith Moon

Wednesday, September 7: 5:03 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
The Who: (l-r) Keith Moon, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle

In the pantheon of rock icons, few lived harder and played more dynamically than Keith Moon, among the greatest rock and roll drummers of all time and the man who embodied The Who's frenetic energy and unconventional wit. Although his eccentric persona earned him the unflattering nickname of "Moon the loon," his innovative drumming garnered accolades and made him one of the rock genre's most influential percussionists. His sphere of influence was wide, and legend has it that Moon suggested to Jimmy Page that he use the name Led Zeppelin – rather than Page's New Yardbirds moniker. On September 7, 1978, Moon passed away at the age of 32, when he overdosed on medications prescribed to combat alcoholism. Thirty-three years later, Moon's legacy can still be heard in The Who's oeuvre – and beyond.

Keith John Moon was born August 23, 1946, the son of Alfred and Kathleen Moon, and raised in Wembley, England. He began playing drums at an early age and after a period performing with the surf rock group The Beachcombers, he joined Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and John Entwistle in London to form The Who. In their prime, the Mod "maximum R&B ...


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Twenty years after 'Nevermind:' Memories of Nirvana's hits

Friday, September 23: 4:59 p.m.
Posted by Kathryn Metz
Nirvana's album 'Nevermind' was released on September 24, 1991.

Tomorrow, September 24th, marks the 20th anniversary of rock band Nirvana’s release of Nevermind. Widely credited for bringing the Seattle grunge and music scene to the mainstream masses, the album has since sold nearly 30 million copies worldwide. Kathryn Metz, education instructor at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, recounts hearing songs from Nevermind for the first time and shares how the album continues to influence two decades later.

Let’s be clear: I was a band geek for a long time. In some senses, I’m still that gangly kid who is all too familiar with Sousa repertoire and Mozart sonatas; I played the flute for 20-plus years. Raised on “oldies” and musicals, my parents always had a Rolling Stones, Supremes or West Side Story song on the record player. I learned how to play “As Long as He Needs Me” and “When I’m 64” with equal fluency as a Hindemith or Telemann sonata. On my own time, I religiously listened to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 every Saturday morning, memorizing Janet Jackson and Kriss Kross songs. Occasionally, however, something else would bubble to the surface and pique my curiosity, tugging at another part ...


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Today in Rock: Chuck Berry is Born

Tuesday, October 18: 5 p.m.
Posted by Terry Stewart
Chuck Berry

Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news: it's Chuck Berry's birthday.

Let's hear it for the man who taught us about everything from cooling off your car's engine with rain water blowin' all under the hood, to all we needed to know about girls named "Carol" and "Nadine." In fact, the Shakespeare of rock and roll informed us about most the things we needed to know in those nascent days of the music that's become the soundtrack of our lives. 

Imagine what it meant to me when he referred to my hometown of Mobile in "Let It Rock." It was great being with you recently, Mr. Berry,  and it thrills me that you are still knockin' 'em out like Johnny B. Goode.

More About Hall of Fame Inductee Chuck Berry:
(pictured: Chuck Berry's Gibson ES-335, part of the Museum's featured collection)

While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together. It was his particular genius to graft country & western guitar licks onto a rhythm & blues chassis in his very ...


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Today In Rock: Tom Petty Is Born

Thursday, October 20: 2:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

For more than 30 years, Florida native Tom Petty has been the charismatic frontman and voice of among the most durable, resourceful, hard-working, likable, unpretentious and capable rock bands of all time. Together with the Heartbreakers – which has include bassist Ron Blair, guitarist Mike Campbell, bassist Howie Epstein, drummer Stan Lynch and keyboardist Benmont Tench – he mastered rock and roll's fundamentals and digested its history, leading a band of the people, writing of everyday struggles and frustrations – and offering redemption through tough-minded, big-hearted, tuneful songs. The 2002 Hall of Fame inductee turns 61 today.

Although they were not punk-rockers per se, Petty and the Heartbreakers did their part to revitalize rock in the mid-to-late Seventies with their first three albums: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (“Breakdown,” “American Girl”), You’re Gonna Get It! (“I Need to Know,” “Listen to Her Heart”) and Damn the Torpedoes – the latter one of the essential rock albums of the decade.

Strong from start to finish, Torpedoes contained the classic tracks “Refugee,” “Even the Losers,” “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Here Comes My Girl.” It also revealed Petty’s depth of conviction and fighting nature. When his record company changed hands, Petty ...


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