The Day Five Hard-Rock Bands Released Career-Altering Albums
Many albums share the same birthday, but few dates can match the rock output of Aug. 21, 1990. That day, Alice in Chains, Jane’s Addiction, Anthrax, Ratt and FireHouse all unveiled pivotal albums from their respective careers.
For Alice in Chains, their debut album Facelift represented an introduction to rock fans all over the world. The group had cut its teeth in Seattle, playing house parties and local clubs as it became part of the burgeoning grunge movement. The band’s distinct sound caught the attention of Columbia Records, which quickly signed Alice in Chains to a recording contract.
An initial EP, We Die Young, was released in July 1990 and generated significant buzz. Because of this, the label moved up Facelift’s release date. Still, the album wasn't an instant success. The LP sold less than 40,000 copies in the first six months of release and seemed destined to fall by the wayside. The band’s fortunes turned when MTV added the video for "Man in the Box" into regular rotation. The track became a success, pushing Alice in Chains to a mainstream audience.
“It’s loosely based on media censorship,” singer Layne Staley explained of the band’s breakthrough hit during an early ‘90s interview with Canadian TV channel MuchMusic. “But only my theory. Not a fact or a statement. Plus, I was really stoned when I wrote it, so it meant something really different then.”
Staley added that his band’s distinctly dreary tones were a reflection of the members' individual feelings. “Not that we’re dark or depressed - just as much as anyone else is,” Staley explained. “Other bands choose to write about things they don’t know shit about. Like babes and cars, parties and going out and getting in a fight on a Saturday night. All that bullshit.”
Watch Alice in Chains' 'Man in the Box' Video
Facelift eventually sold more than 2 million copies, while also earning the band its first Grammy nomination. The LP was produced by Dave Jerden, who also helmed Jane’s Addiction's sophomore effort, Ritual de lo Habitual.
“Of all the albums that I’ve done, this is by far my favorite,” the producer noted of Ritual during a 2013 interview. “It’s got such a great vibe. Interestingly, Perry Farrell was in a really dark place when we made it – the whole band too. A lot of it comes out in the music. It’s sad and strange but somehow really cool and wonderful.”
All nine songs featured on Ritual de lo Habitual were culled from a demo tape created by the band in the late ‘80s. The subject matter was heavy, with tracks inspired by the heroin overdose of Farrell’s girlfriend, as well as the shared grief Farrell and guitarist Dave Navarro experienced in losing their mothers at an early age.
Despite such weighty topics, the songs were exciting and featured a melodic pull that instantly drew in listeners. Ritual de lo Habitual sold more than 500,000 albums in its first month of release, on its way to being certified double platinum. The singles “Been Caught Stealing” and “Stop!” became alt-rock radio hits, elevating the band among the genre’s elite.
Watch Jane's Addiction's 'Been Caught Stealing' Video
Persistence of Time didn’t reach the same commercial heights as Alice in Chains and Jane's Addiction's albums, but it continued Anthrax's winning streak. The LP marked the third of four consecutive gold records for the metal giants.
The creation of Persistence of Time started inauspiciously. During recording, a structure fire destroyed more than $100,000 worth of equipment in the band’s rehearsal studio. “That’s the worst phone call you can get in the morning,” bassist Frank Bello recalled years later. “Seeing your basses go up in flames. And seeing your gear that you’ve been on the road and been through the war of touring, all that stuff. … You’re ready to run in. That’s sacred stuff to us. And seeing Scott [Ian’s] Marshalls that played on great records. It just broke our hearts.”
Still, Anthrax were able to soldier on, compiling 11 tracks for Persistence of Time, including a cover of Joe Jackson’s "Got the Time," plus the singles “In My World” and “Belly of the Beast.” It would be the last full Anthrax LP to feature singer Joey Belladonna until 2011's Worship Music.
Watch Anthrax's 'Got the Time' Video
Ratt’s Detonator was also a sendoff of sorts. The LP was the band’s last to include guitarist Robbin Crosby, who departed the group in 1991. He died in 2002.
The band enlisted the services of songwriter Desmond Child for much of Detonator, a decision that led to more of a pop-metal sound on the album. Elsewhere, Jon Bon Jovi contributed vocals to "Heads I Win, Tails You Lose." Despite the outside help, Detonator failed to reach the commercial heights of Ratt’s four previous albums, all of which went platinum. The LP sold roughly 500,000 copies and signaled the early stages of the band's commercial decline.
Listen to Ratt's 'Heads I Win, Tails You Lose'
FireHouse's self-titled debut launched the band from unknown North Carolina group to national stars. Two of the LP’s singles became top 20 hits: “Don’t Treat Me Bad,” an upbeat rocker about an unhealthy relationship, and "Love of a Lifetime," a hugely popular power ballad that peaked at No. 5.
“When I wrote that, shoot, man, I was playing little solo gigs, playing piano in a bar and singing,” frontman CJ Snare later recalled of “Love of a Lifetime.” “I went down after hours and penned that tune, and I didn't think it was going to be a wedding song or so popular. Who knows when you're doing these things? Just as an artist, you create.”
FireHouse sold more than 2 million copies, helping the band win Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock New Artist at the American Music Awards, defeating competition from Nirvana and Alice in Chains, among others.
Watch FireHouse's 'Love of a Lifetime' Video