When Bruce Springsteen Protested Nukes and Nirvana Released 'Bleach'

Also this week in rock history: Michael Jackson cleared his name

June 13, 2011 12:55 PM ET
 Kurt Cobain, Jason Everman, Chad Channing, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana backstage during a performance in April of 1990.
Kurt Cobain, Jason Everman, Chad Channing, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana backstage during a performance in April of 1990.
JJ Gonson/Redferns/Getty

This week in rock history, the Boss protested nuclear weapons, Nirvana and Alanis Morissette released breakthrough albums, Mick Jagger was knighted, and Michael Jackson was cleared of child molestation charges.

June 12, 1982: Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne and Joan Baez perform at a rally for nuclear disarmament in Central Park

The biggest political demonstration in American history boasted a pretty great soundtrack.

In the summer of 1982, a crowd estimated at up to one million people gathered in New York’s Central Park to protest the use of nuclear weapons. The rally was held simultaneously with the United Nations’ second Special Session to discuss nuclear disarmament, and revolved around a main stage on the park’s Great Lawn that featured free performances by Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Joan Baez, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Gary "U.S." Bonds and more.

The Central Park protesters demanded worldwide nuclear disarmament and an end to America’s cold war arms race with the Soviet Union. In terms of attendance, it stands as the largest political demonstration in American history.

June 15, 1989: Nirvana release their debut album Bleach

The title came from an AIDS prevention poster pasted around San Francisco: "Bleach your works," it cried, advising heroin addicts to sterilize their needles before injections.

Nirvana’s first statement was a bleak one, indeed, a calamitous spray of Kurt Cobain’s scratchy growls and pessimistic lyrics, Krist Novoselic’s dense basslines, and Chad Channing and Dale Crover’s thick, hardcore-influenced drumming. Despite their clear aggression, though, Cobain said later that he had conformed to label Sub Pop’s pressure to strip down their artier influences and play more rock-based music – a disdain evident in the track "School," meant to jab at Seattle’s burgeoning, soon-to-be-coined "grunge" style.

Recorded over two months at Seattle’s Reciprocal Recording studios, Bleach was preceded by the release of first single "Love Buzz" on Sub Pop. The label had only requested an EP from the band – instead, they got the best-selling release in the label’s history (at over four million copies sold to date worldwide). Bleach went by the working title Too Many Humans and was produced by Jack Endino, who also worked with Seattle rock compatriots Mudhoney and Soundgarden.

Two years later, Nevermind would beam Nirvana’s angst worldwide, but Bleach remains a gritty, catchy account of a band and their scene.

June 13, 1995: Alanis Morissette releases Jagged Little Pill
It's hard to remember how anyone got through breakups before Jagged Little Pill. Former Canadian teen pop star and actress Alanis Morissette made a bold, drastic career shift on her first internationally released album (her third album in Canada), replacing her previous amiable fare with acidic rock anthems that kicked and screamed in the wake of her broken heart. Her first single, "You Oughta Know," broke through to American audiences when it reached heavy rotation on prominent Los Angeles radio station KROQ, leading to frequent play of the music video on MTV – and abundant rumors, eventually confirmed, that the song was written about her ex Dave Coulier, star of Full House.

Jagged Little Pill, so named for the most painful lessons in life, made Morissette the first female Canadian artist to score a Number One album in the United States. (It has sold 33 million copies to date.) On the strength of "You Oughta Know," "Ironic," "Hand in My Pocket," and three other hit singles, the record won four Grammys, including "Album of the Year," and ultimately ranked Number One on the Billboard 200 list of the best-selling albums of the 1990s. Jagged Little Pill is ranked Number 327 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

NEXT: Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson

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