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
June 14, 2002: Mick Jagger is knighted by the Queen
Queen Elizabeth was never shy about where she stood on the eternal debate of Beatles vs. Stones: she presented the former with MBE (Member of the British Empire) medals in 1965 (a commendation John Lennon later returned in protest of British politics), and knighted Paul McCartney in 1997. Five years later, she knighted Mick Jagger.
Sir Lips earned his royal title for “services to music” in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List royal ceremony, a longstanding British tradition. He was 58 at the time, and received the honor along with playwright Harold Pinter and actor Trevor Nunn. A royal spokesman described Jagger as “one of the great rock stars of the last century.” In turn, Jagger suggested that if Britain’s team won the upcoming World Cup, they should be knighted as well – but neither came to pass.
Keith Richards was, shockingly, disgruntled by the entire affair.
June 13, 2005: Michael Jackson is cleared of all charges of child abuse
After a 16-week hearing, the Michael Jackson child molestation media circus ended in definitive victory for the pop icon.
A jury of eight women and four men found Jackson, then 46, not guilty of all charges brought against him, including four counts of lewd acts on a child under 14, one count of attempted lewd act on a child under 14, four counts of administering alcohol to enable molestation, and one count of conspiracy to kidnap a child, falsely imprison and extort.
The trial was held in Santa Maria, a rural town along California’s Central Coast, not far from Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Deliberations spanned 32 hours over seven days. Upon release of the verdict, the hundreds of fans outside the Santa Maria courthouse burst into song and cheers. Jackson reportedly cried during the verdict, then exited the venue quickly, thanked his fans and returned to the ranch with his family.