Friday, May 13, 2022

"Cult of Personality" by Living Colour

Grammy Alert!
Song#:  3830
Date:  03/11/1989
Debut:  77
Peak:  13
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Hard Rock, Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This band first began to take shape in New York City around 1984. London-born musician Vernon Reid had been working in drummer Ronald Jackson Shannon's avant-garde/funk jazz outfit for a while before taking the initiative to start his own band that was initially titled Vernon Reid's Living Colour. Both the goup's personnel and sound would evolve over a couple of years until a steady lineup that included vocalist Corey Glover was set in '86. The band's hard rock/funk metal sound got them noticed as did their live shows. However, record companies were not interested. It seems they all thought that an all-black hard rock band was too hard of a sell. In a good/bad way, the band ended up getting a bit of a leg up thanks to a music superstar who had a little clout - Mick Jagger. Through a connection, Jagger was familiar with Living Colour and decided to check them out at a gig at the famed CBGB's club. Jagger liked what he heard and ended up producing two demo tracks for the band. Yet even with Jagger's backing, labels were still leery about signing the band. Finally, Epic stepped up to the plate and gave them a shot. With producer Ed Stasium, Living Colour recorded a debut album titled Vivid, which also included the two Jagger tracks. For this first single, the label decided to put money behind an attention-getting video and to make sure MTV was on board (rumor has it that someone at Epic threatened to withhold the video for Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" unless they played "Cult of Personality" - perhaps not true but there was wrangling involved to the the video on the channel). The tactic worked and soon people were picking up the single and the album. The song would peak at #9 Rock while getting close to the Pop Top 10. In turn, the album would soar up to #6 and by mid-April would go platinum.

ReduxReview:  This jam grabbed my attention big time. From the speech snippets to the crunchy hard rock sound to the guitar licks to Glover's big voice to the jazz-funk influence to the potent lyrics to the screaming guitar solos, this track came on the radio and MTV like a wrecking ball. I went right out and bought the CD and cranked it to 11. The track still sounds just as good and as relevant as it did back in the day. The album still resonates as well.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song would earn Living Colour their first Grammy. They would win the award for Best Hard Rock Performance. They would earn their second Grammy later on when their second album, 1990's Time's Up, would win in the same category.  The video for "Cult of Personality" would win three MTV Music Video Awards including one for Best New Artist.  2) The term "cult of personality" first came about in a 1957 speech given by Soviet Union Communist Party leader Nikita Khrushchev. It basically refers to the lionization of a leader, usually a political figure. To enhance that theme, Living Colour included recorded quotes by famous leaders. At the beginning of the song, a portion of Malcolm X's 1963 speech "Message to the Grass Roots" is heard. Later on, perhaps the most famous portion of John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural speech is heard. Then at the end, another very famous section of an inaugural address is used. This time from Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 speech.


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