30 Years Ago: Faith No More Release Their Breakthrough Album ‘The Real Thing’
As 1989 arrived, Faith No More were in a state of flux. The group had released a pair of modestly successful albums with frontman Chuck Mosely, but as his behavior became more erratic, the band decided a change was in order. Enter Mike Patton, and on June 20, 1989, Faith No More released their third studio disc, The Real Thing.
According to bassist Bill Gould, the band had grown accustomed to Mosely's drug habit and behavior, but eventually it became impossible to work with the vocalist. The situation came to a head when Mosely got drunk and fell asleep onstage during a record release show for their Introduce Yourself album, and by 1988 the decision came to let the vocalist go.
Keyboardist Roddy Bottum told Reflex Magazine, "We knew we wanted to continue as a band, but it's an audacious step to take. If I'm really into a band and they change singers, I pretty much dismiss 'em right away. The worst slap in the face [were accusations that it was] a racial thing, like we wanted to get a white singer, which was really insulting. But it went pretty smoothly considering."
After parting ways with Mosely, the group began to write and penned all of the music for The Real Thing before auditioning singers. Patton, who was then fronting experimental outfit Mr. Bungle, offered his services and was immediately put to work, given two weeks to write lyrics for the album.
"It was strange for me, because I had spent every musical moment with the Bungle guys, and we have our own thing," stated Patton. "We're Nintendo kids, so we get into a studio and there are all these little knobs and we've just gotta play with the dials and push the buttons ... so it was weird for me to try and put something over a song that was really linear, and very verse/chorus/verse/chorus. So I think I did what was really obvious. That's fine, but since then, I've definitely vowed to spend a lot more time and put a lot more into anything I do."
Little did Patton and the band know what was to come. It started off modest enough, as "From Out of Nowhere" was released in August 1989 as the lead single. The song barely received any notice stateside. The upbeat and melodic track was a solid showcase for Patton's vocals and was driven by the keyboard work of Bottum and a steady beat from Mike Bordin. However, it wasn't until nearly a year later when the song was reissued that it garnered any true notice. It did eventually crack the U.K. charts.
As we know now, the true breakout for the album didn't come until the second single, "Epic." With a killer bass line from Gould, a rap like delivery from Patton, some rocking licks from guitarist Jim Martin and a truly infectious beat, the song picked up steam and became an instant hit. Add in the presence of a very eye-catching and somewhat controversial video, and the group now had the backing of MTV behind them. What was controversial? The video's closing shot with a spasming fish flopping around out of water and gasping for air that upset animal rights activists. That, along with the surreal imagery from Ralph Ziman, made for a truly memorable clip. And it wasn't long before "Epic" became epically huge for the band. Topping out at No. 2 on the Modern Rock chart and No. 9 on the Hot 100, the track would become the biggest hit of their career.
Gould's signature bass lines once again propelled the group as they released "Falling to Pieces" as their next single in July 1990, a full year after the album's release. The track showed some of Patton's swagger as a frontman and like its predecessor, began to climb up the charts. Topping out at No. 12 on the Modern Rock chart, the song ended up being one of their bigger songs. However, it wasn't necessarily a Faith No More live staple. It rarely appeared in sets and at the 1993 Phoenix Festival, Gould revealed it was the last time the band would ever play the song. However, it has been performed again since the band reunited.
Other notable tracks from The Real Thing include the band's spirited and more swinging cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," the chaotically rocking "Surprise! You're Dead" and the snappy, jazzy little number "Edge of the World."
And with the new found radio support, Faith No More took advantage with one of their more memorable tours of their career. Some of the highlights included performing in Berlin as The Wall came down, performing with Metallica and playing a show naked with bags on their heads during the final date on their tour with Billy Idol. There was also a pretty crazy moment early on in which Patton had a beer bottle smashed over his right hand during one performance that lacerated some tendons.
All in all, it was a triumphant period for a band in a state of change and that wasn't lost on the group. "We've worked for a really long time," said Bottum to Rolling Stone. "We've earned what we've achieved -- a little more than some record company all of a sudden giving us a lot of money."
Gould added that he wasn't afraid to embrace the success, adding, "I don't see the point of limiting accessibility out of stubbornness. There's always been this misconception that 'commercial' equals 'stupid.' Just because something is accepted by a lot of people, it doesn't mean there isn't some interesting thought behind it, you know? You can actually do a lot of damage on a mass scale."
The accolades soon followed with the band earning a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance for The Real Thing album in 1989, while "Epic" garnered the band's second Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1991. And the album has gone on to be certified platinum in the U.S.
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