Producers: Jerry Harrison and Live

Track listing: The Dam at Otter Creek / Selling the Drama / I Alone / Iris / Lightning Crashes / Top / All Over You / Shit Towne / T.B.D. / Stage / Waitress / Pillar of Davidson / White, Discussion

May 6, 1995

1 week

Even before the release of Throwing Copper, the second album from Live, singer Ed Kowalczyk had a premonition: The band that he formed with three middle school chums — guitarist Chad Taylor, drummer Chad Cracey, and bassist Patrick Dahlheimer — would be huge. He wrote the song “Selling the Drama” to sum up how it would feel to go from a small town garage band to national stardom.

“I pretty much knew that from the beginning that this would be a big record for us,” he says. “It was just a gut feeling that we had made a bunch of great songs that sounded really good. We figured we would be in front of a lot of people doing interviews. We probably won’t write another song like it again, but being that it was going to be the first time that the mass media was going to pay attention to our band, we figured why not do a song about how fucked-up we feel and also about how good we feel onstage, because it is a weird mixture of emotions.”

Live formed in 1987 under the moniker Public Affection. Two years later, the band had produced its own 10-track cassette and was landing shows at famed New York nightspot CBGB’s. It was there that that the band caught the ear of Gary Kurfirst, an artist manager who was launching a new label, Radioactive Records. Live’s first Radioactive release, a 1991 EP titled Four Songs, failed to chart. In early 1992, the band made its first appearance on The Billboard 200 when Mental Jewelry, their first full-length album, reached number 73. However, that hardly prepared anyone for Throwing Copper.

Recorded in August and September of 1993, Throwing Copper was co-produced by former Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison, who had worked with the band since Four Songs. “Jerry’s pretty much a father figure in the studio,” says Kowalczyk. “He just keeps every¬one organized and he psyched.” The album was recorded Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, the same studio where Nirvana cut its final studio album. “It was really easy,” says Kowalczyk. “We did every¬thing in pretty much one or two takes with very few overdubs. I went back and sang most of the vocals over, but other than that, we tried to keep every¬thing as live-to-tape as possible.”

To mix the album, the band called on Tom Lord-Alge, known for his work with Steve Winwood. “He brought a punchiness, crunch, and sheen that I hadn’t heard before with our music,” says Kowalczyk. “The first one he did was ‘Selling the Drama.’ It just blew me away, how well it came across and how immediate it was, so we had him mix the whole record. That’s probably why it did so well at radio.”

The tracks “Selling the Drama,” “I Alone,” and “Lightning Crashes” all became hits at modern rock and album ¬rock radio, as well as at MTV, as Live fan base multiplied. The group’s earnest, no-nonsense approach earned it comparisons to R.E.M. and U2, which suits Kowalczyk just fine. “We don’t make any apologies for that,” he says. “U2 and R.E.M. made me look at music as more than just pop stuff. I never saw them as message bands. I saw them as normal guys who wanted to bring more to music and they do it in a real soulful and gritty way.”

Throwing Copper debuted at number 38 on The Billboard 200 on May 14, 1994. In stark contrast to the SoundScan era’s trend of albums debuting at Number One, the album reached the top spot in its 52nd week on the chart, tying Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time as the album with the longest chart run prior to reaching Number One. Says Kowalczyk, “It was the perfect year anniversary.”

THE TOP FIVE
Week of May 6, 1995

1. Throwing Copper, Live
2. Friday, Soundtrack
3. Cracked Rear View, Hootie & the Blowfish
4. The Lion King, Soundtrack
5. Me Against the World, 2Pac