“MTV Unplugged” Begins

The first episode of MTV Unplugged made its television debut on Sunday, November 26, 1989. The series would eventually feature many classic episodes and recordings, such as four years later with the November 18, 1993 show featuring Nirvana.

But back in 1989, the show had not established a reputation so the performers on the first episode were not superstars. The show featured Squeeze, Syd Straw, Elliot Easton (of the Cars), and Jules Shear.

Below Shear, Straw, Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook, and Elliot Easton come together to cover The Monkees during that first show. Check out “I’m a Believer” from the very first episode of MTV Unplugged.

Many credit Paul McCartney with helping make MTV Unplugged a popular show that would attract major artists. During the second season, after his appearance, he released a recording of the show, Unplugged – The Official Bootleg, which went on to be quite successful.

MTV Unplugged aired regularly between 1989 and 1999. The show appeared less frequently during most of the next decade usually called MTV Unplugged No. 2.0.

Since 2009, MTV has occasionally run the show as a special, sometimes in online-only versions. But for those of us who were around during the decade that was the show’s heyday, it was an important cultural touchstone of that time.

What is your favorite episode of MTV Unplugged? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Elvis Costello and Squeeze’s “Tempted”

    Not Elvis

    In 1981, Squeeze released the single “Tempted,” from the group’s fourth album, East Side Story. Although the song did not become a top-40 hit, the song became so popular you probably can sing along (“Tempted by the fruit of another. . .”). But did you know that Elvis Costello sings on the recording? Costello worked with Squeeze in the early 1980s, producing some of the band’s work, including co-producing “Tempted.” And, on the song, he sings a few lines.

    Glenn Tilbrook, Squeeze’s usual lead singer, wrote “Tempted” with the band’s guitarist Chris Difford. But keyboardist Paul Carrack — who was only with the band for one album before a solo career and work with Mike and the Mechanics — sang lead on “Tempted.”

    Tilbrook does sing a few lines on the second verse (starting around the 1:19 mark), as does Costello. Although a Rolling Stone article seems to imply that an “almost unrecognizable Elvis Costello” appears in the video, it appears he is not actually in the video. You hear Costello’s voice starting at the 1:24 mark (and elsewhere in backing vocals), but it looks like guitarist and songwriter Difford is moving his lips. Check it out for yourself.

    If you were not around in the 1980s, you may still know the song, which has been used in movies, video games, and commercials. Among other places, the song was used in a Burger King commercial. The band recorded a new version of the song for the film Reality Bites (1994), once again joined by Elvis Costello.

    After Carrack left the band, Tilbrook took over the lead vocals on “Tempted.” If you want to know more about what happened to the members of Squeeze in the decades after “Tempted,” check out this 2003 episode from VH1’s show, Bands Reunited below. For more information, check out the Squeeze website.

    What is your favorite Squeeze song? Do you know more about Costello’s work on “Tempted”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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