Placebo’s self titled debut album was released 16 July 1996 and was a major success, peaking at five on the UK Albums Charts at the height of the Britpop era. Placebo featured ten tracks (eleven including the hidden bonus track “Hong Kong Farewell”), their most popular being Nancy Boy. In 1998, Q Magazine readers voted it as the 87th greatest album of all time. The band remastered and reissued the album on 18 September 2006 for its tenth anniversary.
Tension with Schultzberg began to rise. The band initially let him go in September 1995, but he was rehired to record the first seven inch single “Bruise Pristine”. After an argument in August 1996, right before doing their first TV show, Molko decided that it would be best for the band if Schultzberg left. But Schultzberg suggested playing together until they finished the promotion of their first album, Placebo, and the band accepted.
Eventually, Schultzberg did indeed leave the band. In September 1996, Placebo was on a United States tour; before going on stage for their first show in New York state, Olsdal informed Schultzberg that he wasn’t going on the tour in Germany that was following the US one. At the manager’s request, Schultzberg did two more shows with the band in Paris after the US tour, the last of which was a performance on “Nulle Part Aillleurs.” Molko has said that he was “tired of being the focus of Robert’s rages against the world”.While Schultzberg was with the band, several early works were recorded including their first 7″ single “Bruise Pristine”, the “Come Home” EP, the single version of “Nancy Boy” with B-sides “Slackerbitch”, “Miss Moneypenny”, “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and their eponymous debut album. On the track “I Know”, he played didgeridoo as well as drums. Schultzberg’s departure left many fans disappointed, because the band switched to a softer sound after his departure. In the same year, however, they were able to convince Hewitt to return to Placebo as their full-time drummer. Molko remembers: “Even at the beginning, Robert and I couldn’t be in the same room with each other without wanting to be violent”.
In early 1996, Placebo opened several concerts for David Bowie in Italy, France and Switzerland as part of his Outside Tour after he had only heard one of their demos. Placebo’s initial success has partially been accredited to their relationship with Bowie.
One of Hewitt’s first performances with Placebo, upon returning, proved to be a big one. Bowie invited the trio to play at his 50th birthday at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1997. The party also included luminaries such as Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, Robert Smith of the The Cure, and Lou Reed.
The band’s glam connections continued. In 1998, Placebo recorded a cover of T.Rex’s “20th Century Boy” for the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack. The band also had minor roles in the film. Bowie made a special appearance on-stage with Placebo during a tour stop in New York. A version of the song “Without You I’m Nothing”, which originally appeared on the album with the same name, featured a duet containing both Molko and Bowie. Placebo played “20th Century Boy” live with David Bowie at the BRIT Awards show in 1999.
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