Faith No More underwent several line-up changes before releasing their first album, We Care a Lot, released in 1985 and distributed through San Francisco-based label Mordam Records. On the original vinyl release, the band is credited as "Faith. No More" on the album's liner notes, back cover, and on the record itself. Within a year the band signed up with Slash Records. The debut album's title track "We Care a Lot" was later rerecorded, for their follow-up album Introduce Yourself in 1987, and released as their first single. Membership remained stable until vocalist Chuck Mosley was replaced by Mike Patton in 1988.
The writing for the majority of the music for The Real Thing took place after the tour for Introduce Yourself. A demo version of "The Morning After", under the moniker "New Improved Song", with alternate lyrics written and sung by Chuck Mosley was released on the Sounds·Waves 2extended play with the Sounds magazine. "Surprise! You're Dead!" was composed by Jim Martin in the 1970s, while he was guitarist for Agents of Misfortune who also featured Cliff Burton in the line up. The recording of the song took place in December 1988 following Chuck Mosley's removal from the band and was completed prior to the hiring of Mike Patton, who then wrote all the lyrics for the songs and recorded them the following month over the music.
The recording sessions also yielded several songs that did not appear on the album. Two of them, "The Grade" and "The Cowboy Song", later appeared on the singles and on the UK edition of Live at the Brixton Academy. A third song, "Sweet Emotion", was later rerecorded with different lyrics as "The Perfect Crime" for the soundtrack to the film that also starred a cameo appearance from guitarist Jim Martin, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. The original version was released on Flexible Fiend 3 with Kerrang! magazine issue 258 and, more recently The Very Best Definitive Ultimate Greatest Hits Collection, the greatest hits compilation released to coincide with the band's reunion tour.
The tour in support of The Real Thing was the first Faith No More did with Mike Patton. The second show of the tour was filmed for the music video to "From out of Nowhere" in the I-Beam nightclub. During the show, Patton had a beer bottle smashed over his right hand causing lacerations to some tendons. He was able to use his hand again after it healed, but he has no feeling in it.
The first single to be released from the album was "From Out of Nowhere" on August 30, 1989 which made number twenty-three on the UK Singles Chart. This was followed by "Epic" on January 30, 1990 the music video for which received extensive airplay on MTV throughout the year, despite provoking anger from animal rights activists for a slow motion shot of a fish flopping out of water. "Falling to Pieces" then saw release on July 2, 1990 and made it to number ninety-two on the Billboard Hot 100 before the reissue of "Epic" which then provided the band's first number one hit single, on the ARIA Charts, and their only top ten single on the Billboard Hot 100, making it to number nine.
"Surprise! You're Dead!" had a music video produced for it, that was directed by bassist Billy Gould featuring footage shot in Chile during a South American tour in 1991, but never saw release as an official single and the video wasn't released until its appearance on Video Croissant. "Edge of the World" saw limited release as a two track promo single in Brazil on CD and 12" vinyl, with the album version as track one and the live at Brixton Academy version as the second track, in a yellow slipcase with basic black text.
The Real Thing is one of Faith No More's most successful albums to date. It is now considered a classic metal album by fans and critics alike. Although released in mid-1989, The Real Thing didn't enter the Billboard 200 until February 1990, after the release of the second single from the album, "Epic". The album eventually peaked at number eleven on the chart in October 1990, following the reissue of "Epic" almost a year and half after the initial release of the album. It was eventually certified platinum in U.S. and Canada as well as being certified Silver in the United Kingdom.
Many of the songs from The Real Thing have appeared on Faith No More compilation releases. The opening three tracks have appeared on every video and compilation album released by the band, except for Epic and Other Hits, which lacks "From Out of Nowhere".