Placebo (album)

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Placebo album.jpg
Studio album by Placebo
Released 17 July 1996[1]
Recorded 1996
Studio Westland Studios, Dublin, Ireland
Genre Alternative rock[2]
Length 60:27
  • Hut
  • Elevator Music
  • Virgin Records
Producer Brad Wood
Placebo chronology
Without You I'm Nothing
(1998)Without You I'm Nothing1998
Singles from Placebo
  1. "Come Home"
    Released: 5 February 1996
  2. "36 Degrees"
    Released: 3 June 1996
  3. "Teenage Angst"
    Released: 16 September 1996
  4. "Nancy Boy"
    Released: 20 January 1997
  5. "Bruise Pristine"
    Released: 12 May 1997

Placebo is the debut studio album by English alternative rock band Placebo. It was released on 17 July 1996 by record label Virgin.[3] It is the only album recorded with drummer Robert Schultzberg before his departure from the group.

The album was a commercial success in the UK, reaching number 5 in the UK Albums Chart. It spawned five singles, including "Nancy Boy" and "36 Degrees". The album was remastered and reissued in 2006 for its tenth anniversary, including demos and a DVD featuring live performances and music videos from the album.

Background and recording[edit]

Placebo was formed in 1994 with the partnering of Brian Molko (vocals, guitar) and Stefan Olsdal (guitar, bass). At the time, Olsdal was taking guitar lessons and was on his way home when he met Molko at the South Kensington tube station. Molko, observing that Olsdal had a guitar strapped to his back, invited Olsdal to watch him perform at a local bar. On the strength of Molko's performance, Olsdal decided that they should start a band.[4]

The two initially formed Ashtray Heart, a lo-fi duo, playing mostly on children's toy instruments. The duo needed a drummer, and although Steve Hewitt, who would play later with Placebo, was their first choice, he was working with London-based band Breed at the time. This led Robert Schultzberg to assume the position of drummer. Schultzberg had known Olsdal from boarding school in Sigtuna, Sweden where they'd played together in a band.[5]

The newly formed band released the single "Come Home" on Deceptive Records in 1995. This led to signing a contract with Hut Records and the band began to work on their debut album.[citation needed] Placebo was recorded over two months in 1996 in Dublin and London and was produced by Brad Wood.[6]

After an argument in August 1996 shortly before their first TV appearance, Molko decided that it would be best for the band if Schultzberg left. But Schultzberg suggested playing together until they finished the promotion for the album, which the band accepted.[7] Before going on stage for their first show in the state of New York, Olsdal informed Schultzberg that he wouldn't perform on the tour in Germany that was following the US tour. Schultzberg played two more shows with the band in Paris after the US tour, the last of which was a performance at "Nulle Part Aillleurs". Molko has said that he was "tired of being the focus of Robert's rages against the world".[7] Schultzberg left the band in September 1996 and was replaced by Hewitt.[8]


Lyrics and themes[edit]

Many of the songs on Placebo were written in 1995. Regarding the album's opening track "Come Home", Molko called it "punk pop for postponed suicides".[9] "Teenage Angst" is about the emotions you feel as a teenager and want to have everything kept to yourself and create your own world,[10] while Molko confusingly says "Bionic" is "about a robot fuck".[citation needed]

The meaning of the album's fourth song "36 Degrees", either sexual preference or death, has caused debate among fans. Molko has stated the title is a play on words regarding the expression "cold blooded", as the average human body temperature is 37 °C (99 °F).[11] Molko has stated the song's inspiration came from his fascination with skin texture and the warmth of other human bodies; moreover, he originally intended to call the album Body Politic.[12]

"Hang On to Your IQ" is about self-deprecation regarding intelligence. Molko has stated it is the most "story-like" song on the album: "The person [in the song] is having a breakdown about every physical and emotional thing they could feel."[12]

"Nancy Boy" differs from previous songs' themes about drugs, sex, gender confusion and bisexuality.[13][14]

The track "Lady of the Flowers" is influenced by Jean Genet's debut novel Our Lady of the Flowers which Genet wrote for his own entertainment whilst in prison.

Molko states the album's hidden track "HK Farewell" was inspired by an acid trip Molko and Olsdal had, saying it was never written in a state of reality.[15] Initial pressings of the CD included "H.K. Farewell" as a hidden track which began playing approximately 10 minutes after the end of "Swallow". Certain versions of the album replaced the album version of "Nancy Boy" with the single version, known as "Nancy Boy (Sex Mix)". The band debated whether or not to put "Slackerbitch" on the record. They eventually decided against it, replacing the track with "Nancy Boy". "Slackerbitch" was included on the 2006 reissue.

Speaking to Kerrang! in June 2009, Brian Molko remembered:

We wrote most of the album in a council flat in Deptford. The way we sounded and looked was a reaction against the place. But also a lot of our cross-dressing and transvestism was a political statement against the music scene at the time which was very laddish and macho. We wanted to stand up and be counted. There's no better way to do that than by putting a bunch of slap on, wearing a skirt and f***ing with people's heads. People hated us for it and I adored that. Not getting a reaction was an anathema to me at the time. When I look back at the album, I see naivety, missed opportunities and mistakes. But you can get your knickers in a twist about it or you can just accept they're part of you. I view "Nancy Boy" in a way I imagine Radiohead look at "Creep". I just wish the song that propelled us into the limelight had been a little bit better written. It's the lyrics that make me cringe most. They're me trying to find my feet.[16]


Another picture of David Fox shown on the inserts of the album

On 23 June 2012, it emerged that the boy photographed in the album cover, David Fox (shown wearing a red jumper and pulling his face downward), was threatening to sue the band for "ruining" his life. His cousin Saul Fletcher had taken the photo. Fox claims he was quite popular at the time and that when the album came out everyone bullied him.[17][18]

The inserts for the album feature another picture of the boy on the cover and a very small picture of the band. The rest of it is green or blue paper, with no lyrics. The reason for this is that Molko did not want people to focus on the liner, but rather the music itself.[19]


Placebo was released 17 June 1996 in the UK[20] on Elevator Music/Hut Records and 9 July in the US[citation needed] on Caroline Records on CD, cassette and vinyl. The album reached number 5 in the UK Albums Chart, staying there for 13 weeks,[20] and at number 50 in France.[21] The album went gold in the UK on 1 May 1997, and platinum on 22 July 2013.[22] and gold in France (actual sales 88,800).[23]

As of November 2000 total album sales worldwide have reached 500,000 copies. [24]

Prior to the release of Placebo several singles were released to promote the album: "Bruise Pristine", "Come Home" and "36 Degrees". Placebo released two more singles after the release of the album: "Teenage Angst" and "Nancy Boy". "Nancy Boy" was a hit and reached number 4 in the UK Singles Chart.[20] Placebo filmed music videos for all singles from this album.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[2]
NME favourable[25]
Trouser Press favourable[26]

NME called it "dangerous, mysterious and utterly addictive".[25] Trouser Press wrote that the album "establishes the trio as a strong contender in the Britpop scene."[26]

In his retrospective review, Nitsuh Abebe of AllMusic wrote "[the band] brings together various influences – the epic, noisy "Chicago sound", late-'70s prog rock and late-'80s "college rock" – but boils them down into fairly conventional, guitar-heavy melodrama, with the sort of opaque and angst-ridden lyrics usually found in that genre. That's not to say that Placebo's sound is boring; churning guitars and direct, heavy basslines give the album a good deal of strength, and Molko is able to write moving, gritty melodies and fairly clever lyrics."[2]


In 1998 Q magazine readers voted it at number 87 in its "All Time Top 100 Albums" list.[27] Virgin placed the album 154th in its "All-Time Top 1000 Albums" list.[28] In 1999, Ned Raggett ranked the album at number 94 on his list of "The Top 136 or So Albums of the Nineties".[29]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Placebo (Stefan Olsdal, Brian Molko and Robert Schultzberg).

No. Title Length
1. "Come Home" 5:09
2. "Teenage Angst" 2:42
3. "Bionic" 5:00
4. "36 Degrees" 3:05
5. "Hang On to Your IQ" 5:13
6. "Nancy Boy" 3:48
7. "I Know" 4:44
8. "Bruise Pristine" 3:35
9. "Lady of the Flowers" 4:47
10. "Swallow" (Swallow ends at 4:54, hidden track "H. K. Farewell" starts at 14:51.) 22:24
10th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD
  • "Come Home" (Alexandra Palace - 11.04.06) – 5:00
  • "Teenage Angst" (The Big Breakfast - 29.08.96) – 2:39
  • "Nancy Boy" (Top of the Pops - 31.01.97) – 3:09
  • "Lady of the Flowers" (Glastonbury Festival - 27.06.98) – 5:41
  • "Teenage Angst" (The White Room - 23.08.96) – 2:29
  • "Bruise Pristine" (Top of the Pops - 23.05.97) – 2:33
  • "36 Degrees" (Wembley Arena - 05.11.04) – 5:02
  • "36 Degrees" (video) – 3:15
  • "Teenage Angst" (video) – 2:40
  • "Nancy Boy" (video) – 3:20
  • "Bruise Pristine" (video) – 2:59
  • "Soulmates Never Die Live in Paris Trailer" – 2:03


Chart (1996–2012) Peak
French Albums (SNEP)[30] 50
Greek Albums (IFPI)[31] 33
UK Albums (OCC)[32] 5


  • Brian Molko – electric and acoustic guitars, synthesizer, bass guitar, vocals
  • Stefan Olsdal – bass guitar, electric and acoustic guitars, electric piano, synthesizer, piano
  • Robert Schultzberg – drums, percussion, didgeridoo on "I Know"
Technical personnel
  • Ed Kenehan – engineering (tracks 1–5, 7–10)
  • Saul Fletcher – sleeve photography
  • Teo Miller – engineering (track 6)
  • Mary Scanlon – sleeve band photo photography
  • Phil Vinall – production and mixing (track 6)
  • Brad Wood – production (tracks 1–5, 7–10)


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Belgium (BEA)[33] Gold 25,000*
France (SNEP)[34] Gold 100,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[35] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[36] none 30,000[37]
Worldwide (IFPI) N/A 500,000+[38]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ "AllMusic:Placebo". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c Abebe, Nitsuh. "Placebo – Placebo | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "Placebo". Soundcloud. Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  4. ^ "Girls Gone Punk "Placebo: The Sex and the Drugs and the Complications", Aug '07 – LJ Placebo Russia Archive". 18 August 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  5. ^ Moore 2006, p. 274.
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b "Forum Placebo City / Exclusive : Interview of Robert Schultzberg !". Placebo City. 18 November 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  8. ^ Betts 2005, p. 216.
  9. ^ "[Magazine article]". Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "The Pleasure Principle". Melody Maker. September 1996. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Lewis, Angela (June 1996). "Angela Lewis on Pop Music". The Independent. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Sex Punk Placebo-Style". Melody Maker. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  13. ^ "Placebo". NME. 1996. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  14. ^ "0_3da27_16c9f27d_orig.jpg". Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  15. ^ ", Placebo". Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  16. ^ Bryant, Tony. Kerrang! #1267, June 27, 2009. Treasure Chest. An Intimate Portrait Of Life In Rock. Brian Molko, p.60
  17. ^ Oliver, Amy (23 June 2012). "Placebo ruined my life: Child star of rock album cover sues band for damages claiming the picture led him to be bullied, drop out of school and become unemployed". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  18. ^ Ross, Ellie (26 June 2012). "'Placebo Made My Life Hell', Says David Fox - The Boy on Famous Cover". The Sun. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  19. ^ "Placebo -- Nancy Boy -- Acoustic Version -- Simon Mayo Session, 29 April 1997 – YouTube". YouTube. 5 July 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  20. ^ a b c "Placebo | Artist | Official Charts". Official Charts. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  21. ^ " – Discographie Placebo". (in French). Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  22. ^ "BPI Certifications". BPI. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  23. ^
  24. ^'m+Nothing+Placebo+album+sales&source=bl&ots=mgDADCNyQ3&sig=uJONIx0p-fD1xjm7-LA5yH2q0oc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiX_cHOtN7WAhWjK8AKHfW1BSo4ChDoAQgrMAE#v=onepage&q=Without%20You%20I'm%20Nothing%20Placebo%20album%20sales&f=false
  25. ^ a b Buckley, Peter, ed. (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock. Rough Guides. p. 797. Retrieved July 4, 2016. 
  26. ^ a b Neugebauer, Delvin. " :: Placebo". Retrieved July 4, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Q Magazine Lists". Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  28. ^ "The Virgin All-Time Album Top 1000 List". Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 January 2000. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  30. ^ " – Placebo – Placebo". Hung Medien. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  31. ^ "Official IFPI Charts – Top 75 Albums Sales Chart (Week: 17/2015)". IFPI Greece. Archived from the original on 30 April 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  32. ^ "Placebo | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
  33. ^ "Ultratop − Goud en Platina – 2007". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  34. ^ "French album certifications – Placebo – Black Market Music" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. 
  35. ^ "British album certifications – Placebo – Placebo". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Placebo in the search field and then press Enter.
  36. ^ "American album certifications – Placebo – Black Market Music". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  37. ^
  38. ^'m+Nothing+Placebo+album+sales&source=bl&ots=mgDADCNyQ3&sig=uJONIx0p-fD1xjm7-LA5yH2q0oc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiX_cHOtN7WAhWjK8AKHfW1BSo4ChDoAQgrMAE#v=onepage&q=Without%20You%20I'm%20Nothing%20Placebo%20album%20sales&f=false

External links[edit]