CH-CH-CH-Changes: Albums That Changed Everything

There have been moments in music that made everything stop in it’s tracks.  Albums released that simply changed the game.

Maybe some more than others, but there is little dispute about certain ones.  So let’s call this part one of “Albums that changed music”.

The Beatles 
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

There are those of us who rate other Beatle albums higher,  But Sgt Pepper’s made the watertight case for pop music as an art form in itself; until then, it was thought the silly, throwaway stuff of teenagers. At a time when all pop music was manufactured, these melodies and production  proved that untried ground was not only the most fertile stuff, but also the most viable commercially. It defined the Sixties and pop music was absolutely never the same after.

Elvis Presley
 Elvis Presley (1956)

The King’s first album was also the first example of how to cash in on a teenage craze. With Presleymania at full tilt, RCA simultaneously released a single, a four-track EP and an album, all with the same cover of Elvis in full, demented cry. They got their first million dollar album, the fans got a mix of rock-outs like ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, raunchy R&B and syrupy ballads.

The Beach Boys
 Pet Sounds (1966)

Composed by the increasingly reclusive Brian Wilson while the rest of the group were touring, it might well have been a solo album. The beauty resides not just in its compositional genius and instrumental invention, but in the elaborate vocal harmonies that drench these sad songs with an almost heartbreaking glory.  It didn’t sell as well as other Beach Boy records (no surfing songs) but the right people were listening….

Bob Dylan 
Bringing it All Back Home (1965)

The first folk-rock album? Maybe. Certainly the first hint of what was to come with the momentous ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. Released later in the year, Bringing it All Back Home fused hallucinatory lyricism and, on half of its tracks, a raw, ragged rock’n’roll surprise. On the opening song, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, Dylan manages to pay homage to the Beats AND Chuck Berry, while anticipating the surreal wordplay of rap.  ‘Highway 61 was THE album, but this was the first one to point the way and change the game

Pink Floyd 
The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

The ultimate progressive rock concept album.  It only stops making noise when you had to reverse sides on the turntable.  Beautifully made from beginning to end, it might have started a bit of a “self-indulgent” period after from prog rock bands, but it was worth it.

Jimi Hendrix 
Are You Experienced (1967)

Looking and playing like somebody from another planet, Hendrix delivered one of the most dramatic debuts in pop history. Marrying blues and psychedelia, dexterity and feedback trickery, it redefined the guitar’s sonic possibilities, paving the way for every rock guitarist since.

Black Sabbath 
Black Sabbath (1970)

A mere 30 minutes long, this was the album where heavy metal was first forged. Its ponderous tempos, satanic imagery, bassist Geezer Butler’s thundering bass, Tony Iommi’s sledgehammer guitar riffs and Ozzy Osbourne’s shrieking vocals all went on to define the genre and shaped most arena rock of the Seventies and Eighties.

The Clash 
London Calling (1979)

Punk killed disco, and it could be argued that ‘Never Mind The Bullocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols” would be the pick, but this was the best record to come out of punk.  On this double album, The Clash legitimized punk –before a nasty fad – into a real rock canon. Its iconic cover, and songs about the Spanish Civil War brought left-wing politics firmly into musical fashion.

Michael Jackson 
Thriller (1982)

Pure, startling pop genius from beginning to end, Michael Jackson and producer Quincy Jones seemed hellbent on creating the biggest, most universally appealing pop album ever made. Jones introduced elements of rock into soul and vice versa in such a way that it’s now no surprise to hear a pop record that mashes up more genres into a form that seems normal.

 Nevermind (1991)

You might argue about the merits of this record, but this album KILLED hair bands in their spandexed tracks.  And Nevermind does rock mightily, capturing a moment when the US underground imposed its agenda on the staid mainstream.

Have any other albums that literally changed music on its release?


2 responses


    “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” by David Bowie
    “Sheer Heart Attack” by Queen

    February 2, 2012 at 10:50 pm

  2. mark lanter

    true for all those picks! I would add “Tommy” (1969?) by the Who …possible because of “Pepper” perhaps, but the first true conceptual album with continuity

    “Kind of Blue”(1959), Miles Davis, an all star cast including John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Bill Evans,etc…widely imitated as it ushered in modal jazz and new compositions that have become standards in the jazz idiom

    “Bitches Brew” (1970) most point to as the the catalyst for jazz/fusion, all star cast again and the turning point for contemporary jazz now presented in large arenas and Rock worthy record sales

    “Birds of Fire”(1972) , Mahavishnu Orchestra, fusion exemplified, expanding the range and possibilities for electric guitar, composition, and improvisation…John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer champion synthesizers, eastern modes, odd meters, new standards for drumming and revolutionizes the recording industry

    “Heavy Weather” (1976) Weather Report…Jaco Pastorious…need I say more?

    February 4, 2012 at 6:41 pm

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