July 17, 2006

50 Albums That Changed Music

The Observer (UK) has thoughtfully compiled their version of the 50 Albums That Changed Music. Although we all learned with Paste Magazine’s attempt to pin down the 100 Greatest Living Songwriters that, well, conclusive lists are impossible to compile (check out all your feisty comments on that post), I appreciate The Observer’s efforts because they draw lines connecting WHY these are important albums.

For example, they draw some obvious parallels, such as how without Robert Johnson there’d be no Rolling Stones, Cream, or Led Zeppelin. But then they also have some (without Prince, there’d be no Beck, without Brian Eno there’d be no Juana Molina?) that made me stop and think, “Huh. Never looked at it like that before.”

Glaring omissions aside (and there are plenty, because we would all write a slightly different list, wouldn’t we?) I recommend that you click on over to the article itself to read the discussion & logic behind all these 50 selections. Here they are:

1. The Velvet Underground and Nico, The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)
2. The Beatles, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
3. Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express (1977)
4. NWA, Straight Outta Compton (1989)
5. Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers (1961)
6. Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On (1971)
7. Patti Smith, Horses (1975)
8. Bob Dylan, Bringing it All Back Home (1965)
9. Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley (1956)
10. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds (1966)
11. David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972)
12. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (1959)
13. Frank Sinatra, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers (1956)
14. Joni Mitchell, Blue (1971)
15. Brian Eno, Discreet Music (1975)
16. Aretha Franklin, I Never Loved a Man the Way I love You (1967)
17. The Stooges, Raw Power (1973)
18. The Clash, London Calling (1979)
19. Mary J Blige, What’s the 411? (1992)
20. The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968)
21. The Spice Girls, Spice (1996)
22. Kate Bush, The Hounds of Love (1985)
23. Augustus Pablo, King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (1976)
24. Youssou N’Dour, Immigres (1984)
25. James Brown, Live at the Apollo (1963)
26. Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life (1976)
27. Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced (1967)
28. Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain (1984)
29. Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
30. The Wailers, Catch a Fire (1973)
31. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses (1989)
32. Otis Redding, Otis Blue (1965)
33. Herbie Hancock, Head Hunters (1973)
34. Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath (1970)
35. The Ramones, The Ramones (1976)
36. The Who, My Generation (1965)
37. Massive Attack, Blue Lines (1991)
38. Radiohead, The Bends (1995)
39. Michael Jackson, Thriller (1982)
40. Run DMC, Run DMC (1984)
41. Chic, Chic (1977)
42. The Smiths, The Smiths (1984)
43. Primal Scream, Screamadelica (1991)
44. Talking Heads, Fear of Music (1979)
45. Fairport Convention, Liege and Lief (1969)
46. The Human League, Dare (1981)
47. Nirvana, Nevermind (1991)
48. The Strokes, Is This It? (2001)
49. De La Soul, 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
50. LFO, Frequencies (1991)

The article ends with this bit:
“Have your say! Restricting our anniversary list to a mere 50 was a tortuous process. We know you have opinions on these highly emotive matters, so join the debate and make a case for your choice of record at http://observer.co.uk/blog

Go! Debate!


  • The Spice Girls? are you kidding me? Oasis maybe, but The Spice Girls, damn limey paper.

    Elvez73 — July 17, 2006 @ 5:48 pm

  • I reckon! If the Spice Girls are in there, I think Jagged Little Pill should be in that list!

    Sarah N — July 17, 2006 @ 7:43 pm

  • Great bands — and very diverse. There are sooo many more that we could add to the list throughout the last four decades, plus! Great list Heather!
    Check out my website!


    Anonymous — July 17, 2006 @ 8:14 pm

  • I’m very suprised . . . that list is actually good. Sure, there are a couple of flubs, including the fact that the influence of the priorly mentioned Spice Girls is not heard today. Dylan probably should have topped the list, because he brought rock and roll something it previously lacked – substance. But I guess he doesn’t have that one album that changed music, he just has several. British lists are always funny though; as biased as those of Americans.

    Sal — July 17, 2006 @ 10:30 pm

  • Ahh, Marvin Gaye. You know, that man never said a swear word in one of his song’s (But probably said something foul when his daddy shot him.)

    Good list BTW

    Gamer C. — July 18, 2006 @ 12:11 am

  • sgt, pepper’s is the most over-wrought, overrated album ever. it is criminal to rank bob dylan’s bringing it all back home lower than the beatles. if it wasn’t for dylan the beatles would have continued singing yeah yeah yeah and flipping their idiot moptops around. dylan changed everything!

    Anonymous — July 18, 2006 @ 9:07 am

  • Hi Heather…. HAH! You are brave. I ran this very same challenge on Ryan’s myspace page –> http://www.myspace.com/stinkingbadges
    and got into such trouble that I retreated after just a week.

    Ok – now with my opinion…. Here are the flaws….

    How is it really possible that only one Bob Dylan album is listed as most influential? ((I mean, seriously – this borders on misdeed…))

    A further review of the list raises this question: How can there be so FEW classic rock albums with influence listed when FIFTY slots are available????!!!

    Now don’t get me wrong…. (Heheh) I love this kind of stuff and have seen High Fidelity a dozen times! Everyone should make lists.

    Ryan of the RSL blog — July 19, 2006 @ 10:21 pm

  • No punk, but there are Spice Girls, with their tremendous influence. Excellent list, very realistic.

    Anonymous — July 19, 2006 @ 10:44 pm

  • Its hard to argue with the intangibles, like influence. But in some ways the list is a bit ridiculous. Many of the influential albums are arbitrary. I don’t mean just in taste, but in occurrence. Many groups were exploring with similar sounds, but one would get picked up first. Pink Floyd walked into EMI just after the Beatles did. And were passed up. What if it had been the other way around.

    Much of the sound any of these groups created had to do with the technology available. The Beatles pushed the limit with what they had, but so did early Elvis using tape delay on guitars and Gospel sound for vocals. In both cases the powers the be were looking for this sound already.

    The Velvet Underground brought you living room rock, but 4 track tape technology was soon to be in every bands hand. Surely something similar would hit.

    I feel music would be different now if you got rid of all of these 50 albums and artists. But would it be that different?

    Infinite monkeys. Infinite microphones.

    Nooshaji — July 20, 2006 @ 7:06 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

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