How could he possibly leave out Blue Cheer–and who the heck is Vashti Bunyan ?
As my essay explains, we’re covering the most seminal rock albums (not blues, not soul, not pure folk) from the era where album sales dominated–beginning with Beatlemania and ending with the advent of the Walkman and cassettes becoming the dominant format. It’s arbitrary, but everything needs a beginning and end point and these are mine.
Albums were chosen based on quality, originality and influence. As these criteria and what constitutes a rock album are completely subjective, I knew people would disagree, and that’s the reason for this space. Let me know which albums you think should–or shouldn’t–be on my list, and why.
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I know you have to set parameters and define yoru genre, but I have a problem with both. By setting yourself up to start with the first Beatles album, you ignore a small but very important set of great rock albums before its release. Some examples:
The Chirpin Critics
Live at the Apollo Theater
The Wham of That Memphis Man
I’d also add that although it is not a rock album per se, that the spirit of rock is so conteined in the soundtrack album to West Side Story that to not include it creates something that doesnt’ really reflect history.
Similarly, by cutting off at 1977, you ignore the year I’d say was the last great year for the LP, 1978, and such great 1979 works as Rust Never Sleeps and Fear of Music. The latter calls attention to your inclusion of the debut Talking Heads album, which I like, but was their worst album. This is because the band improved each step of the way through Speaking in Tongues, and did far more than simply mark time on its last three studio releases. You can ignore 1982 – I think Thriller is overrated, but would note that it was a phenomenon – at your peril, but to ignore 1978 by ending a survey at 1977 is folly.
Hi Steve and thanks for posting. My book doesn’t suggest these are the only important rock records–rather it’s a way of shining a light on some well known and lesser known albums I consider essential. My focus is on seminal albums–albums that changed the conversation and influenced what came afterward, with an emphasis on quality, originality and influence. There is an essay on each album and why it’s important, and artwork for the first pressing from the artist’s country of origin (some extremely rare–see the Sample Pages elsewhere on this site.) As I couldn’t include ever important rock album ever made, I picked an in and out point based on the heyday of the vinyl album. Arbitrary, I admit, but otherwise you’ve got a 1000 page book. Obviously Elvis, Buddy Holly, or James Brown are super influential; they’re just outside the timeframe of the book (though I consider James a soul artist.) Lonnie Mack and The Kingsmen are to me far less influential. But that’s me. If this book sells, the plan is to cover other genres in subsequent ones. I knew people would disagree with my choices and I think that’s a great way to get a dialog started and see what other albums people feel are essential. Feel free to write about one of those you think I missed and I’ll post it. Best, Jeff Gold
Jeff, Well done. I’m feeling like you did the Stones justice. Can’t argue with Aftermath. First album of original songs, not covers. I would have loved to see Let It Bleed and Beggar’s on this list. Exile is a must. I’m sure the Sticky fanatics are out there screaming. Put a gun to my head and I’d pick Exile in a heartbeat.
Thanks Gary. As the Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want but…you’ll get what you need.”. I love the ones you mention, all great albums. But I felt like when push came to shove, if I had only two, these are the ones that best fit the most original/highest quality/most influential criteria.
I have 93 of them but I have never heard of Vashti. I would add in the Kinks Something Else and Village Green and as much as I love OAR, it seems nobody ever got into that album until late in the1990s when it was ‘re-discovered’. I don’t recall it as influential like the Moby Grape album was. And I total agree with Gary about Beggars Banquet. Maybe their finest album next to Aftermath. And the Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo seems more essential and influential than many others. But overall a wonderful list.
It’s great that you’ve got 93 of 101. Check out Vashti, she’s fantastic. I included some albums like hers to turn people onto great music they might not know. I’m no Kinks expert, but music historian and journalist Gene Sculatti and Kinks biographermJon Savage(both contributors to the book) argued persuasively that it HAD to be Face to Face. As for Oar, which I’ve loved since ’73, it’s influenced many–in the book Devendra Banhart speaks eloquently of how it began the low-fi movement, and the tribute More Oar had Robert Plant, Beck, Tom Waits and more covering it. Beggars too is great and as you noticed, Sweetheart is in.
oh sorry you have Sweetheart. Sorry I missed it the first time…
Jeff, well done! The book looks sumptuous and intriguing from the sample pages and I’m really looking forward to getting my copy. Certainly the records you’ve chosen for inclusion put together would make a beautifully concise record collection.
I do have a bit of a problem with a couple of your choices. For me, Radio City is THE Big Star album. The Beatles / Byrds influenced sound by this time has been almost totally deconstructed to make an album of such jagged energy only hinted in some of the tracks on #1 Record. Or to put it another way, Alex was further down the road at that point! The other issue is over the Airplane. Where’s Bathing at Baxter’s? I can’t see the inclusion of both the first two albums and not this one, to me the transatlantic psychedelic counterpoint to Piper at the Gates of Dawn. A truly great record, free-flowing and almost jazz at some point (Dryden, Casady & Kaukonen were all excellent players) and I think one of the few albums of that era to successfully express the drug experience. For the 2nd edition (!) junk Takes Off & get this in!
One other point, there is a significant (to me) sub-genre missing here and that is what you might call jazz-rock or brass-rock and I’m thinking about the Al Kooper led Blood Sweat and Tears in “Child is Father to the Man” and the Electric Flag’s “A Long Time Coming” which at the time were both innovative in their successful fusion of a variety of American musical styles.
Thanks for your comments. I like Radio City better than the first Big Star album myself, but my mandate was seminal records and I once again think the pre Big Star/Big Star leap was bigger than the first album/Radio City leap. As for the Airplane, Takes Off was the first SF sound album, so super important, and Surrealistic Pillow, their first impactful one. As for Brass Rock, a good argument, but I’m not sure that influential…but that’s just me. Anybody else ?
just heard Van Morrison Astral Weeks included but listed as American. He is definitely Irish, Northern Irish specifically and may be also British.
Thanks for your note; I obviously know Van Morrison is Irish. I illustrated the US Warner Bros. version of his Astral Weeks album as it was recorded in the US for a US label, and by that time Van was living in America. So that seemed the most appropriate version to include.
Great book! This may be outside the scope of the book but as far as the origins of the LP go, I wonder whether there is a connection with V Discs from the WWII era. I’ve read that they were originally shellac, of course, resulting in a lot of breakage when sent around the world to the troops. A disc formula was developed (vinylite) which solved the problem. The discs were still 78rpm but that sounds like a pretty clear link to vinyl LPs.
Jeff [and Gene] – many thanks for this, a magnificent book and a great tribute to the rock LP as musical and cultural artefact! I still own and treasure three-quarters of the albums you featured and have listened to most of the 101 in my time. As co-editor of a Jefferson Airplane/Starship fanzine it won’t surprise you to hear that I endorse the case made by Colin Baker for the Airplane’s ‘After Bathing At Baxter’s’ [and I would throw in their ‘Crown Of Creation’ for good measure, both at the expense of ‘…Takes Off’]. There is only a select handful of [pre-1980] albums on my own list of all time great rock albums that didn’t make it into your book… for the record, they are, in addition to the Airplane albums noted above: ‘Open’ by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & the Trinity, ‘Plastic Ono Band’ by John Lennon, Steely Dan’s ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’, Gene Clark’s ‘No Other’ and ‘Blood On The Tracks’ by Bob Dylan [IMHO his best and therefore most essential work].
I love all the early Airplane albums, but my criteria was to include the seminal albums–the ones that changed the conversation. “Takes Off,” as well as being great, was the first album from the San Francisco scene and as such bears including in my book. The world was different before and after it. I’m with you on “Open,” Gene Clark and “Blood on the Tracks” but Steely Dan leave me cold–which was probably the idea for them. Thanks !
Damn! Shows what happens when I don’t make time to catch up with you!! I’m so, SO pleased to see that you’ve done this, old pal–can hardly wait to get a copy of it. Kudos and congratulations on doing something that you, and ONLY you, could do with so much energy and love. All best, DM
A Blinding Read. Thoroughly Enjoyed It. Beautifully Presentend +well worth The Price Tag. Though Your Not Going To Please Everybody. 1 record I Cant Believe Youve Missed Is Nuggets Vol 1 from 1972 Though I Can Only Presume You Werent Including Compilations Though I think An Exception Could Have Been Made For That. There Are Plenty Of Other Records That i Could Have Chosen As Well But Thats Just Down To Personal Choice (Tim Buckleys Greetings From LA, Sly Stones Theres A Riot Goin on + Grams Grevious Angel) But Thats What Makes Music So Great – OPINIONS. And You Did Specify Seminal So I Can See Where you Were coming From. I would Have Struggled With 151 Essential Rock Records So Youve got To Be Applauded For Your Efforts. Look Forward To Vol 2.
Thanks for your comments, and you’ve got it–no compilations, thought I do revere Nuggets, and yep, just a way to get a dialog going and turn people onto some things they might not know. Best, Jeff
I just received your book for my XXs birthday and I haven’t put it down yet. Some of the ones that stand out for me are the BEANO album from John Mayall/Eric Clapton, which changed the way I approached the guitar for the rest of my life, Moby Grapes first guitar army, and of course early Stones. You said in the book the the albums were chosen on quality, originality, and influence. Given that, I can’t help but wonder why Lynyrd Skynyrd was not mentioned. Either one of there first two albums had a major impact.
Still love the book.
Thanks. Never have been a Skynyrd fan, but different strokes ! Glad you enjoyed the book.
I found out about you and your book through the Dust & Grooves website. I ran out to buy it right away. I just received it in the mail a few days ago and have been slowly digesting every page. It is a much larger book than I expected. An excellent reference for any record collector. My collection starts from the 1980’s with some 1960’s and 1970’s, so this will be a great help. Thanks for putting this together. Are you planning on doing a follow up to include 1978 to present?
Thanks for the kind words–not sure what we’ll do next but hopefully will do another one ! All the best, Jeff
The Doors’ Hard Rock Cafe and LA Woman are better than 2/3 of the albums on this list…..
Not in my opinion, though they’re both excellent albums. But hey, it’s just personal taste. best, Jeff
‘I’m having that’ were the first words on picking up your great book. Most of the albums have passed through my hands, my turntable and my ears at some time or other. Great to have a refresher. Why no Santana? Surely either of the first two albums, Santana or Abraxas qualify as seminal? The use of Latin and rock wasn’t on the airwaves when they were released. Loved the thought that the original release was of the time when the artist was at their prime. So was I when the first Santana album was released.
Surely an important band but not one I love. best, Jeff
The Who-Who’s Next
Spirit-12 dreams of Dr. Sardonicus
Deep Purple-Machine Head
The Doors-LA Woman
The Beatles-Abbey Road
Hendrix-Axis Bold as love
Country Joe and the fish-Electric Music…
Rolling Stones-Sticky Fingers(Limit reached?)
and last time i checked Neil Young, the Band, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen are CANADIAN Artists.
other than that, it was a very enjoyable read and I agree with most of your choices.
Thanks for your note. I agree most of the albums you listed are classics,
but everybody’s got different favorites. As for the Canadian artists, as I
state in my opening essay, “in the case of someone like Jimi Hendrix, who
was American, but formed his group and signed his record contract with a
British company, we’ve chosen the country most identified with the artist–
in the case of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the UK.
As Neil, the Band, Joni and Leonard Cohen all lived in the US, were signed to US companies,
and made their recordings in the US, I think the answer was obvious.
All the best,
Love your book – great reading and the photo’s, layouts and essays all excellent – thanks. Main omissions for me are Plastic Ono Band – John Lennon – a very influential, brave and original record, that at the very least was an influence on Nirvana.
Also, could Bowie’s Station to Station – such a departure (again) from the previous Young Americans and brought disco-tinged Krautrock to the mainstream. Others worth a thought – the Faces – ‘a nod’s as good as a wink’ or Rod’s solo ‘Every picture tells a story’ which really broke him as a major league star.
Thanks Steve. I like Station to Station but like the ones I chose–Man Who Sold The World and Ziggy much better, and I think they’re more original, as I was listening to Kraftwerk at the time. But I appreciate your comment.
Great Book Man ! What a great ride into the past ! Very Cool ! I run http://RecordsAlbums.com and I really enjoyed this book. Proves there’s always room to learn more.