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Top 10 Most Important Albums in Rock History

VO: Matt Campbell
Script Written by Q.V Hough. Timeless music and innovative concepts. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Most Important Albums In Rock History. For this list, we are looking at rock albums that changed the face of music and influenced the world from beginning to end. Since we’re focusing specifically on innovative albums, we have excluded Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Robert Johnson, as they were more known for their singles rather than their albums. Special thanks to our users Jimmy Washington and radon548 for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Q.V. Hough.

Top 10 Most Important Albums in Rock History


Timeless music and innovative concepts. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Important Albums In Rock History.

For this list, we are looking at rock albums that changed the face of music and influenced the world from beginning to end. Since we’re focusing specifically on innovative albums, we have excluded Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Robert Johnson, as they were more known for their singles rather than their albums.

#10: “OK Computer” (1997)
Radiohead

Just as Britpop slowly drifted away and the Digital Age opened the door to a brave new world, Radiohead released an album that explored the themes of fear, melancholy and insanity. While critics have praised the technical aspects of OK Computer, the visceral experience affected those anticipating a new way of life and others who simply needed something to identify with. Call it what you want, Radiohead’s iconic album, along with their 2000’s follow up Kid A, waved goodbye to the 20th century and ushered in a new style that would transform alternative rock.

#9: “London Calling” (1979)
The Clash

In the mid to late 70s punk rock was on fire, partially due to the release of The Ramones self-titled album in 1976. Although that album is seen as a staple of punk rock, it was The Clash’s London Calling that would have a greater influence on the genre. Incorporating countless reggae, rock and jazz influences along with socially conscious lyrics, London Calling acknowledged a shift from rebellion to a post-punk awakening. To top it all off, the immensely popular album cover put a stamp on the package, as The Clash launched to the U.S. to spread their message and eclectic sound.

#8: “Nevermind” (1991)
Nirvana

If glam rock was still cool in the early 90s, it was only because this early grunge album hadn't dropped yet. There’s no way Kurt Cobain and his Nirvana band mates could have predicted the societal impact of Nevermind, but their sobering and thrashing style was a musical magnet that reached a new generation of rockers fed up with the state of music. Despite the initial lukewarm reception, Nevermind exploded across America faster than hair bands could say “leather pants” or “hair spray”. As a result, alternative rock reached the masses and Kurt Cobain became the unwilling King of the Seattle grunge scene.

#7: “Highway 61 Revisited” (1965)
Bob Dylan

Never trust someone who doesn't like Bob Dylan. This revolutionary album marked a shift from acoustic to electric and followed up the equally iconic album Bringing It All Back Home. Even before the release of Highway 61 Revisited, fans voraciously expressed their disdain with the change in sound, which was documented at Dylan’s infamous Newport Folk Festival appearance. But like all innovative minds, Bobby D had introduced something new, with even his album title referencing Dylan’s musical journey from his folk roots to the new blues inspired sound. Highway 61 Revisited combined sensation lyrics with some of the best musicians that Dylan could find, which made for a musical trip for the ages.

#6: “Pet Sounds” (1966)
The Beach Boys

Before there was psychedelic rock there was Pet Sounds. This melodic production written entirely by Brian Wilson has often been recognized as one of rock’s first concept albums and changed how people listened to music. The title came from the strange yet brilliant sound design, while the lyrical content documented a man’s journey through all the trials and tribulations of a relationship. Pet Sounds changed pop music forever and many of today’s artists such as Radiohead and Animal Collective cite the album as a major influence. "God Only Knows" what music would be like if this album had never been released.

#5: “Black Sabbath” (1970)
Black Sabbath

Originally garnering extremely negative reviews from publications like The Village Voice, this pivotal record has now become identified with the birth of heavy metal. While Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck were already melting faces off in the early 70s, a misfit group of Birmingham musicians rolled into a studio and knocked out a classic in one day. Featuring influences from blues rock, the album has also been credited with giving birth to the stoner and goth rock genres. It wasn't cute or contrived, it was pure rock with a visit from some kind of musical devil.

#4: “Are You Experienced?” (1967)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience

This album knocked hippies on their ass and made conservative America pay attention to a new brand of music. While the style of Jimi Hendrix had evolved during the mid-60s, it was his collaboration with a band of British musicians that spawned one of rock’s trippiest experiences. Hendrix wrote surrealistic lyrics of love and alien takeovers, while audiences gently wept as his extravagant guitar playing made everything disappear. The impressive thing about all of this is that Are You Experienced? was Jimi’s debut album.

#3: “Led Zeppelin IV” (1971)
Led Zeppelin

After a folky third album and heavy criticism from rock journalists, Led Zeppelin did the unthinkable and dropped an album with no lettering on the album cover. Musically, the 8-track composition produced classics like “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll” and of course, the timeless “Stairway to Heaven.” By combining folk with heavy metal, Led Zeppelin created a unique sound that stood on its own and promoted the idea of musicians taking major risks. “Led Zeppelin IV” was the realization of medieval magic and musical madness.

#2: “The Dark Side of the Moon” (1973)
Pink Floyd

While bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin inspired head-banging in the early 70s, the introspective lyrics and exquisite sound design of The Dark Side of the Moon led stoners to spark one up, turn off the lights and lose themselves for 45 minutes. Despite the departure of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd managed to put together a progressive masterpiece with ingenious sound mixing and a little bit of patience. Most importantly, the themes of human detachment instantly connected with listeners. That wouldn't be it for influential Pink Floyd albums however, as the band released another progressive rock classic with the 1979 release of The Wall.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Master of Puppets” (1986)
Metallica

“Rage Against the Machine” (1992)
Rage Against the Machine

“Appetite For Destruction” (1987)
Guns N’ Roses

“Exile on Main Street” (1972)
The Rolling Stones

“Horses” (1975)
Patti Smith

“Born to Run” (1975)
Bruce Springsteen

#1: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967)
The Beatles

Once Paul McCartney heard Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, he knew the next Beatles album had to be something special. As a result, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band became one of the first “art rock” albums. By taking on alter egos for the production, The Beatles could explore unknown territories, experiment with sound design and simply have fun. The final product stunned critics, and the lyrical double entendres were perfect for the blossoming counterculture that was taking over America. “The White Album” and “Abbey Road” would come later, but this creative dynamo changed music more than any other piece of music.

So, do you agree with our selections? What is your favorite album in rock history? For more mind-blowing Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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