Songfactors Choice: Groundbreakers

Songfactor's Choice is a forum on our Message Boards where the citizens of Songfacts decide the top selections in a particular category. In this episode: Groundbreakers. The 10 albums that led the way in music history.
1. Revolver - The Beatles

Released in the Summer of 1966, with a disturbing art cover by Klaus Voorman, Revolver showed the rising of a new style. A first step into psychedelia.

An album with sounds from India melting with Motown style, a childish melody or a nice enchanting tune, tabla and harsh electric guitar, piano or maracas, simple love songs or tripping lines, Revolver told the world pop music was going to take a deep turn only one year later. ~ Edna

2. Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley

Released by RCA Victor, the album Elvis Presley popped on the scene in 1956. At that time it was called "Rockabilly." Elvis had been around on Sun Records, but RCA really promoted him when they took over his contract, and when the Elvis Presley album was released people really sat up and took notice. I think that, more than the album, it was Elvis himself who was the groundbreaking factor. I remember that, along with his voice and the songs, we liked to watch his wild gyrations, which were considered obscene at the time. It isn't any big deal now but it sure was back then.

Everything about the album and the artist was different than anything done before. Although there were others who recorded in the style called Rockabilly, this album was,in my opinion, groundbreaking because of the artist. ~ Karma

3. Tommy - The Who

Tommy may not have been the first, but it was without a doubt the most influential rock opera. To this day, it is still gaining The Who fans, while its rock opera precursors are slowly gathering dust in collectors' forgotten basements. At a time when most of The Who's contemporaries were still riding the psychedelic wave and adding one more distorted jangly riff and one more tambourine to their songs, in terms of music they delivered one of the most sober and purest albums of the time.

Arguably, Pete Townshend got too caught up in his own brilliance to really get the story across, but while it may take a few listens to understand just what he is on about, there's a lot more to it than you might think. Townshend himself described it as "a metaphorical story of different states of consciousness." And it is precisely this story which makes Tommy so ground-breaking - an entire album used as a story-telling device. Narrating a young man's journey filled with spiritual, moral, and fantastical elements had never before garnered such a vast amount of attention, or even meant this much to a band. And even if you want to argue that the Pretty Things and Small Faces were a couple of months faster - they themselves only rode on the coattails of The Who's mini-opera, "A Quick One, While He's Away." ~ The Seeker

4. Are You Experienced? - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Are You Experienced? is one of the most ear-catching debut albums in the history of rock music, and one of the ultimate albums of the psychedelic era. On Are You Experienced? Jimi Hendrix blended a variety of elements of 1960s rock into music that sounded both ahead of its time and embedded in the best backgrounds of rock, blues, pop, and soul. It was his unbelievably talented guitar work, of course, that inspired a whole new generation of guitarists to alter their feedback and distortion to imitate Jimi's style. Most of the album's tracks are amongst Jimi Hendrix's very best; it may be debated that he would continue to develop at a fast pace throughout the rest of his short career, but Jimi would never exceed Are You Experienced? in terms of consistent excellence. ~ Mindcrime

5. The Complete Recordings - Robert Johnson

There's only 29 songs + 12 alternate takes that were recorded at 2 sessions in 1936 and 1937, but most bands from the British Invasion and the American bands of the 1960s used to start out covering blues songs. Some of the rock icons that were inspired by Robert Johnson were Jimmy Page, Elvis Presley, Keith Richards, and Eric Clapton. And their music has had a great impact on blues, country, pop, rock and heavy metal.

As his playing partner, Johnny Shines, put it, "Some of the things that Robert did with the guitar affected the way everybody played. He'd do rundowns and turnbacks. He'd do repeats. None of this was being done. In the early '30s, boogie on the guitar was rare, something to be heard. Because of Robert, people learned to complement themselves, carrying their own bass as their own lead with this one instrument." He remains to this day one of the most influential progenitors of rock and blues music. ~ Bluesboy

6. After School Session - Chuck Berry

In 1957, Mr. Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry released a little half-hour record called After School Sessions, and changed music forever. As the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Web site aptly declares: "While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together." These ten little rock n' roll songs provided the template for everything that came after. Even a few guitarists in England, namely John Lennon and Keith Richards, managed to hear this new music, and used the blueprint set down to launch rock and roll into the forefront, where it never really left. So to anybody who ever picked up a guitar, or just likes listening to one, you owe a big thank you to Chuck Berry. ~ The Lizard

7. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys

In researching what I was going to write here, I've discovered several things. First, that this album is almost totally Brian Wilson, from conception to execution, with Tony Asher collaborating on the writing. That the idea for it stemmed from Wilson's introduction to and use of LSD, and that it is most certainly his response to The Beatles, both Revolver and Rubber Soul (depending on the source). I've learned that although at the time of its release it wasn't commercially successful, it has become the most acclaimed album of all time by critics and journalists, and is #2 on the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Elton John, and Bob Dylan have all gone on record calling it a major influence, and one of the best albums of all time. George Martin has said that Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band would never have existed without Pet Sounds. All this acclaim is almost entirely due to Brian Wilson, his conception, his songs, his production. Wilson's production and his use of the studio as an instrument (a la Phil Spector) was the final piece of the puzzle. I can't discover any one thing that caused this to be such an influential and groundbreaking album, other than the fact that it is a testament to the genius that is Brian Wilson. ~ cyberjudge/Lucky

8. Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk

It's not their first album, it wasn't even their most commercially successful one, but I think it's Kraftwerk's most important album.

While their precursors Autobahn and Radio-activity were a bit more experimental, this here is a round, fully electronic listening experience, influenced by classical music, catchy repeated melodic themes, and vocoded vocals make for a hypnotic (in a good sense) experience.

The title track is, similarly to Autobahn, made to let you feel like you're on a train ride. From station to station / back to Dusseldorf City / Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie (who both lived in Berlin at that time and were good friends of the band).

But besides these two, the record has had a tremendous influence in the following decade's music. Without it there would be no electronic music as we know today, from synth-pop to house and techno.

Fun fact: this is one of only 2 (!) albums by non English speaking artists in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" (the other being "Buena Vista Social Club"). ~ Farin

9. Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

Dark Side of the Moon was released on 17 March 1973 in the U.S. and 24 March 1973 in the UK. It is a concept album that portrays the human condition from birth to death.

I chose to use Dark Side as a groundbreaking album for Pink Floyd mainly because I feel it was their most popular groundbreaking album.

To the general public it is probably better known then Meddle or Animals, or some of their even earlier albums DS builds upon. DS was more polished and radio friendly then some of their earlier work. ~ Lea

10."Chirping" Crickets, The - Buddy Holly & the Crickets

This album is groundbreaking in part because Buddy Holly wrote his own songs. It was rare back in 1957 to write your own songs. Buddy Holly and the Crickets also went into the studio and tinkered around until they got the sound they wanted, and that was unique. He was the first "Rock" singer to double track his voice & guitar. On this album he features the band singing background vocals.

Holly looked like the kid next door instead of a rock and roll star, and provided inspiration and motivation to many up-and-coming bands, and to many young people in the '50s, like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and the Hollies.

Also, the Don McLean song "American Pie" has kept the legacy of Buddy Holly at the forefront with the line "the day the music died." ~ Mindcrime/Bluesboy

November 16, 2009
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Comments: 14

  • Peter from Newcastle, United Kingdomnight at the opera was the album that really launched Queen,Rumours that brought fleetwood mac to the fore & black sabbath album any Led zep
  • DannyHow can highway 61 revisited not be on there???
  • Lee from Tampa BayPS: what about pink floyd's a piper at the gates of dawn? OMG! you can't leave that out. makes dark side sound sterile.
  • Lee from Tampa Bayi like these comments. yes sgt. pepper's. as far as singles: good vibrations, strawberry fields/penny lane, paperback writer, day tripper, ruby tuesday .... these songs got airplay. there are probably others that didn't. but these songs totally blew me away in the 66/67. i was like 10. actually i did research and that year was a jubilee year. the next one starts in 2015. the beatles had a string of singles in those years where the next one blew you away more than the last one. continuing with i am the walrus and hello goodbye. it was inspired, one way or another. and the stones did some unbelievable stuff that didn't get as much airplay. like she's a rainbow and 2000 light years from home. satisfaction was a complete monster hit, a total mind/body zap. i loved the psychedelic era. the bands dropped it as fast as they picked it up. too bad. i think it messed their minds up too badly. brian wilson never really recovered. or brian jones. maybe not even john lennon.
  • Robin from Chicagono black sabbath? again metal gets no part of any spotlight... sad
  • Joe from OhioSo I guess that crazy little trio Nirvana didn't change music, or Black Sabbath. Didn't they invent Metal? Sounds pretty groundbreaking
  • Cindy from Stamford, Connecticut, UsaI think Rubber Soul was the groundbreaking album for the Beatles.
  • Patrick from GermanyI think 10 albums are not enough to chose the most groundbreaking albums!
  • Neal from Hooterville, Mi"In the Court of the Crimson King" by King Crimson... the first prog-rock album.
  • Steve from AustraliaThe dark horse maybe, but the first Velvet Underground album. Its influence has been gradual but huge, on Bowie for a start.
  • Cameron from Scotland"Revolver" over "Sgt. Pepper's"? C'mon guys. "Revolver"'s as good album but "Sgt. Pepper" was much more groundbreaking, which is what this list's about
  • Jay from EnglandOr, "Rust Never Sleeps", "Nevermind"...
  • Jonneo from OklahomaBlonde On Blonde; Zep IV; Rumours
  • Ross from Aberdeen, ScotlandWhat about "Never Mind the Bollocks" or "Is This It"? They both had a massive effect on the music.
see more comments

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