These essential rock albums are reaching the grand old age of 50 this year.
The music of 1967 had a huge influence over the new year. The Beatles’ highly rated Sgt. Pepper concept album could be found in the fabric of many of the new records. The year before had been a great time for experimenting and psychedelic drugs were used to broaden their creative minds. Even though this created some great sounds, the excessive drugs were beginning to make musicians go insane. While seasoned musicians began to crack, new artists were being born and soon to become household names.
The Notorious Byrd Brothers – The Byrds
At the end of 1967, Byrds founder and guitarist David Crosby was becoming as irritating as those people who make tea with milk before the hot water. His on-stage rants about LSD and politics may have sounded very chíc for the ’60s but it was unsurprisingly annoying for the band. Crosby was (in an unbrotherly manner) thrown out, and the half-written Notorious was finished without him. The result sounds heavily influenced by the current popularity of psychedelic rock. There are elements of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper merged with their love of country music, drugs and experimental sound effects of guns.
Vincebus Eruptum – Blue Cheer
Blue Cheer stomped onto the rock ‘n’ roll stage with their brand of loud, bluesy, monstrous rock. Vincebus Eruptum was their debut, now branded as one of the very first heavy metal albums. The rock ‘n’ roll trio made this illustrious recipe for tinnitus… and boy, it’s worth bursting an eardrum for.
White Light/White Heat – The Velvet Underground
After the flop of their banana-printed debut (now widely enjoyed), the band fired their silver-haired manager Andy Warhol and said farewell to British songstress Nico. The Velvet Underground returned with the more experimental White Heat. Songwriter Lou Reed wrote a melange of Avante Garde songs about orgies and amphetamines. His approach to music seemed more like art and White Light/White Heat was his pièce de résistance.
Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf
The Los Angeles band Steppenwolf released their impressive debut and ended a brilliant January for music. The self-titled record contains some of the band’s most successful songs like ‘The Pusher’ and, of course, ‘Born To Be Wild’. And yet, there is still so much more on this album to keep you doing your best shoulder-dance. Like their thunderous version of ‘Hootchie Cootchie Man’ or the tantalisingly brilliant opener ‘Sookie, Sookie’… Steppenwolf will have you screaming YES one way or another.
Fleetwood Mac By Fleetwood Mac
By February, Fleetwood Mac had arrived. Their self-titled debut was a success and flew to the top of the charts. The sound is very different to the Fleetwood Mac you may know from the ’70s. Fleetwood began as an all-male blues band, founded by Peter Green. His unique style of playing in Fleetwood Mac caught the attention of many other musicians and critics. And when they made their second 1968 album Mr Wonderful, everyone knew that the band were in it for the long-haul.
Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake By Small Faces
The successful ’60s band Small Faces released their own psychedelic concept album adorning a mock-up cover design of a Liverpool tobacco brand. Odgens‘ is split into two sides; one heavy rock and one a musical story. This fabulous fable centres around a boy in search for the meaning of life, and finding solace in a magical fly. Although unusual, the record still remains a firm favourite for music fans and even the title track was featured on Grand Theft Auto V.
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly
The summer had arrived with the sprangling of organs, spiralling guitar riffs and the machismo voice of Doug Ingle. Iron Butterfly captured the essence of the late ’60s, from the hippie themes of ‘Flower And Beads’ to the almost 20-minute-long title track. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is vital for channelling your inner-hippie.
Friends – The Beach Boys
In June, the sunniest band in music released a cheerful collection of songs in the form of Friends. Friends is said to be heavily inspired by a transcendental meditation trip to India and is crammed with vomit-inducing child-like themes such as little birds and friendship. It contained the first songwriting contribution from Dennis Wilson with ‘Little Bird’. Brother and Pet Sounds visionary Brian Wilson took a bit more of a back seat on this record. Maybe, that wasn’t such a good idea.
A Saucerful Of Secrets – Pink Floyd
After the success of their debut, songwriter and frontman Syd Barrett’s behaviour became increasingly worrying. Intense staring, chaotic live performances and a love for LSD. His bandmates likened his actions to someone suffering from schizophrenia. So, Pink Floyd recruited David Gilmour and decided to fire their main songwriter Barrett at the beginning of 1968. A Saucerful Of Secrets is the only Floyd album to contain all five members and has only one song written by Barrett- ‘Jugband Blues’. The record company and critics claimed that Floyd had lost their songwriting genius. Little did they know, it was just the beginning.
Waiting For The Sun – The Doors
After a successful debut and a seminal follow-up, The Doors were now on album number three. Although it is a breezy, summery record, many thought the band had not progressed musically since 1967. The band put it down to using the best of Jim Morrison’s scribblings and poetic thoughts being used up on previous records. But 50 years on, ‘Hello, I Love You’ is a staple Morrison track and Waiting For The Sun is a much adored Doors album.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Fantasy Records offered the four men a contract on the condition that they scrapped their terrible current name ‘The Golliwogs’. The men keenly changed their name to Creedence Clearwater Revival and, what’s more, they hastily signed over the copyrights to all of their songs. Big mistake. They produced some gems for their debut like ‘Suzie Q’ or ‘Porterville’- which were bound to do well. CCR’s debut was just the beginning of frontman John Fogerty’s songwriting journey.
My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair… But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows – Tyrannosaurus Rex
It was time for the world to be introduced to the genius of Marc Bolan. That vibrating voice… the mystical lyrics… that corkscrew hair! Back in 1968, Bolan was performing acoustically as a duo with Steve Peregrin Took. Tyrannosaurus Rex (later shortened to T. Rex) showcased Bolan’s ability to write songs even though he reportedly couldn’t play an electric guitar and could barely play the acoustic. But by no means was this one of the best T. Rex records, but it’s certainly where a adult star was born.
Shades Of Purple – Deep Purple
While Bolan was steadily making his way up the ladder, Deep Purple rocketed up. The original line up of Ritchie Blackmore, Rod Evans, Nick Simper, Ian Paice and Jon Lord created the debut Shades Of Purple. The cover of Joe South’s song ‘Hush’ was extremely modern for its time and helpfully boosted the album sales. Although not well received in the UK, the US lapped Deep Purple up like a “vanilla fudge” and paved the way for them to create more ‘shades’ of Deep Purple.
Wheels Of Fire – Cream
Supergroup stars Cream released their third record and the world’s first platinum-selling double album Wheels Of Fire. It features the noteworthy hit ‘White Room’ which was composed by Jack Bruce and poet Pete Brown. The contributions from the other members Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton and Mike Taylor give the album a sense of variety. It is truly one of the greatest albums of all time, from the impatience of ‘Passing The Time’ to the race of ‘Deserted Cities Of The Heart’. But how could it not be… did you see the lineup?
Cheap Thrills – Big Brother & The Holding Company
The Janis Joplin-led Big Brother band had been going strong since the Summer Of Love and was rolling in the success of their debut. Cheap Thrills captures some of their best gems such as ‘Piece Of My Heart’, ‘Summertime’ and ‘Ball And Chain’. But for me, one of the highlights is the song ‘I Need A Man To Love’ which was penned by Joplin herself and guitarist Sam Andrews. Cheap Thrills naturally soared in popularity, but not long after, Joplin left the band to pursue a solo career.
Picturesque Matchstickable Messages From The Status Quo – Status Quo
With a fist full of covers and a huge psychedelic rock influence, (The) Status Quo was born. The Francis Rossi-penned song ‘Pictures Of Matchstick Men’ projected the band into the rock ‘n’ roll consciousness. The track hit number seven in the UK charts and brought their debut album along for the ride. Picturesque didn’t do as well as they had hoped, but it was the beginnings of a much-adored band.
Electric Ladyland – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
As autumn drew in, The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s third and final record Electric Ladyland was revealed. And what a way to bow out. The album features their iconic cover of Dylan’s ‘Along The Watchtower’, ‘Crosstown Traffic’ and ‘Voodoo Child’. Electric Ladyland took several takes and a lot of time to complete. Hendrix was a perfectionist, much to the dismay of the people working with him. It is also the only Experience album to have been produced by Hendrix and indeed, his only number one album.
This Was – Jethro Tull
It seems that 1967 was the time for a lot of iconic debuts, including the introduction of Jethro Tull. This Was was recorded with just £1200 and is the only Tull album that features Mick Abrahams. Abrahams’ inclusion seemed to cape the album in jazz and blues ingredients. The band quickly shed these influences when Abrahams left, prompting many to make a link between the band’s disagreement and the title of the album.
The Beatles (The White Album) – The Beatles
Where do I start? Tensions rose. Yoko Ono had arrived in the studio. Producer George Martin took a break and McCartney, Lennon, Starr and Harrison were all working on other projects outside The Beatles. Despite all of that, this double album is a work of art. Inspired by the same transcendental meditation course that the Beach Boys went on, The Beatles produced 30 songs, with only 16 of them featuring the whole band performing together. The resulting material is a pick and mix of musical styles from the 1920s ‘Honey Pie’ to Clapton’s depressed guitar in ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. The White Album has a song for everyone, even the kids….
Beggars Banquet – The Rolling Stones
Following on shortly from their Beatles friends new release, The Rolling Stones released their seventh British studio album and their last with founding member Brian Jones. Though they had to contend with Brian’s drug-induced-absence during recording, Banquet is a trophy for the Richards/Jagger songwriting partnership. After the disappointment of their 1967 album, Banquet saw the band return to their blues-rock influences and hone in on their own sound. The perfect end to a great year in music.
What do you think is the best album of 1968? Let us know in the comments below!