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50 Albums That Changed The World

July 29, 2006 | Music
Quoting the UK's Observer newspaper, Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper has named Elvis' debut album, Elvis Presley #9 on a list of 50 Albums that changed the world.

"The King's first album was also the first example of how to cash in on a teenage craze. With Presleymania at full tilt, RCA simultaneously released a single, a four-track EP and an album, all with the same cover of Elvis in full, demented cry. They got their first million dollar album, the fans got a mix of rock-outs like 'Blue Suede Shoes', lascivious R&B and syrupy ballads. Without this ... no King, no rock and roll madness, no Beatles first album, no pop sex symbols.

The Top 10 of the 50 albums that changed music:

1 The Velvet Underground and Nico
The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)
Though it sold poorly on its initial release, this has since become arguably the most influential rock album of all time. The first art-rock album, it merges dreamy, druggy balladry ('Sunday Morning') with raw and uncompromising sonic experimentation ('Venus in Furs'), and is famously clothed in that Andy Warhol-designed 'banana' sleeve. Lou Reed's lyrics depicted a Warholian New York demi-monde where hard drugs and sexual experimentation held sway. Shocking then, and still utterly transfixing.

Without this, there'd be no ... Bowie, Roxy Music, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Jesus and Mary Chain, among many others.

2 The Beatles
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

There are those who rate Revolver (1966) or 'the White Album' (1968) higher. But Sgt Pepper's made the watertight case for pop music as an art form in itself; until then, it was thought the silly, transient stuff of teenagers. At a time when all pop music was stringently manufactured, these Paul McCartney-driven melodies and George Martin-produced whorls of sound proved that untried ground was not only the most fertile stuff, but also the most viable commercially. It defined the Sixties and - for good and ill - gave white rock all its airs and graces.

Without this ... pop would be a very different beast.

3 Kraftwerk
Trans-Europe Express (1977)

Released at the height of punk, this sleek, urbane, synthesised, intellectual work shared little ground with its contemporaries. Not that it wanted to. Kraftwerk operated from within a bubble of equipment and ideas which owed more to science and philosophy than mere entertainment. Still, this paean to the beauty of mechanised movement and European civilisation was a moving and exquisite album in itself. And, through a sample on Afrika Bambaataa's seminal 'Planet Rock', the German eggheads joined the dots with black American electro, giving rise to entire new genres.

Without this... no techno, no house, no Pet Shop Boys. The list is endless.

Straight Outta Compton (1989)

Like a darker, more vengeful Public Enemy, NWA (Niggaz With Attitude) exposed the vicious realities of the West Coast gang culture on their lurid, fluent debut. Part aural reportage (sirens, gunshots, police radio), part thuggish swagger, Compton laid the blueprint for the most successful musical genre of the last 20 years, gangsta rap. It gave the world a new production mogul in Dr Dre, and gave voice to the frustrations that flared up into the LA riots in 1992. As befits an album boasting a song called 'Fuck tha Police', attention from the FBI, the Parents' Music Resource Centre and our own Metropolitan Police's Obscene Publications Squad sealed its notoriety.

Without this ... no Eminem, no 50 Cent, no Dizzee Rascal.

5 Robert Johnson
King of the Delta Blues Singers (1961)

Described by Eric Clapton as 'the most important blues singer that ever lived', Johnson was an intensely private man, whose short life and mysterious death created an enduring mythology. He was said to have sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in Mississippi in exchange for his finger-picking prowess. Johnson recorded a mere 29 songs, chief among them 'Hellhound on My Trail', but when it was finally issued, King of the Delta Blues Singers became one of the touchstones of the British blues scene.

Without this ... no Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin.

6 Marvin Gaye
What's Going On (1971)

Gaye's career as tuxedo-clad heart-throb gave no hint he would cut a concept album dealing with civil rights, the Vietnam war and ghetto life. Equally startling was the music, softening and double-tracking Gaye's falsetto against a wash of bubbling percussion, swaying strings and chattering guitars. Motown boss Berry Gordy hated it but its disillusioned nobility caught the public mood. Led by the oft-covered 'Inner City Blues', it ushered in an era of socially aware soul.

Without this ... no Innervisions (Stevie Wonder) or Superfly (Curtis Mayfield).

7 Patti Smith
Horses (1975)

Who would have thought punk rock was, in part, kickstarted by a girl? Poet, misfit and New York ligger, Patti channelled the spirits of Keith Richards, Bob Dylan and Rimbaud into female form, and onto an album whose febrile energy and Dionysian spirit helped light the touchpaper for New York punk. The Robert Mapplethorpe-shot cover, in which a hungry, mannish Patti stares down the viewer, defiantly broke with the music industry's treatment of women artists (sexy or girl-next-door) and still startles today.

Without this ... no REM, PJ Harvey, Razorlight. And no powerful female pop icons like Madonna.

8 Bob Dylan
Bringing it All Back Home (1965)

The first folk-rock album? Maybe. Certainly the first augury of what was to come with the momentous 'Like a Rolling Stone'. Released in one of pop's pivotal years, Bringing it All Back Home fused hallucinatory lyricism and, on half of its tracks, a raw, ragged rock'n'roll thrust. On the opening song, 'Subterranean Homesick Blues', Dylan manages to pay homage to the Beats and Chuck Berry, while anticipating the surreal wordplay of rap.

Without this ... put simply, on this album and the follow-up, Highway 61 Revisited, Dylan invented modern rock music.

9 Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley (1956)

The King's first album was also the first example of how to cash in on a teenage craze. With Presleymania at full tilt, RCA simultaneously released a single, a four-track EP and an album, all with the same cover of Elvis in full, demented cry. They got their first million dollar album, the fans got a mix of rock-outs like 'Blue Suede Shoes', lascivious R&B and syrupy ballads.

Without this ... no King, no rock and roll madness, no Beatles first album, no pop sex symbols.

10 The Beach Boys
Pet Sounds (1966)

Of late, Pet Sounds has replaced Sgt Pepper's as the critics' choice of Greatest Album of All Time. Composed by the increasingly reclusive Brian Wilson while the rest of the group were touring, it might well have been a solo album. The beauty resides not just in its compositional genius and instrumental invention, but in the elaborate vocal harmonies that imbue these sad songs with an almost heartbreaking grandeur.

Without this ... where to start? The Beatles acknowledged its influence; Dylan said of Brian Wilson, 'That ear! I mean, Jesus, he's got to will that to the Smithsonian.'
Source:Elvis Australia

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E.J.F... wrote on July 29, 2006
I've had all these superb albums in my collection almost since they originally came out, except for Nos. 3 & 4 (I do have "Man Machine" by Kraftwerk though) and no true lover of modern music should be without any of them, even though Elvis is, and always will be, my No.1! And by the way, now I know who to blame for techno and house noise (some may call it music!)!!
get real wrote on July 30, 2006
June, Why do you believe (if you REALLY do believe it) that Elvis should have been # 1 on this list? The Observer gave some very insightful reasoning for their choices, and although every person will have their own list ( i would have Pet Sounds as #1 by far because of the melodies, arrangements and introspective lyrics) it does not make this list "rubbish" just because you disagree with it. So, i'm not saying that (at least in your mind) Elvis is #1... but I would be interested to know your reasoning behind it. I think it was a very well done piece by the Observer,,, even though i dot agree with it fully. I think Elvis was lucky to have gotten into the top 10.
Greg Nolan wrote on July 30, 2006
"Get Real": Elvis should be "lucky" to be in that list? Says who? The notoriously half-hearted / anti-Elvis rock critic establishment? While I get your general point, it's a well-rounded list (naturally) but the notion that Elvis didn't have have the album chops is nonsense. Any number of his gems might have made it, from his real first album "Elvis" (his second album) or "Elvis Is Back" or "From Elvis In Memphis" and among others. This is to say nothing of the privileging of albums over singles, which goes against so many great rock'n'roll artists (probably including Elvis) who reigned in the singles era. While I certainly appreciate the Beatles' legacy, the fawning and cliched write-up for "Sgt. Pepper" fuels my sense of this bias. The "greatest albums" list does not equal the best rock artists, not by a long-shot. Incidentally, they had to pick a rap act and NWA is as key as any, but really, who listens to this stuff that much? I'd say another 30 years or so and it will be seen as a key act in the genre, but the genre of Hip Hop (rap) will have been seen as much less important and enduring than we are told today. That's my prediction anyway.
Greg Nolan wrote on July 30, 2006
And I see now that the list is broadly called:"the 50 Albums that changed the world." So it's not just "rock." There are celebrated, truly landmark albums by Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and B.B. King or Johnny Cash that are nowhere to be found on this list. What a joke, the more I think of it.
Kenneth wrote on July 30, 2006
ELVIS should have been number one because he created a whole new music industry. what were the rest of the people on the list listening to before ELVIS opened the doors for them ?? what were we all hearing before ELVIS?? this list is nonsence without ELVIS being at the top.
Pierre@GBG wrote on July 30, 2006
I can’t believe my eyes when I’ll see that Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band get ranked as #2!! Was it NOT for Pet Sounds should that album NEVER been made! I’m ashamed to be a Suede and that Brian Wilson haven’t got the Polar music prize. Pet Sounds is the complete music album and it sure changed the music, sorry Elvis.. But The Velvet Underground and nico on 1st place??
Steve V wrote on July 30, 2006
Hmm interesting arguments. As far as music & culture goes, Elvis changed the world. I didnt own an Elvis album till 1960 because I only had a 45 rpm record player up to that point, so for me it was the music on the 45's that changed my world. As far as album making goes, I can remember playing Rubber Soul and Pet Sounds and thinking these are wonderfully different albums, not just songs thrown together to put out an album (which is what Elvis' first album really was). I always thougt his second album was by far better, but the first album was truly the first rock and roll album to sell on a wide basis and break into our culture. It deserves to be in the top 10, prob the top 5.
everett001 wrote on July 30, 2006
Get REAL. Elvis not at # 1 voids the entire list.
byebye wrote on July 30, 2006
One thing´s for sure... -If Robert Johnson (who never made an album) is on spot #5 with a blues compilation, then Elvis definetely should be regarded at #1 with "ELVIS GOLD RECORDS". That album ranks out everything before and after without any doubt!
get real wrote on July 31, 2006
Jesper,,, "Elvis Gold Records" out ranks the likes of Pet Sounds as an album? It is alot easier to get greatest hits collection of singles - even though Elvis' were awsome - than it is (or was, in Pet Sounds case) and make a collection of music in a moment of time that out shines anything before it. I love Elvis as much as the next person does, but as an album maker, his just did not change the world of music in the way many other albums did. i think his greatest achivements were in the singles arena or in the way tv was shown to be able in influance a generation. And for anyone to say that he "created the whole music industry" is just crazy. Im sure Bing Crosby and many other artists of the 50 years before Elvis would have something to say about that. Sure the rise of Elvis changed things; but i dontt hink it was becasue he released the collection of singular songs and put them out under the title of "Elvis Presley".
John4126 wrote on July 31, 2006
I love these polls and the reaction they bring about, particularly those cocooned in the Elvis world. I've never been overly impressed with this Elvis LP; hastily thrown together using 5 tracks that Sam Phillips didnt think were good enough to be released. However that doesnt detract from it being RCA's first million selling 'pop' album and a title that knocked down doors and influenced so many others. As for Elvis being number one in all the polls beause he 'started it all'? Well, how far do you want to take it back? Would you have Dean Martin, Mario Lanza, Billy Eckstine listed as they influenced the King? Dont take all of this so seriously - put our boy on the player and lose yourself...he sure is my number one!
The Memphis Flash wrote on July 31, 2006
I think that the thought process that went into this poll has been very limited, some of these albums (and artists) are very good, but as for changing the world, that I find difficult to agree. Elvis should have been at number one for many reasons. I say this not because I am a big fan but because of the facts. If you talk to people that were around in the days before Elvis burst upon the scene, you would see the the music industry was very tame, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Ray to name a few were very popular and good in there own right, but they were crooners and were very laid back as a result, they continued in the same way as previous artist, without changing things dramatically. Now when Elvis came along the whole thing was turned on it's head. Elvis changed things so much, that it gave rise to alot of these othere artists, without Elvis there would not be the music that we have today. People have said to me that it would have happened without him, that may be true to a point, but without a figurehead with the immence pressence that Elvis had then it would not have sustained and it would have come and gone like all the other trends. A lot of the major bands and solo artist that are on and are not on that poll were influenced by Elvis and that is why the produced the music that they did. Look at what the first Elvis album did and what followed in it's wake and then try to tell me that Sgt Pepper had a greater influence on the world than Elvis. As John Lennon said "before Elvis there was nothing" and without Elvis things would have been a lot different. The Beatles would not have been what they were nor a lot of the others.
RonBaker wrote on July 31, 2006
I think people are missing the point here. This isn't a list of the greatest albums ever made...it's a list of the most influential albums ever made. Although I'm not a huge fan of Led Zeppelin, I'm amazed their first album did not make the list...after all it was a big influence on the creation of metal bands.
byebye wrote on July 31, 2006
"Get real" you have a point, but I disagree with you anyway since "album thinking" excluded the hit singles in the fifties. So...if a list of this kind should be fair, Elvis first album (and several to follow) should be compared with the SINGLES SONGS on them. Those editions are out now as "original album classics" just because of that annoying fact. And with songs like "Heartbreak Hotel, My baby left me, I was the one etc, everything comes in a different light on Elvis´first album, doesn´t it?! Elvis belongs at #1 no doubt.
EspenK wrote on July 31, 2006
*laughing while typing*: It is SO funny, this. Wenever "charts" like these are published here on ElvisNews, *whatever* the topic or subject of the chart is, it could be anything from "most interesting slippers worn while recording" to "most creative lyrics", it could be any subject known to man, there are Elvisfans rushing to the comment feature to post their rage about Elvis not being rated as #1. No matter what! Seriously, guys, do you think we would still be dancing tango and listen to AM radio if it wasnt for Elvis? :D C'mon, the world is full of very talented artists. To give other artists some credit doesnt make you less of an Elvis-fan.
byebye wrote on July 31, 2006
Rage Espen??? If you read the postings more carefully, it might be educational, as well as amusing for you. The thread is "50 albums that changed the world", not slippers or anything else unimportant.. So join in, or make a cynical remark on other EP fans when it´s a suitable topic please!
John4126 wrote on July 31, 2006
EspenK - don't waste your breath. The narrow mindedness of a few on here just isn't worth the hassle. The same people who think Clambake is a great release (sic!). And woo betide anyone who says otherwise! To talk about the singles that should have been included is pointless. They were'nt so the subject is mute. And come on - what the hell do you expect from The Observer?! If you can find anyone that reads it - i'll be well impressed!
EspenK wrote on August 01, 2006
Jesper: I agree that this particular thread is amongst the better ones, when it comes to arguments pro/con. I was talking in general. But here too you find the "if you dont think E should be #1 you are no fan" and "this is rubbish" kind of comments. It's no biggie, and quite frankly it is expected on a site like this, being a fansite that it is. I just couldnt help myself, cause the moment I read the teaser on the front page I just *knew* what I would find when clicking on the link. And I was right. Peace :)
Pierre@GBG wrote on August 01, 2006
The Memphis Flash wrote “John Lennon said "before Elvis there was nothing" and without Elvis things would have been a lot different. The Beatles would not have been what they were nor a lot of the others.” You have both right and wrong, this include John Lennon’s cote. The MUSIC were there but it was Elvis VOICE he was talking about! I’m a BIG Elvis fan not just because for the Music (I like the last Nine years best). His Voice was unique, He could Sing all kind of Music like Country, Gospel, Soul, R&B, World Music well EVERYTHING in fact that’s why He IS and always will be THE KING! The Beatles got the most inspiration from The Beach Boys, well Brian Wilson really, to do the best Albums during the years. In MY opinion is Pet Sounds and Wild Honey the top Two on that list. Elvis stands above this list!!! Greetings from Sweden :=)