Must-Have Albums For Your Collection From Every Decade
I like music. Yes, I know, I’m stepping out into a controversial area along the lines of kittens are cute, a wife is a ball and chain, children are our future and Hitler is evil. (Finally, something off my bucket list, using “cute,” “Hitler,” “future” and “wife” in the same sentence.) Anyway, I like to find new music. I like to rediscover old music. I like going to see live music. I like to talk music. I don’t consider myself an expert just because I know music geek friends who have listened to Sloan many years before I discovered them, but I definitely have opinions and have listened to many hours of music.
So, in my quest to find the best music so that I can listen to it, I figured I would share some of it with you by listing some key albums for each decade, like the ones acclaimed the most by critics. These are what you should have displayed on your shelf (or iTunes, I guess, seeing as no one has actual albums anymore) to impress the ladies when they make their way into your abode.
This is where rock and pop music in the forms we enjoy it today started to really take form. Yes, there was country, western, bluegrass, jazz, blues and orchestral music, but then experimentation started and artists started to move beyond those limited labels. Then as these experiments gained traction, the main musical format, the single, was joined by the album format and Billboard started to keep track of the Top 200 albums in 1956. While musical soundtracks dominated the tops of the charts, the appearance of Elvis Presley foreshadowed the beginning of rock and roll.
Show your impeccable taste in music – Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley
Album you really should listen to but maybe haven’t yet – Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
Album for pure irony – Buddy Holly, Buddy Holly (the irony in this case is that his career was cut so short)
Comedy Album – The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart (yes, it was released in 1960, but this is my list, this is the first major comedy album and I rule)
There’s a reason that the announcement that the Beatles will be available on iTunes was preceded and met with such fanfare. They are at the top of the heap as far as music goes. They litter the top 10 of the top 500 albums of all time by Rolling Stone. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Beach Boys and The Who are very important and have made some wonderful music, but this decade is all about the Fab Four. Now that you can buy the music (if you didn’t already have it on vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD, or another MP3 download as they have sold 1.3 billion units worldwide) here is what you should have.
Show your impeccable taste in music – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Album you really should listen to but maybe haven’t yet – Revolver
Album for pure irony – Yellow Submarine
Comedy Album – The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce (one of the faces on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – plus it was released in the 50s, so we’re even)
Hiding behind all of the disco and album oriented rock (and some of the best albums of the aforementioned Stones, Who and Zeppelin), there was an amazing amount of music in the 70s that we know but don’t know that we know. How do we know the music? (If you read those last two sentences enough, you’ll feel like you’re Bud Abbott.) We heard the music as samples in songs by The Beastie Boys, The Wu-Tang Clan and about every good (and bad) rap artist. It was the building blocks of some of the great music that we enjoy today. Heck, sometimes beyond sampling, current artists would take whole songs as The Red Hot Chili Peppers covered Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”
Show your impeccable taste in music – Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On
Album you really should listen to but maybe haven’t yet – Stevie Wonder, Innervisions
Album for pure irony – Bay City Rollers, Rollin’
Comedy Album – George Carlin, Class Clown (As far as comedians go, Carlin and Richard Pryor were the comedians constructing the building blocks of today’s comedy)
I think there is a sense that the 80s were a decade that was magical for music. Yes, there was some great music, but HOLY CRAP there was a lot of bad things that we need to forget. When I think of the 80s, I just see hair sprayed mullets running around. I hear Britny Fox. I hear Dokken. I see the Nelson twins. I see Kiss without makeup. I just start to shudder and wish that as a tween I could have started drinking to forget it all. I certainly tried as a teen, but unfortunately the wine coolers were accompanied by a soundtrack of Def Leppard.
Show your impeccable taste in music – Michael Jackson, Thriller or for the more alternative, U2, The Joshua Tree
Album you really should listen to but maybe haven’t yet – Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Album for pure irony – Buckner and Garcia, Pac-Man Fever or for the less alternative, Milli Vanilli, Girl You Know It’s True
Comedy Album – Eddie Murphy, Comedian (one thing we shouldn’t forget from the 80s – Eddie Murphy was VERY funny)
One thing that I’m not afraid to say is that I love girl singers. When I think of the 90s, I don’t think of the grunge movement as much as I think about all of the honesty from female artists at the time, like Liz Phair. The song “Fuck and Run” about the morning after a one night stand still holds as a fantastic honest look at waking up in a strange place. Every time I listen to “The Divorce Song,” I can immediately put myself in the driver’s seat of that car after a long road trip and all of those emotions ring true. I know it’s just me, but I listen to Hole’s Live Through This more than I do Nirvana’s Nevermind. (Which may just render this whole essay invalid in many people’s eyes. Though, in my defense, just like the Police’s Synchronicity, I just heard Nevermind on the radio too much and I will eventually go back to it.)
Show your impeccable taste in music – Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville
Album you really should listen to but maybe haven’t yet – PJ Harvey, Rid of Me
Album for pure irony – Dan Bern, Fifty Eggs (It is produced by Ani DiFranco and it is a great album, with songs like “Tiger Woods” but I mention it here just for a guy singing a song called “Chick Singers”)
Comedy Album – Roseanne Barr, I Enjoy Being a Girl
Maybe it’s just me, but I see music getting smarter and smarter as I listen more. (But, I’m not listening to any Ke$ha, so I am generalizing greatly.) Right now, bands are trying new things and maybe we’ll look back and see the 90s and 00s as a time like the 50s and 60s where a ton of great artists and music was being born so that in 50 years, when Rolling Stone compiles the greatest 1000 albums of all time, there will be more than just 74 out of the 500 albums. So, here is my tribute to the smarter bands of the last few years.
Show your impeccable taste in music – Radiohead, Kid A (though I should probably put 90s OK Computer here as well as a very smart album)
Album you really should listen to but maybe haven’t yet – Weezer, The Green Album (though I should probably put 90s Pinkerton here as well as a very nerdy album)
Album for pure irony – They Might Be Giants, Mink Car (though I should probably put 80s Lincoln here as well as a very geeky album)
Comedy Album – Paul F. Tompkins, Freak Wharf (I’ll let this smart bit of comedy from one of the smartest comedians stand on its own and be the perfect way to end this essay)
About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."