Kyle Loomis is a journalism senior and Mustang Daily music columnist.
A sure sign of good music is that it endures the test of time and remains popular for generations. Music that persists, with songs that speak to us and inspire us. Artists who change everything.
This week’s Polyphonic is devoted to some of the best classic rock that influenced the artists we love today. These rock legends introduced new sounds and opened doors for other musicians to explore and experiment, resulting in the vast diversity of genres we have now.
The ’60s was a period of time that inspired such a large quantity of innovative musicians. Regrettably, I am unable to include everything I think deserves to be mentioned here (expect a continuation of this list at a later date). There is just too much to tell for one edition of this column.
Here are five of my favorite classic rock albums:
1. “Rubber Soul” (1965) — The Beatles
Any discussion of great classic rock is incomplete if the “fab four” aren’t mentioned. The influence John, Paul, George and Ringo have had on music cannot be understated, and “Rubber Soul” ranks among their most popular and critically acclaimed works.
The Beatles began a cultural revolution in the U.S. after the band’s famously remembered performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February 1964, then known for boyishly-charming pop hits such as “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Two years and several albums later, the Beatles released “Rubber Soul” — with a dramatically different sound driven by the members’ urge to experiment with new instruments and lyrically drift away from the conventional love songs that had dominated their style.
Tracks such as “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Had Flown),” which featured the Indian sitar played by lead guitarist George Harrison, and “I’m Looking Through You” offer a more pessimistic view of romance, and the then-unique distortion on “Think For Yourself” introduced a new aspect to music that laid the foundation for psychedelic rock.
Out of the countless groundbreaking albums that made the Beatles rock ‘n’ roll legends, I consider “Rubber Soul” to be the most important. This album marked the start of a new breed of rock music and has influenced musicians of all genres since. That is why I include this album on this list, rather than other iconic works such as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
2. “The Doors” (1967) — The Doors
Coming out of Los Angeles, The Doors immediately built a popular, albeit controversial reputation after the release of the group’s debut, self-titled album in 1967.
(In)famously known for lead singer Jim Morrison’s vocal prowess, unsettling poetry and unpredictable on-stage antics, The Doors were the shining example of why parents in the ’60s likely tried their hardest to keep their kids away from rock ‘n’ roll.
When it came to creating controversy, there was no better example than Morrison’s (possibly blatant) refusal to censor the drug-implicated lyric, “Baby, we couldn’t get much higher” during the band’s performance of “Light My Fire” on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Rebelliousness aside, The Doors have deservedly become a staple in classic rock. The band’s use of keyboards, especially in “Light My Fire” and “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar),” and the haunting bellows of Morrison make its music truly unique and timeless.
3. “Disraeli Gears” (1967) — Cream
With a catchy guitar hook and Bruce’s transcendent vocals, the popular single “Sunshine of Your Love” continues to be a symbol of the classic rock genre. But Clapton’s proficiency at guitar is even more evident in the lesser-known tracks of “Disraeli Gears.”
Arguably the most gifted guitarist of all time, Clapton explored beyond the boundaries of conventional guitar-playing with trippy riffs on tracks like “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” “Strange Brew,” and “SWLABR.” Clapton played a huge role in the evolution of the guitarist, and his time with Cream was the catalyst for his extremely successful career.
When it comes to pure, organic talent, it’s hard to beat the individual members of Cream, which makes their music essential to have in your library.
4. “Are You Experienced?” (1967) — The Jimi Hendrix Experience
As one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most tragic stories, the world will always treasure the short-lived but extraordinary career of Jimi Hendrix. Despite being in the national spotlight for only four years, the Seattle, Wash. native is celebrated as one of the most influential and adept guitarists in history.
His band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, only released three studio albums, and each has a superb collection of blues-influenced psychedelic rock tracks. My favorite is the band’s debut release, “Are You Experienced?”
The album not only features Hendrix’s incendiary playing (characterized by amplifier feedback, sound oscillation and the “wah-wah” pedal), but also delves into imaginative (some would say hallucinogenic) themes lyrically, as seen in the title track, as well as “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Third Stone from the Sun.”
“Are You Experienced?” is an album that is an absolute necessity to any classic rock collection. Hendrix will leave a lasting impression, both as a master guitarist and as a singer-songwriter.
5. “Beggars Banquet” (1968) — The Rolling Stones
There are so many Rolling Stones albums it was almost impossible to choose just one for this list. After meticulous deliberation, I chose “Beggars Banquet” because of its diversity in content and the popularity of a couple of its songs, namely “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man.”
“Sympathy for the Devil” explores the evil nature of humanity with contrastingly upbeat instrumentals, including percussion reminiscent of samba, and “Street Fighting Man” uses an urgent, acoustic guitar melody to accentuate its politically motivated themes of social activism.
Other tracks on “Beggars Banquet” are tinged with country influences, such as “No Expectations” and “Dear Doctor.” “Parachute Woman” is a fun blues tune with some subtle sexual innuendo. These supporting tracks accompany the two hits well and make the album worthy of mentioning.