Early education is very important, even when it comes to music. When your kids go to school, English teachers make sure they read the classics, so when they are home, it is important that you expose them to the best music of a generation.
Like a list of must-read books, meant to be read cover to cover, we’ve compiled a list of albums from the 1960s that your kids should listen to, front to back, track by track.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
“EVERY ALBUM BY THE BEATLES SHOULD BE ON THIS LIST,” screams each and every alleged music historian on the internet. We get it: The Beatles are one of a kind and so is their music. But a top 10 list dominated by one band, taking up four or five spots would be a disservice. You wouldn’t want your kid reading just Hemingway, would you? No, because there’s Dickens, Austen, Joyce, Faulkner, Twain, Whitman, Vonnegut, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Orwell, Dumas, Salinger… have we made our point clear?
Now, an argument can be made for many of The Beatles’ albums. Revolver or Rubber Soul could have easily been placed here, but instead we’ve chosen Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Fab Four’s eighth studio album was their first after retiring from touring and a brief hiatus from recording.
Sgt. Pepper was a continuation of the change and evolution heard on Revolver or Rubber Soul. The album opened the doors of experimentation and exploration for their contemporaries and those down the line, something The Beatles never intended to do. “They just wanted to do something different,” said George Martin in his book Summer of Love: The Making of Sgt. Pepper.
Something different turned into arguably the greatest piece of music ever composed. A must listen album for anyone.
Brian Wilson was heavily influenced by The Beatles’ Rubber Soul while making Pet Sounds and it’s no secret that Sgt. Pepper was influenced by The Beach Boys‘ eleventh studio album. Music is a flat circle.
Though credited to The Beach Boys, the album was the work of Wilson. Singer Mike Love panned Wilson’s creation, saying, “Who is gonna hear this sh*t? The ears of a dog?” Besides vocals, that became Love’s contribution to the album; inspiration for the name bestowed upon it by Wilson.
“God Only Knows” is one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded and will be the hook, line, and sinker to get your kids to listen to Pet Sounds in its entirety.
Highway 61 Revisited
If there was any hesitation to listen to Highway 61 Revisited, they are put to a stop with track one. “Like a Rolling Stone” is six minutes of reinvention; a fall from grace; folk rock cynicism electrified.
Dylan‘s sixth studio album, released in late August of 1965, marked the beginning of 1960s counterculture. Like Sgt. Pepper for The Beatles, it was a step forward creatively for Dylan, employing for the first time a backing band on the majority of the album. But that’s where the similarities end; Highway 61 Revisited is no flash, just poignant and touching poetry, Dylan’s forte, accompanied by rock ‘n’ roll.
Let It Bleed
Let It Bleed, another album that will put young skeptics to rest with track one. “Gimme Shelter” perfectly represents the songwriting prowess of Jagger and Richards, accompanied by the latter’s ability to execute a killer riff. (And we can’t forget Merry Clayton’s memorable vocal appearance.)
The album is nine amazing tracks, book-ended by “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”; one of the Rolling Stones‘ most popular songs to sing along to, whether live at a show or alone in your car.
Are You Experienced
Jimi Hendrix, his band the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the music it produced was pure musical Americana: a heart-stopping combination of rock, R&B, and blues. But for whatever reason, Hendrix was toiling away at show after show in New York City until he was saved and brought overseas by ex-Animals’ bassist Chas Chandler.
Hendrix quickly formed the Experience, with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, and released Are You Experienced in 1967. There have been several track listings for the album, but the version you’ll get your hands on today features 17 tracks, beholding many of Hendrix’s most memorable songs: “Purple Haze”; “Hey Joe”; “The Wind Cries Mary”; “Fire”; “Foxey Lady”; and “Stone Free.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean the rest of Are You Experienced isn’t worth the time. There’s no filler here; songs like “Manic Depression” and “Love Or Confusion” add to the psychedelic experience.
Live at the Apollo
“Ladies and gentleman, it is star time. Are you ready for star time?”
Those were the first words of Fats Gonder when introducing James Brown and The Famous Flames for their performance on October 24, 1962 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Live at the Apollo is the only live album on this list and it certainly is a doozy.
For the hardest working man in show business, the success of this live album was vindication for Brown, whose label believed releasing a live album with no new material was a waste of money. King Records could not have been more wrong; Live at the Apollo spent 66 weeks on the charts and is widely considered one of the greatest live recording of all time, consisting of early hits like “Try Me,” the mind-blowing medley of “Please, Please, Please/You’ve Got the Power/I Found Someone/Why Do You Do Me/I Want You So Bad/I Love You, Yes I Do/Strange Things Happen/Bewildered/Please, Please, Please,” capped off with an unforgettable performance of “Night Train.”
The Velvet Underground & Nico
Many debut albums have gone on to be wildly successful, but normally they aren’t overlooked by critics and financial disasters. When The Velvet Underground & Nico released their eponymous album in 1967, that was the case. The psychedelic/art rock/proto punk album was considered to be nothing but noise and distasteful subject matter, something commercial radio wouldn’t touch. It would be a full ten years until fans and critics took notice of its influence.
Lou Reed‘s vivid description of drug use and sexual deviancy, coupled with an experimental sound and Nico’s vocals, was far ahead of its time; a glimpse into the future of rock ‘n’ roll music.
Van Morrison may very well hate “Brown Eyed Girl.” Hell, there’s a chance you hate “Brown Eyed Girl” by now, too. But that song gained him enough attention that he was able to leave his toxic relationship with Bang Records and join Warner Bros., where he was able to take his songwriting and singing to a place it had never been before on Astral Weeks.
About ten years after the release of Astral Weeks in 1968, famed music writer Lester Bangs wrote an essay about the album in Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island, describing the album as “the rock record with the most significance in my life so far.”
Bangs would perfectly describe how Morrison’s songwriting affected him during a time of struggle: “… it was proof that there was something left to express artistically besides nihilism and destruction… there was a redemptive element in the blackness, ultimate compassion for the suffering of others, and a swath of pure beauty and mystical awe that cut right through the heart of the work.”
Tommy, the Who‘s fourth studio album, was the first record to truly be considered a rock opera. Composed mostly by guitarist Pete Townshend and released in 1969, the double album looks deeply into the life and mind of a boy who becomes “deaf, dumb, and blind”; the result of post-traumatic stress disorder.
While Tommy breaks new ground, it still encapsulates the classic Who sound: thunderous drums from Keith Moon and melodic guitar play from Townshend.
Another debut record that earned worldwide acclaim, The Doors aided the huge leap in popularity psychedelic rock would take. Jim Morrison’s voice, charisma, and disregard for authority, combined with Ray Manzarek on keyboard, provided The Doors with a can’t miss formula.
The Doors struck gold due in part to the success of “Light My Fire”; originally over seven minutes long, it was edited down to under three minutes and took off, receiving airplay nationwide. It’s success shouldn’t discredit the rest of the album, which is kick started perfectly with “Break On Through (To the Other Side).”
~ E.J. Judge, CBS Local
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