Good rock albums have the ability to energize you. They grab listeners’ attention and make them rethink what music can be. Here are just 10 of the top rock albums of all time, which have furthered the genre and subsequent subgenres, and inspired other artists to pick up a guitar and jam.
Number Ten: Fleetwood Mac, ‘Rumors’
Fleetwood Mac’s second major label album, Rumours saw the recently reformed band at their most emotionally raw. Featuring such hits as “Dreams” and “Go Your Own Way,” many of the songs are various takes on love and breaking up. Rumours is the band’s best-selling album to date and one of their most versatile, providing inspiration for artists within several different genres.
Number Nine: Led Zeppelin, ‘Led Zeppelin IV’
Though only eight tracks long, Led Zeppelin’s fourth, untitled album helped define a decade in rock music. Containing the band’s most well-known song, “Stairway to Heaven,” the album was a success with both critics and fans because of its sonic diversity. Since its release, the album has gone an impressive 23-times platinum in the United States.
Number Eight: Bruce Springsteen, ‘Born to Run’
Born to Run is Springsteen’s first commercially successful album and earned him a growing legion of fans across the United States. The positive reviews prompted the album to be promoted as the “future of rock ‘n’ roll” (which Springsteen didn’t take too kindly to).
Number Seven: Nirvana, ‘Nevermind’
One of the most influential albums of the 1990s, Nevermind brought grunge music into the mainstream. Containing some of their most famous songs, including “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come As You Are,” “Lithium” and “In Bloom,” the 1991 album led to other punk and grunge bands being scouted by major labels, as well as inspired other bands to follow in Nirvana’s musical footsteps.
Number Six: The Who, ‘Who’s Next’
Even though The Who released the their extremely successful first rock opera, Tommy, a year earlier, it is their fifth studio album, Who’s Next, that is considered their best. Featuring the hits “Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Behind Blue Eyes,” the band’s inclusion of synths on the album was ahead of its time. The album was given positive reviews by critics and proved that the band could still bring power and innovation to rock music.
Number Five: The Velvet Underground and Nico, ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’
Paired up with Nico by Andy Warhol, The Velvet Underground released their eponymous debut in 1967. With songs about drugs (“Heroin,” “I’m Waiting for the Man”), sadomasochism (“Venus in Furs”) and love (“I’ll Be Your Mirror”), as well as observations about the people that hung around Warhol’s Factory, the band pushed the boundaries with this album. It became a precursor to the 1970s punk scene and set Lou Reed up for a long, successful career.
Number Four: The Clash, ‘London Calling’
London Calling brings together elements of rockabilly and ska to become one of the most revered punk British punk albums of all time. The amount of diversity the band shows on this album between songs like the energized title track, the ska influenced “Rudie Can’t Fail” and the pop-ish “Lost in the Supermarket” without losing the punk sense of immediacy has made it a critical and fan favorite.
Number Three: The Rolling Stones, ‘Exile on Main Street’
The Rolling Stones have put out a number of well-respected albums, but Exile on Main Street has become their most notorious. Critics, though originally panning the album, have called it the “greatest rock ‘n’ roll record ever.” Numerous artists have also paid homage to the album by naming their own albums after it.
Number Two: Pink Floyd, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’
Pink Floyd’s eighth studio album, Dark Side of the Moon is one of the best-selling albums of all time. Many bands have paid homage to the album by covering it in its entirety during live shows and in recorded form. The album has also been the subject of rumors that it synched up perfectly with The Wizard of Oz, which have been denied by the band, but show that the album has made its way into musical legend.
Number One: The Beatles, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’
If you look at a number of lists of the best rock albums, many of them feature numerous Beatles albums, but Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is usually considered their best. It was the first rock album to earn an Album of the Year Grammy. The album includes hits such as “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “A Day in the Life,” as well as the title track, and was deemed by critics to have been a predecessor to numerous rock sub-genres, including progressive rock, art rock, psychedelia and glam rock. Thank you for reading our list of the top 10 rock albums of all time. We hope you enjoyed it!