Iconic Albums

What are the elements that so mix to create the iconic albums we love? It turns out they all share things in common.

Great Writing – Pink Floyd drummer, Nick Mason, has said that the foundation of the band’s record breaking LP Dark Side of the Moon is the quality of the music. “The primary reason – which is true of any great album is the strength of the songwriting. Dark Side contained strong, powerful songsThe overall idea that linked those songs together, the pressures of modern life, found a universal response and continues to capture people’s imagination.” Iconic Albums begin with great storytelling.

Excellent MusicianshipRumors was Fleetwood Mac‘s eleventh studio album, released today in 1977. By then, the band had years of performance and studio experience and were a tight musical unit, despite internal strife and drug use during Rumors creation. When it came time to deliver the goods, they did it. Rumors became an iconic album for many reasons. But the band’s skill with their instruments (and voices) was a huge contributing factor.

A Solid Support System – The partnership between Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson that created the iconic album, Thriller is the stuff of legend. QJ and MJ were already both stars. They had the sense for associating with talent and were able to inspire one another’s best work. A similar story of puzzle pieces coming together is connected to the challenging Bob Dylan Like a Rolling Stone sessions during the creation of the Highway 61 Revisited LP.. Read the Rolling Stone article on the 50th anniversary of its recording (It’s hard to believe that tune is almost 56 years old). From the musicians who backed Bob up to Al Kooper‘s monumental contributions on the keyboard and in the control room, the tune that Columbia Records was sure would be a flop, turned out to become iconic as a result of the contributions of many talented individuals, who built on Dylan’s firm creative foundation.

Chemistry – This is the hardest thing to sustain over the long haul. The ultimate disintegration of The Beatles is a cautionary tale. During the height of their success as a unit, the Lennon/McCartney compositions, and the contributions of each member of the band spun in a blender that created some of the most iconic albums of the rock era. Even as the group began to fall apart, they were still capable of incredible chemistry, as evidenced by the symphonic creation of Abbey Road. Like a healthy marriage, maintaining individuality, while working toward a goal as a unit is key. We all evolve as persons. Few creative partnerships endure over the long haul. Simon and Garfunkel were drifting apart when they created their iconic album, Bridge Over Troubled Water. Toward the end of their prime, legend has it that the original Four Tops often traveled separately to gigs and only came together on stage. Chemistry can be ephemeral. But when it’s in full flower, the creative power that results can create masterpieces.

Our friends at Ultimate Classic Rock (who contributed the cover photo for this piece) put together a list of the Top 100 Albums of the 1960s. Take a look and see how many of these dimensions you recognize among these iconic albums.

Quick Takes: 

“Practically every photo you’ve ever taken, every website you’ve ever visited, every meme you’ve ever shared owes some small debt to Lena.”  Here’s some backstory behind the unlikely enduring stardom of a former Playboy Playmate who became the Patron Saint of JPEGs.

If you could know the date of your death, would you want to? Via Medium

Golden Globe Nominations by Network

The Golden Globe nominations are out and the traditional over-the-air networks are being outclassed by the streamers. It’s a cautionary tale that we radio guys know all too well. (Variety)

What if people loved your product so much that they raised money on their own so you could keep selling it? Here’s the story about Ray’s Ice Cream Parlor in Detroit that had that exact experience. (Freep)

We hear a lot about Hollywood, the music industry and radio rebooting or reworking stuff that did well with audiences. This week in 1962, Sam Cooke did just that with his take on Chubby Checker‘s monster hit, The Twist. Twistin’ the Night Away enters the Billboard Hot 100 at  #70. Sam wrote the tune and his instincts were right on the money.  Twistin’ the Night peaked at #9 and topped the R&B charts for three weeks. (Video)

Today in 1967, The Monkees self-titled debut album started a seven-week run at No.1.

Today in 1975, American jazz, blues, songwriter and saxophonist Louis Jordon dies aged 66. Known as “The King of the Jukebox”, between 1942-1950 he scored eighteen No.1 singles and fifty-four Top Ten hits on the US R&B chart.

On this date in 1978, The Bee Gees started a four week run the top of the on the US singles chart with ‘Staying Alive’. From the film soundtrack Saturday Night Fever, it gave the brothers their fifth US No.1.

Today in 1983, Karen Carpenter dies aged 32 of a cardiac arrest at her parent’s house in Downey, California; the coroner’s report gave the cause of death of imbalances associated with anorexia nervosa. The Carpenters 1970 album Close to You, featured two hit singles: ‘(They Long to Be) Close to You’ and ‘We’ve Only Just Begun.’ They peaked at No.1 and No.2, on the US chart. Karen not only had a beautiful voice, she had percussion chops, too. In 1975 – in Playboy’s annual opinion poll; its readers voted Karen Carpenter the Best Rock Drummer of the year.

Today in History:

1789: 1st US electoral college chooses George Washington as President and John Adams as Vice-President.
1847: 1st US Telegraph Company established in Maryland
1922: WGY-AM in Schenectady NY begins radio transmissions.
1932: 1st Winter Olympics held at Lake Placid – NY
1954: Four days before his 20th birthday Elvis Presley made his second visit to the Memphis recording service and cut two songs onto a 10 acetate, ‘Casual Love Affair ‘and ‘I’ll Never Stand In Your Way’. Studio boss Sam Phillips asked Presley to leave his phone number.
1957: 1st electric portable typewriter placed on sale (Syracuse NY).
1962: Liverpool’s Mersey Beat published its first popularity poll, with The Beatles coming in first place and Gerry and the Pacemakers voted second. Both acts are managed by Brian Epstein.
1967: The Doors released their self-titled debut album The Doors. The album features their breakthrough single ‘Light My Fire’ and the lengthy song ‘The End’ with its Oedipal spoken word section. The album was recorded at Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood, California over six days and unique packaging of the album included each band members bio.
1968: The University of California, Los Angeles announced that students taking music degrees would have to study the music of The Rolling Stones saying they had made such an important contribution to modern music.
1970: Chauffeur Neil Boland was accidentally killed when The Who’s drummer Keith Moon ran over him in his Bentley. Moon was trying to escape from a Gang of skinheads after a fight broke out at a pub in Hatfield, England. Boland got out to try to protect the car, but left it in gear. He fell under the car and it started moving with Moon at the wheel as he tried to escape the fight. The drummer had never passed his driving test.
1970: The Beatles (without John Lennon) re-record vocals and a new guitar solo on the Paul McCartney song ‘Let It Be’ at Studio Two, EMI Studios, London. This session will be the final studio appearance for The Beatles, as a group. (The final date that all four of The Beatles were in the studio together is August 20, 1969).
1974: Patricia Hearst kidnapped by Symbionese Liberation Army
1975: Elton John started a two week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with his version of The Beatles ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’. His third US No.1, the song featured John Lennon on guitar.
1980: Studio 54 holds its grand closing party on its last night in business.
1986: Irish singer, songwriter and bassist Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy died of heart failure and pneumonia after being in a coma for eight days following a drug overdose.2005.
2004: Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook from his Harvard dormitory room.
2006: Betty Friedan, American writer and feminist (The Feminine Mystique), dies of congestive heart failure at 85.

Today’s Birthdays:

1902: Charles A. Lindbergh (d. 1974)
1921: Betty Friedan, feminist & writer (The Feminine Mystique) (d. 2006)
1923: Conrad Bain, Actor (d. 2013)
1942: John McLaughlin, who formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra and has also worked with Carlos Santana, Stanley Clark and Jaco Pastorius.
1944: Florence LaRue of 5th Dimension
1946: Arthur Conley known for the 1967 US No.2 ]ingle ‘Sweet Soul Music. (d. 2003)
1948: Alice Cooper
1955: Brian Ray, best known for his work as a rhythm guitarist and bassist with Paul McCartney.
1958: Marcel King of the UK Band Sweet Sensations. (.d. 1995)

Much More Music: 

1965, The Righteous Brothers were at No.1 this week with the Phil Spector song ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. Also a US No.1 at the same time. It will become the most played song of the 20th Century. (Video)


Today in 1966, The Rolling Stones release ’19th Nervous Breakdown’ it tops out at #2 and becomes the fifth best-selling single of 1966 in the UK. (Video)


Tonight in 1966, Bob Dylan and The Band play the Convention Center in Louisville, Kentucky. This was the first date on a world tour which would become noted as Dylan’s first that used electric instruments, after he had ‘gone electric’ at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Let’s hear his classic, “Like a Rolling Stone”. (Video)

Today’s Quote Worth Re-Quoting:Each of our lives should be about sailing beyond the safety of familiar shores.

Peter Frampton shared a video of the first time he played with Eric Clapton. Here’s the video of that performance of George Harrison‘s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Thanks for listening!

Scott Westerman
Host and Producer – Rock and Roll Revisited
Author: Motor City Music – Keener 13 and the Soundtrack of Detroit