The Top 5 Rock Albums of All Time (According to this IU Music Prof)

In 1982, Glenn Gass became the first professor in the United States to offer a course in the history of rock ‘n’ roll within a school of music. To this day, it remains one of IU’s most popular classes.

Who better than IU’s resident rock prof to deliver a list of the top-five rock albums of all time?

5. Beggars Banquet by the Rolling Stones

“They did with this album what they were always so good at: They were mining America. They were rediscovering country music, rediscovering the blues, bringing it back to rock ‘n’ roll, but not trying to sound ancient, trying to sound like 1968 … and it kicked off their great career. … When the Beatles were breaking up, the Rolling Stones deserved the title they got, which was the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band.”

4. Blonde On Blonde by Bob Dylan

“Dylan, Blonde On Blonde … geez, you know? Incredible masterpiece. You can’t believe the human mind can create songs like this. It just keeps going: ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,’ ‘Visions of Johanna,’ ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again … .’ … He deserved that Nobel Prize. … There’s no body of work on the planet that can rival his.”

3. Revolver by the Beatles

“[The Beatles] were at such a fever pitch of creation that they were just writing these masterpieces without really thinking about it, or overthinking it; they were just doing it. And George Martin and all the Beatles were just trying everything they could in the studio: the tape loops on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and the string quartet on ‘Eleanor Rigby’ … and John and Paul were at the peak of their games writing songs. … The ambition of this album is just sky-high.”

2. Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys

Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys is always the No. 2 pick for most important [rock] album of all time. One, because it directly inspired Sgt. Pepper. The Beatles heard this album and went, ‘Oh my God, this is better than Revolver; this is better than anything we’ve done … .’ And that is what set the bar for Sgt. Pepper. That’s what’s so great about the ’60s: Rubber Soul set the bar for [Pet Sounds]. … Brian Wilson heard it and went, ‘Oh my God … I gotta top that.’ Everybody’s listening to everybody else and trying to outdo each other.”

1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles

“This changed the way everybody thought about rock records. The songs blurred together, and when they didn’t, there was just a microsecond of silence in between them. It was just like one curtain closing and this other curtain opening, taking you on this fantastic trip through Indian ragas and Benny Goodman clarinets, and strings, and harps, and avant-garde ‘A Day in the Life’ swirls. Every kind of music you could imagine seemed to be on here.”

Read video transcript

This video was originally published for IU Day 2017.

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Written By
Ryan Millbern