Most important rock music

stands up and wildly aplauds Jayron32 for half an hour

That’s an awesome list. Add a little more progressive Rock here and there, and you’re completely done. (hint: Rush! Dammit! :D)

Rock’s origin starts before the 50’s. I would try to explain how rock came to be as a natural progression of music starting with the first guy who played a wooden flute and beat on a rock, then classical. Their was a lot of southern country blues in America in the 20’s and 30s and that really started rock. (check out Robert Johnson, for one). They influenced people like buddy holly, chuck berry, and bob dylan. And in England buddy holly, carl perkins, elvis, chuck berry had a great influence on the beatles. Also bob dylan influenced them even though they were contemporaries. And then the Beatles took rock’n roll to a new level throughout the 60’s. Their last 2 albums, let it be and abbey road, are what everyone copied for 10 years through the 70’s. Of course their were some other smaller bands throughout that had some impact, i.e. velvet underground, pink floyd etc. The Beatles are the key factor as in they were the best rock band of all time.

It was midnight, so I realize that despite the length of my list, there was some key stuff that I probably missed. Think of this as an addendum to the above, though many of these works are just as vital.

  1. Carole King Tapestry– Carole King was Bob Dylan without the Y chromosome. She is easily one of the most influential songwriters of all time, and this album was a high water mark for the singer/songwriter movement. Lots of her early work helped make Motown and R&B big, also.

  2. The Ronnettes “Be My Baby”-- Joey Ramone has called The Ronnettes the first female punk band. And this is just a great tune.

  3. The Temptations “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”-- R&B tunes with a rap attitutde. This song would be great to show the connection of urban blight themes currently at use in modern hip-hop as appearing in earlier works.

  4. Sly and the Family Stone “Thank You (Faletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”-- The roots of funk, useful if you do a unit on the 1960’s and want to show how MUCH different kinds of stuff was going on musically during the late 1960’s.

  5. Genesis “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”-- someone noted I didn’t include enough progressive rock. This song, and its namesake album, are well representative of the prog-rock movement.

  6. Yes Close To The Edge, “I’ve Seen All Good People (You’re Move/All Good People)”-- A key element of much of progressive rock is that it combines rock music with classical stucturing. Songs and entire albums are thought of in terms of movements. This album and song are key examples of the way progressive rock music is structured, and especially “Your Move/All Good People” is a rockin song.

  7. King Crimson “In the Court of the Crimson King.” A big part of prog-rock is sci-fi or fantasy themes in the music (Neil Peart of Rush is noted for using heavy fantasy themes in his compositions as well as Rick Wakefield from Yes). This song shows that well.

  8. David Bowie “Space Oddity”-- Glam Rocks influince is important as well, and Bowie is the perfect example (and more accessable to audiences than say, The New York Dolls).

  9. Queen “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”-- Glam rock meets progressive rock. I can’t believe I didn;t include Queen in my initial list.

  10. Men Without Hats “Safety Dance”-- Like disco, 80’s techno-pop really happened, as much as some people try to forget it. This song is as good as any to show what Pop music was like in the mid 80’s.

  11. The Ramones “Blitzkreig Bop”-- Though we associate it as a British movement begun as a reaction to theatrical and prog-rock during the 70’s, Punk actually got it’s real start in America at CBGB’s in New York with The Ramones. Not as musically complex as The Clash, who were largely influenced by Ska and Reggae, the Ramones drew their influences from early rock and roll and R&B like Buddy Holly. This is a great example of pure punk, and less poppy than their later radio hit “I Want to Be Sedated.”

  12. The Skatelites “Guns of Navarrone”-- Ska has never been a big commercial movement in Rock and Roll, but it’s influence is HUGE in driving other music. Everyone from Bob Marley to the Police to The Clash to Sublime have been influenced by Ska. The Skatelites started in the late 50’s, and are the seminal Ska band. This song has become a sort of a ska standard, and if you can’t find the original Skatelites version, other bands in later times (notably The Specials in the early 80’s) have had hits with it as well.

  13. Fleetwood Mac Rumors– One should probably cover the somewhat important “L.A.” movement of the late 70’s, which also included The Eagles and singer/songwriter Jackson Browne. This album is a good example of the stuff being done during this time period. Though poppy in nature, I have always considered Fleetwood Mac unfortunately underrated because of their success. The songwriting is crisp and intense, and musically the album is great. Also about the perfect production value as well (not “overproduced” not “underproduced”.

  14. R.E.M. “I Don’t Want To Go(to Rockville)”-- How could I forget REM. A very important band during the 1980’s, they helped start the “college rock” movement that later gave us such diverse acts as The Lemmonheads and the B-52’s. This song is seminal REM.

  15. Velvet Underground “I’m Waiting for the Man”-- Ok, i neglected them early on, mainly because though EVERY SINGLE rock musician has cited them as a major influence, apparently those musicians are the only ones who bought the albums. They were an invention of Andy Warhol, and they were a comercial flop. However, their lyrics were uncharacteristcly biting for the time, and their musical influence on later Punk and Glam Rock movements is also pronounced. Other works of this time/genre (late 60’s pre-punk) include the MC5’s “Kick Out The Jams” and Iggy Pops early band The Stooges.

OK… 15 more important works. I’m probably not making your job much easier, but like I said, if you pick from this list, you can’t go wrong.

  1. Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon– Often in a genre all by themselves, Floyd is often left out of the tradition progressive rock movement because their themes are often less fantasy and sci-fi influenced, and less classicsal in nature. This album has been cited by critics and fans alike in many different polls as “The Best Album Ever Made” and while I will reserve judgement for others, it is a VERY important work, and should NOT be left off any list of great rock music. I can’t believe I did.

As a significsnt influence on other artists perhaps

Steely Dan

is one candidate.
Virtually every major artist through most of the 70’s through to the early 90’s lists them(the two of them that is) as a major inspiration.

The cross-section of artists who say this is astonishingly wide and covers virtually all musical genres.

A COMMERCIAL flop in the late 60’s. They have since then sold TONS of albums. If every single rock musician has cited them as a major influence then shouldn’t this be all the more reason to have them in the list?, not leave them out. They were extremely influential and original.

Not to jump down your throat or anything, i do think you did a pretty decent job with your list, except you also left out Dark side of the moon which has sold more copies a year since it came out than any other album.

jayron 32, you are AMAZING. Wanna come teach my class? You sound much more qualified for this than I am.


I love the idea that has been mentioned about spreading this out for a semester (or two, or three…), but only have one 45 minute class period, then summer school is over!

But there have been so many great suggestions that I think I should continue this with my middle schoolers during the school year. If for no other reason than to give them an appreciation for what has come before them, and so I never have to hear, “What are you playing this crap for?” again.

You, Sir, fucking ROCK. The entire album is a classic, IMHO. But for the REAL seventies Prog Rock Experience, play Relayer by the same band.

For effect, smoke a joint and select the track Soundchaser. Prog rock defined!

jayron 32,

thanks for letting me avoid having to do my normal long email on this sort of topic. I have to pull you up on one thing, though - the Velvet Underground weren’t an invention of Andy Warhol, he was introduced to them early on by friends and decided they would fit in with the ‘scene’ he had going at the Factory - almost every song on their first record was already written, at least in an early version, by the time they even met Warhol. Andy did hook them up with Nico, though, but they didn’t go along with his idea of having her as their lead singer - she only sang on about a quarter of their songs, and moaned along to some of their long improvisations.

Also, they weren’t as much of a commercial failure as a lot of people think - their first record sold at least as many copies at the time as a mid-ranking chart band today, and it’s kept selling consistently since.


Thanks PC… I have a huge passion for rock music, and have often thought it would be fun to teach a class in History of Rock. Alas and alack, I have zero musical training or ability and my own particular background is as a Chemistry Teacher. Still, it WOULD be fun to develop a curriculum and teach a course in rock music history.

I think you have to include the Tommy album by The WHO. It was the first and only real rock opera and some of the members of the band were even (Gosh what a concept !) trained in music instead of learning a few chords in somebody’s basement. The Live At Leeds set is one of the greatest live albums ever recorded along with Janis Joplin’s Cheap Thrills and Bless It’s Pointed Little Head by The Jefferson Airplane.