The most "Important" album of 1968?

Tired of hearing about a song as inconsequential as “Baby, It’s Cold Outside?” Let’s try this for conversation.

Much has been made recently about the anniversary of the Beatles’ “White Album” and it’s importance in the history and development of Rock music. Quite honestly, it left me rather cold at the time, but I’ve come to appreciate it more in later years. This author, however, sees an entirely different album as the most consequential of 1968.

His hypothesis is that “Beggar’s Banquet” was pivotal in turning the Rolling Stones around from a dismal 1967 and essentially reinventing the group when things were going south for them. He makes some good points, and tries to draw a line between “consequential” and “important.” “Beggar’s Banquet” was certainly consequential for the Rolling Stones, but was it so for anyone else?

Personally, my vote would go to Hendrix and “Electric Ladyland.” It was his last studio album during his lifetime, and is an example of an artist at his creative peak as a performer, writer and producer.

An argument could be made for the Velvets’ White Light/White Heat

Or The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.

Or Van’s Astral Weeks

Looking at Wikipedia for 1968 in Music, I’d say Steppenwolf by Steppenwolf. I haven’t even heard the deep cuts but it was huge in influencing the development of hard rock. I can’t think of later bands that sound more like the Stones.

While TKatVGPS is my favorite album on the list, I don’t think its actual musical style was influential for more than a few years, and while still influential in cementing the status of the concept album as more than a novelty, it was not the pioneer. An argument could indeed be made though for it being in the top 5 of the year.

I agree about the article. He only compares Beggars Banquet to other Stones work, not anything else. He doesn’t even listen to the lyrics all that well. Street Fighting Man is not about a street fighting man, it is about a guy who wants to do it but who is too feeble to do anything but sing in a rock and roll band. The woman in Factory Girl definitely exists - she is described clearly enough - but the singer is a loser involved with another loser. We’ve got the loser in Dear Doctor also.
Sympathy for the Devil is a great song, as is No Expectations, and the music for Street Fighting Man is fantastic. But best of 1968? Nah.

But at least this one is not a copy of the Beatles, got to give them that.

There are way, way, WAY too many to give a meaningful answer. Some of the less obvious ones include:

  1. Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow
  2. Music From Big Pink, The Band
  3. Dr. John, Gris Gris
  4. The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Radio
  5. Otis Redding, Dock of the Bay
  6. Traffic, Traffic
  7. Jeff Beck, Truth
  8. Laura Nyro, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession…

… etc. etc. There were more “important” albums in 1968 than there have been in at least the last 20 years.

Not to mention

Big Brother & The Holding Company, Cheap Thrills
Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison
Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland
Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends
Fairport Convention, Fairport Convention

Iron Butterfly, Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida
The Band, Music from Big Pink
Moody Blues, In Search of the Lost Chord
Cream, Wheels of Fire
Big Brother and the Holding Company, Cheap Thrills

Heck, I could go on. Damn, that was a good year. I was in 7th and 8th grade and remember those LPs coming out. Iron Butterfly changed the way all 3 grades in a junior high school tapped their fingers on their desks in study hall.

When the White Album* came out, it was appreciated, but I don’t think it made the top of anyone’s best lists for the year. Critics were more likely to choose Morrison’s Astral Weeks. The consensus at the time was the White Album was decent, but there was too much filler material and should have been cut down.

It’s amusing to see how critical opinion has changed over time. When the Beatles broke up, Sgt. Pepper was still considered their best album. Nowadays, people are more likely to choose Revolver. The consensus for best song was generally “Hey Jude” and “A Day in the Life” – the choice today – was considered inferior to “With a Little Help from My Friends” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” from the same album.

*We never called it that: it was “The Beatles Double Album.”

Heck, we’ve completely overlooked Switched On Bach by Wendy (Walter) Carlos, the first album to produced entirely with a synthesizer. Utterly groundbreaking.

SF Sorrow by the Pretty Things.

…well, only important to people who are deeply into psychedelia, but I just wanted to mention it anyway because I listened to it the other week when it turned 50, and damn it is good. It stands up very well next to any of the others mentioned in this thread, many of which I also love.

Y’know what? I’m not going to choose. What this thread has made me realize is how pivotal my thirteenth year was for me, and how much “Album-Oriented Rock” played a part in turning a rich kid raised by Tightie-Righties into a rebellious anti-war Hippie Wannabe.

Seriously, hanging out in The Infamous Bob’s basement we got to listen, really listen, to ALL of these albums:

Cheap Thrills, Electric Ladyland, Bookends, InnaGaddaDaVida, Music from Big Pink, Wheels of Fire, Cheap Thrills, Astral Weeks, Steppenwolf, (Shades of) Deep Purple, Electric Flag, Gris-Gris, that Super Session (Bloomfield/Kooper/Stills), and ‘We’re Only in It for the Money’ (our first dose of the Mothers).

If hearing and discussing that stuff over and over doesn’t radicalize you, well, maaaaan…

ETA: So my vote is All Of The Above.

There were a whole lot of “important” albums released in 1968. I don’t think it’s possible to pick one and say “this is it!”…there’s just too much to choose from. Not mentioned yet: Oddessy And Oracle by The Zombies, and the debuts of both Fleetwood Mac and Creedence.

As far as the White album goes, I don’t know if there are any 1968 albums that have such a wide diversity of types of songs.(We’re Only In It For The Money might be close) In 90 minutes it bounces from Beach Boy-esqe to beautiful ballads to songs about guns to atmospheric blues to dance hall to an 8.5 minute collection of chaotic soundclips. In a way it was like getting 4 Beatles solo albums(with The Beatles being the backup band) in one release.

I’d argue that the soundtrack for The Graduate was more “important”

Thank you for listing Wheels of Fire! I always think Disraeli Gears came out after Wheels of Fire and was trying to remember the order when I read your post.

I like to think that they knew how awesome their playing on it was, and they had to break up after it, and follow it up with Goodbye. A noteworthy effort, but nowhere near Wheels of Fire. One reviewer summed it up by writing “This is the album you want to be buried with.”

Saucerful Of Secrets is another great from '68.

Wow. Nailed it!
I might add the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland, Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends, and maybe the Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet.

I find it interesting that in at least two of the albums I (and others) mentioned — the Kinks’ …Village Green…, and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends — you have twenty-something men singing about what’s it’s like to be old (this theme pervades about 60% of the S and G album, and 30% of the Kinks one).

Not sure if this says anything about the 1968 zeitgeist, but it does speak well for these composers — Ray Davies and Paul Simon — who are now indeed old men (great that they’re both still with us). I wonder how each feels now about their youthful observations on the subject.

[ETA: I realize Village Green isn’t so much about being old per se, but it’s evocation of a world decades before 1968 gives that impression, to me, anyway.]

Someone who is overlooked in a lot of these discussions is Arthur Brown, who released The Crazy World of Arthur Brown in 1968. It contained his hit single Fire (yes, he appeared on stage looking like that). His music was truly unique for the time and, as Wiki says, " [he] is considered a pioneer of shock rock and progressive rock and influential on heavy metal music."

18 posts in and no one has mentioned Dylan or the Doors.

That’s because Dylan didn’t release anything in 1968 and Waiting For the Sun was sub-par, even for The Doors.