A beginner's guide to ludicrous album concepts

A concept album, explains Wikipedia, is "a studio album where all musical or lyrical ideas contribute to a single overall theme or unified story". This sounds simple enough, but in reality it's very rarely a straightforward tale.

So here, lined up like the citizens of Sunhillow queuing up to board the Moorglade glider, are 25 concept album concepts explained in a way that’ll help you make sense of it all.

Roger Waters - Radio KAOS

Wheelchair bound kid hears radiowaves. Talks to LA DJ. Gets busted for a crime twin brother commits. Plots ultimate nuclear revenge.

Radiohead - OK Computer

Mournful bemoaning of how terrible it is that modern day society spurns individuality.

Dream Theater - Metropolis 2: Scenes From A Memory

Whilst undergoing regression threrapy, a man discovers he’d been a woman who was murdered back in the 1920s!

The Who - Quadrophenia

Young man in 60s Britain loses grip when reality shows his youthful beliefs were built on sand, not stone.

Jon Anderson - Olias Of Sunhillow

Volcano destroys alien world. Intrepid hero Olias leads his people to a new land on the Moorgalde Gider, uniting them all as he does so.


Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick

The effects of living life in the modern age, as seen through the eyes of an eight-year old boy.

Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick II

Eight-year old boy returns as five different adults, including a homosexual tramp, an evangelical preacher, and a bloke who runs a corner shop.

Pink Floyd - The Wall

Rock star rails against his life, retreating from the world and wondering if he will ever feel human again.

Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

Puerto Rican boy travels to underground New York to rescue his brother from unimaginable dangers and a world of odd creatures.

Aphrodites Child - 666

Apocalyptic rendering of the prophecies of St. John. Both lyrically and musically.

Marillion - Clutching At Straws

Hopeless alcoholic gets drunk and bemoans the mess he’s made of his life.

Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans

The idea that all religions gives rise to a shared spiritual experience. Based on old Hindu scriptures.

Patrick Moraz – The Story Of I

A group of hotel guests decide to sell their souls for pleasure. A bit like Hotel California. Without the songs!

Robert Calvert – Lucky Leif & The Longships

Apparently America was discovered by some bloke called Erik The Red aeons before Christopher Columbus. Lucky Leif is his son. And this is his story.

The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

Japanese femme Yoshimi stands up to titular robots against a backdrop of war, pacifism and post 911 paranoia. Band get bored with concept after first four songs.

Magma – Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh

Earth is doomed. The Kobaians come to the rescue. And all sung in Kobaian, a language made up by Magma leader Christian Vander.

Dave Greenslade – The Pentateuch Of The Cosmogony

The first five books of the creation. Discovered in an abandoned spaceship orbiting Jupiter. Simples.

Gentle Giant – Interview

In which band creates album based on the interviews they do with the press. Not a success.

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon

We’re all mad. Every single one of us. Thanks to the stresses of modern day life.

The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love

Modern day indie meets prog rock as a woman falls in love with a shape-shifting deer. Like you do.

David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

Earth is doomed (again). Up pops alien rock star Ziggy to tell us it’ll be all right in the end. It won’t.

Rush – 2112

Only one side of the album but a triumph of Ayn Rand-like individualism, resulting in the liberation of the planets of the Solar Federation!

The Pretty Things – S.F. Sorrow

The miserable life of one Sebastian. F. Sorrow, which ultimately sends him mad.

Frank Zappa – Joe’s Garage

If you listen to rock music nasty things will happen to you and you’ll go mad.

Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime

A tale of subterfuge and assassination, starring a priest, a whore and a drug addict.

Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.