40. Blue Öyster Cult – Blue Öyster Cult
The album that started it all. Cast in the mould of biker rock, and inspired by a combination of Sabbath, Steppenwolf and Canned Heat – plus a healthy dose of esoteric lyrical slants – their debut quickly established the band’s credentials.
Often dubbed America’s Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult arrived in a blaze of myth and intrigue. While most bands in the metal world had a lumbering broadsword thrust, BÖC had more of a rapier wit about them. Their music and lyrics told of a formidable intelligence, and with songs such as I’m On The Lamb But I Ain’t No Sheep, Cities On Flame With Rock’N’Roll and She’s As Beautiful As A Foot, Blue Öyster Cult took metal in a fresh direction, with a sense of anarchy and surrealism.
There’s a real menace about the sound, with Pearlman’s production outflanking their garage pretensions with something more distant and ephemeral. Not only could these guys play up a storm, but they also possessed an indefatigable charisma.
39. Black Crowes – Shake Your Moneymaker
Produced by Rick Rubin’s right- hand man, George Drakoulias, the Black Crowes’ debut kicked off with the 70s-style rock of Twice As Hard and never looked forward. The key hit single, Hard To Handle, was originally recorded by soul legend Otis Redding back in 1968.
But the Crowes were no hackneyed bar band. Their youthful energy, and great songs such as Jealous Again and the acoustic ballad She Talks To Angels, connected with a 90s audience.
With eight million units shifted worldwide, Shake Your Money Maker is still the Black Crowes’ biggest-selling album.
“It took a long time because we weren’t used to the studio,” says Crowe Chris Robinson. “We weren’t used to things being perfect. But we were thinking, this is how it’s done so this is how we’ll do it. Though when we bought our freedom with that record selling millions of copies in the States, we never made a perfect record again.”
38. Cheap Trick - Cheap Trick
Blame The Beatles. Without the loveable moptops there would never have been a Cheap Trick – and without the band from Rockford, Illinois, what we now call pop-rock probably would have been a very different animal too. Blessed with an innate sense of melody and an irreverent sense of buffoonery, Cheap Trick were almost seen as punk rock, certainly when compared to the AOR behemoths who dominated the US charts in the 1970s.
Seriously, Cheap Trick were prepared to take the piss out of themselves and everyone else, while crafting songs so hummable that if writing memorable hooks were an offence they’d have been locked up with no chance of parole. It started in 1968 with the band Fuse, with guitarist Rick Nielsen (very much the main songwriter) and bassist Tom Petersson. One album for Epic proved unsuccessful, as did a name change to Sick Man Of Europe and a relocation to Philadelphia. By 1973 they’d become Cheap Trick, adding drummer Bun E. Carlos and vocalist Randy Hogan. The latter didn’t stay long, ousted in favour of Robin Zander. Their distinctive image was the sum of two duos: Zander and Petersson were the pretty boys; Nielsen and Carlos were the wacky looking pair.
The band’s debut album, with producer Jack Douglas at the helm, had a rougher approach than we’d come to expect from them in later years. But the raw feel of the performances gave the songs an extra frisson. But it suited the songs, which represented the band’s live set at the time. Elo Kiddies, He’s A Whore and Mandocello all have a directness that owed something to The Who, albeit with a quirky undercurrent more in keeping with The Move.
37. Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory
On October 24, 2000, a little-known band from California called Linkin Parkreleased their debut full-length, Hybrid Theory. And while the unsuspecting sextet didn’t realise it at the time, that album would go on to become not only the biggest-selling record in the world the following year, but also, more importantly, a generation-defining modern rock classic.
Its fusion of razor-edged metal riffing, slick electronic beats, twisting raps, eye-gouging screams and effortless pop sensibility saw it catapult the six nobodies from nowheresville to rock superstardom in a fashion that will probably never be equalled. An absolute dreadnought of a record, to call Hybrid Theory a phenomenon would be to almost undersell it.
36. The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
If at first Stone Roses didn’t seem too distinct in an age that saw a multitude of indie rockers obsessed with the nailing the perfect Byrdsian pop song, one listen to closing epic I Am The Resurrection made you release that the Roses were a cut above, while She Bangs The Drums and Waterfall were pop classics.
The Jackson Pollockesque sleeve implied a kaleidoscope of ideas, and so it proved on the grooves, with Ian Brown’s vocals whispering ambition, John Squire’s guitar fusing The Byrds, Hendrix and Sly Stone, and Madchester’s funkiest rhythm section lighting a fire under She Bangs The Drums and I Am The Resurrection.
Singer Ian Brown was their only weak link – and he’s the only one who went on to have solo success.
35. Asia - Asia
“Asia? You framed an Asia poster? How hard did the people at the frame store laugh when you brought this in?” So goes the gag in 2005’s The 40-Year Old Virgin. Asia might have become a byword for middle-aged sexual inexperience. But these exiles from Yes, ELP and King Crimson had the last laugh, with a debut album that sounded like Foreigner with added church organ and sold 10 million copies in the era of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Nnobody expected such a commercial explosion. But this was one supergroup that worked, with this album topping the US charts and giving us the hit Heat Of The Moment. Why did they call themselves Asia? “Our manager Brian Lane came up with it,” explains John Wetton. “It did meant we got good racking in the shops.”
34. Queen - Queen
A glorious hard rock marathon unlike anything else around at the time, this album started it all. Maybe it was the unmistakably unique sound of Brian May’s home-made guitar. Perhaps it was the panoramic production of Roy Thomas Baker, or the soaring voice of Freddie Mercury.
Whatever the secret, Queen was one of those scary albums that simply burst its seams. The record was just too powerful, too multi-dimensional and too stunning to sit happily and contentedly in the grooves. The performances were all virtuoso. And those songs… oh, those songs: beginning with the cast-iron Keep Yourself Alive, breathless and languid in the same phrase, then Great King Rat, Son & Daughter, Liar, and finishing with a brief, early instrumental version of Seven Seas Of Rhye. This was the stuff of legend..
33. The Cars - The Cars
With this one album, Boston band The Cars virtually reinvented pop-rock, taking their cue from the new wave and adding their own quirky sense of melodic humour. Heavy airplay for songs like Just What I Needed and My Best Friend’s Girl ensured that The Cars was a hit. The striking model on the cover was Russian-born Natalya Medvedeva.
They’re oddly marginalised in the collective pop memory now, as if the Live Aid-related ubiquity of Drive consigned them to AOR ballad purgatory. Yet The Cars were vastly influential on the US new wave sound of merged guitars and synths that bossed the 80s. They were the Ramones for kids with a degree, who weren’t afraid to talk to girls.
32. Bad Company - Bad Company
Bad Co’s self-titled debut, released in 1974 via Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label, was an unashamedly in-your-face affair, and it effortlessly reached the No.1 slot on the Billboard chart.
Recording at Headley Grange while Led Zep took ‘time out’ during the recording of Physical Graffiti, the former members of Free, Mott The Hoople and King Crimson truly seized the moment. An album with swagger and style, highlighted by the now classic Can’t Get Enough and the title track, it epitomised quality hard rock of the period.
31. Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz
What Ozzy Osbourne delivered on Blizzard Of Ozz was astonishing: a performance of complete authority that redefined his entire career. If Ozzy had felt like a has-been following his dismissal from Black Sabbath, he sounded reborn on Blizzard Of Ozz.
It was a heavy metal album, but one quite unlike anything he had recorded with Sabbath. With Randy Rhoads, the most exciting guitarist since Eddie Van Halen, Ozzy had found a new sound for the new decade – illustrated most powerfully by the new album’s lead single, Crazy Train, a modern, hard rock anthem driven by a high-octane Rhoads riff, with Ozzy gleefully playing up to his loony-tunes image.
Blizzard Of Ozz was full of great songs: I Don’t Know, the heavy-hitting opener; Goodbye To Romance, a broken-hearted ballad and Mr Crowley a study of infamous occultist Aleister Crowley, with a suitably doomy keyboard intro by Rainbow’s Don Airey. The album was released in the UK on Jet Records on September 20, 1980 (it was released in the US the following year). It was a Top 10 hit, and was accompanied by a sell-out tour – proof that Ozzy was not, as he’d feared, a has-been.