Albums With The Greatest Influence
The Velvet Underground & Nico, still fresh off its Uncut nod for "Greatest Debut Album", also comes out on top here. The Guardian calls it "arguably the most influential rock album of all time." Without it, the paper says we would also be without "Bowie, Roxy Music, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Jesus and Mary Chain, among many others." Perish the thought.
The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is an unsurprising #2. A more surprising pick: The Spice Girls' 1996 debut album, Spice, deemed the 21st most influential album. Sure, the panel acknowledges it's "Motown lite" and "unoriginal" but they also feel it "touched a nerve and defined a generation of tweenies who took it to heart."
Can any one album really define a generation? Is it up to some comparative geezer to define a generation he's not a part of, let alone to do so in such a simplistic way? Spice appealed to kids and concerned a few parents ("'if you wanna be my lover?' What the-?"). That's nothing new; it happens every generation. The Guardian mostly discusses the marketing "phenomenon" of the Spice Girls, which was impressive, but is it relevant to whether they've had a "lasting influence on music"?
Kate Bush's The Hounds Of Love is right behind Spice. Also trailing it are Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced (27), Prince and the Revolution's Purple Rain (28), Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (29), Radiohead's The Bends (38), and The Ramones' and The Smiths' self-titled debut albums (35 and 42, respectively). Have any of those albums had more of a lasting impact on music than the Spice Girls' first album? The other artists are more respected, and more often cited as influences, but how could the mega-success of a manufactured, and yes, very heavily marketed, pop group not encourage more of them? Still, I think it's less likely that an American panel would have seen the Spice Girls' influence as that significant. Sure, we dug Ginger Spice, but she wore a Union Jack dress, not the Stars and Stripes. No way could her influence on music be as enduring here.
The Top 15 from The Guardian's Top 50:
1. The Velvet Underground & Nico
2. The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
3. Kraftwerk - Trans-Europe Express
Kraftwerk - Showroom Dummies (available on Trans-Europe Express)
4. NWA - Straight Outta Compton
5. Robert Johnson - King of the Delta Blues Singers
6. Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
7. Patti Smith - Horses
Patti Smith - Kimberly (available on Horses)
8. Bob Dylan - Bringing it All Back Home ("fused hallucinatory lyricism and, on half of its tracks, a raw, ragged rock'n'roll thrust")
9. Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
10. The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds ("Of late, Pet Sounds has replaced Sgt Pepper's as the critics' choice of Greatest Album of All Time... The beauty resides not just in its compositional genius and instrumental invention, but in the elaborate vocal harmonies that imbue these sad songs with an almost heartbreaking grandeur.")
11. David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
David Bowie - Hang Onto Yourself (available on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
12. Miles Davis - Kind of Blue ("A rare example of revolutionary music that almost everyone liked from the moment they heard it.")
Miles Davis - Blue In Green (available on Kind of Blue)
13. Frank Sinatra - Songs For Swingin' Lovers
14. Joni Mitchell - Blue ("Raw, spare and sophisticated, it remains the template for a certain kind of baroque female angst.")
Joni Mitchell - A Case Of You (available on Blue)
15. Brian Eno - Discreet Music