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11 Landmark Rock Albums Turning 50 This Year

This year marks the 50th anniversary of 11 landmark albums in rock history, according to Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The height of hippie culture in 1967 saw the flowering of psychedelic rock and the debut of some of the biggest bands in pop music history. And many of those artists pushed the boundaries of pop music by writing about hard drugs, incest and suicide.

Here's a look at the 11 seminal albums (two for The Doors) celebrating their Golden Jubilees in 2017. 

1. 'The Doors' and 'Strange Days'

RS rank: #42#409

Fifty years ago this week, Jim Morrison and The Doors broke on through the airwaves with the release of their eponymous debut album. The record reached #2 on the Billboard charts that year, proving that there was a place for Oedipal fantasies in rock music.

But it was the chart-topping single "Light My Fire" that rocketed the band to the very top of the charts that year.


2. Surrealistic Pillow

RS rank: #142

The Doors weren't the only band expanding the minds of fans in 1967.

On February 1, Jefferson Airplane released their sophomore album Surrealistic Pillow, an instant classic that became the soundtrack to San Francisco's Summer of Love later that year. Which isn't surprising given the record included bohemian hits like "Somebody to Love."

3. The Velvet Underground & Nico

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While Jefferson Airplane celebrated free love on the west coast, New York art rockers The Velvet Underground and German singer Nico released an eponymous album that is the polar opposite of the Summer of Love.

Instead of promoting free love, they sang about sado-masochism. Instead of celebrating the mind-altering nature of cannabis and LSD, their lyrics explored heroin addiction. The contrast in the 1967 music scene proves that for every yin, there's a yang.

4. Younger than Yesterday

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The Velvet Underground's brooding masterpiece made its mark on the music scene. But it was very much the exception to the year's prevailing mood. And no band epitomized the whimsical character of the hippie era like California folk rockers The Byrds.

On February 6, they released the feel-good album Younger than Yesterday, which pops with jangling guitars, soft melodies and colorful lyrics. Incense and love beads practically pour from the record's grooves.


5. Are You Experienced?

RS rank: #15

There might not be a bigger for debut albums than 1967. On top of The Doors and The Velvet Underground, guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix broke onto the scene that year with the release of Are You Experienced? 

The landmark album that put psychedelic rock on the map across the globe and popularized cannabis culture with mainstream listeners. But being "experienced," according to Hendrix's lyrics, is "not necessarily stoned but... beautiful."

6. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

RS rank: #1 

June 1967 saw the debut of Billy Shears, the fictional bandleader of The Beatles as they performed incognito on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Rolling Stone calls it "the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time."

So it's no surprise that the seminal psychedelic rock record is #1 on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums. After all, the album's highlights include mesmerizing tracks like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and the haunting "A Day in the Life."

7. Piper at the Gates of Dawn

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As though there weren't already enough debuts by legendary bands this year, Pink Floyd released their first record -- Piper at the Gates of Dawn -- on August 5.

Like The Beatles' psychedelic record, Pink Floyd's debut is full of surreal imagery and colorful melodies. But its rough edges give it a rawness that captures the frenzy as well as the fun of the year that saw hippie culture reach its zenith.

8. Disraeli Gears

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On November 2, Cream took psychedelic rock on a detour with their sophomore album Disraeli Gears. Songs like "Sunshine of Your Love" blended flower power lyrics with the hard, driving rhythms of blues rock (courtesy of guitar god Eric Clapton). And the unrelenting beat of drumming demon Ginger Baker.

The final product sounds like the anthem for a summer of lust.

9. Axis: Bold as Love

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On December 1, Jimi Hendrix followed up his landmark debut album with another classic record -- Axis: Bold as Love.

Topping his earlier release would be impossible. But Hendrix delighted fans by offering more spacey lyrics, more distorted jams and more mesmerizing guitar licks with his sophomore effort. And the hit song "If 6 Was 9" quickly became part of the cultural landscape by appearing in the iconic counterculture movie Easy Rider (1969). 

10. The Who Sell Out

RS rank: #113 

The Who closed out a landmark year in popular music with their self-mocking album The Who Sell Out. Their very first concept album was an homage to Britain's notorious pirate radio stations by inserting fake commercials among surreal tracks like "Armenia City in the Sky" and "I Can See for Miles."

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