Until the late 1960’s the music industry was all about the three minute long, radio friendly single but as art and music fused into a new unique form of expression, artists were looking for a way to tell linear stories in the form of song and voila! The concept album or rock opera was born. From punk to pop, from indie to death metal the concept album surpasses any one genre and continues to thrive to this day. Here are ten of the greatest concept albums to date.
David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust
Released in 1972, Ziggy Stardust combines fact and science fiction to create one of the most memorable personas of the 20th century. Telling the story of Ziggy Stardust, an alien being whose taken human form, we follow his ascent to stardom and his subsequent fall from grace. A hero destroyed by his own success and the fans who adore him.
Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick
A 43 minute long epic song, Thick as a Brick, set the standard for the progressive rock concept album. The lyrics of the song are penned by the fictional lead character Gerald Bostock who submits his “poem” into a writing contest for children.
Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Released in 1974, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was the final album released by Genesis before Peter Gabriel left the band. It tells the story of a young delinquent named Rael, who roams the streets of New York City encountering strange creatures and unknown dangers in the quest to rescue his brother John.
The Pretty Things – S.F. Sorrow
One of the earliest concept albums, S.F. Sorrow was released in 1968. The album follows its main character Sebastian F. Sorrow through his life journey from birth to the bitterness of old age.
The Who – Tommy
The first album to gain publicity as a rock opera, Tommy tells the remarkable story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy who survives abuse as a child and grows up to be a spiritual leader. It remains one of the best-selling rock operas of all time.
Pink Floyd – The Wall
Released as a double album in 1979, The Wall is still performed live on stage to this day. Focusing on themes of abandonment and isolation, the album tells the story of a rock star named Pink who becomes ever more despondent and isolated from the world around him.
The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Described by frontman Billy Corgan as The Wall for Generation X. The two disc album focused on the themes day and night and has endured as one of the best albums of the 1990s
The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Taking on themes like pacifism, evil and insecurity in a post-9/11 world, Yoshimi, a young black belt, sets out to battle the pink robots.
The Who – Quadrophenia
The second rock opera for The Who, Quadrophenia takes a close look at the lives of teenagers in London in the mid 196o’s, especially the band’s own mod roots. With its memorable songs and well-crafted composition, Quadrophenia has earned its place as one of the best rock operas of all time.
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
If one album has to stand out as the best concept album of all time than Dark Side of the Moon has to be it. The album is virtually perfect in its execution and focuses on the universal human struggles of war, death, money, time and insanity. The album remains the best selling concept album in history and frequently ranks as the most influential and greatest albums of all time.
Justin Miller is a professional blogger that writes on a variety of topics including guitar lessons. He writes for JamPlay.com, a leading online music educator offering 2,000+ video guitar lessons in HD.