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Which albums changed music forever? And which artist wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for these incredible records? We pick a selection of the best.
Sgt Pepper may be acclaimed as the Fab Four's masterwork, but in terms of a major step in the band's songwriting and production, their 1966 LP is way out in front. From George Harrison's dip into the world of Indian music on Love You To, via the impossibly versatile Paul McCartney songbook (For No One, Got To Get You Into My Life) to the John Lennon's apocalyptic finale Tomorrow Never Knows, this changed the face of pop music forever.
A select few albums can say that they defined a generation, and Nevermind is absolutely one of them. Taking the uncompromising thrash of their debut Bleach, producer Butch Vig gave a gleaming polish to the band's songs, making them accessible to millions. Smells Like Teen Spirit was an instant anthem, but the rest of the album is assured and confident.
While the mainstream charts were embracing the New Pop of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Wham!, Morrissey and Johnny Marr were planning an assault on their vacuous, glitzy world. It was led by jangling 1960s-influenced guitars, flowers and good old-fashioned songwriting. While The Queen Is Dead was The Smiths' classic album, their debut established a manifesto that would be copied by dozens of bands: a humane reaction to the empty world of pop and the emotionally cold sound of post-punk.
The Manchester band were another in the long line of snotty punks, but as they progressed their songwriting became deeper and more intriguing. Throw in the visionary production genius of Martin Hannett and you have a unique musical landscape that inspired countless "long raincoat" bands.
While dance music was moving in a more manic direction in some areas - jungle, which would would morph into drum 'n' bass among other things - the Bristol trip hop scene was producing something more down-tempo. The frail vocals of Beth Gibbons complimented the eerie atmosphere concocted by Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley.
Lazily tagged as "shoegaze", My Bloody Valentine's music was difficult to categorise, impossible to pigeonhole and, on occasion, challenging to listen to. The sonic world created by Kevin Shields and his wall of sound was both impenetrable and accessible at the same time. It was such a remarkable record, it took him over 20 years to follow it up.
Just as it seemed that guitar music was dead, a new decade and a new millennium brought The Strokes. Their debut album was full of confident New York swagger and jam packed with memorable riffs on classic songs like Last NIte, Hard To Explain and Someday. Suddenly it was COOL to play guitars again.
The mid 1960s saw the Stones face legal issues, the death of founder member Brian Jones and all kinds of personal problems. But their 1972 double album saw them complete the artistic renaissance that had begun with 1968's Beggar's Banquet. Recorded in (tax) exile in the South of France, this was the Stones at their most decadent, embracing the music of America with touches of gospel, blues and rock 'n' roll. The elegantly wasted Keith Richards inspired a generation of wannabe frontmen.
It's hard to imagine now, but punk was seen as a trend that wouldn't live on beyond the landmark year of 1977. But The Clash proved them wrong - they signed to a major label and survived, they had chart success and retained their credibility… and they didn't implode like the Sex Pistols did. Their third album was a very un-punk like double LP that appeared in the dying days of the 1970s. It drew on influences like reggaeand proved that punk could have artistic longevity and a social conscience.
In the early 1980s, heavy metal meant either earnest young men from Sheffield dressed in denim, or ludicrous young men from Los Angeles dressed in spandex. Metallica took their cue from hardcore punk: their version of metal was sped up, confrontational and dealt in weighty issues like politics, death and morality. Their third album inspired a generation of kids - and other bands - to take their music seriously.
In among a torrent of what some people uncharitably called "indie landfill", the first Arctic Monkeys album was a bolt of lightning… from Sheffield. Alex Turner's arch lyrics displayed a thoughtful and perceptive take on British culture, while the music was direct, invigorating and undoubtedly self-assured.
Turntablism had existed long before Shadow came along, but his debut album was such a complete and definitive example of the form that it created a whole new wave of producers who mixed and mashed samples like virtuoso musicians. And it worked as a whole album, too.
While the term Britpop had been bandied about the previous year, Blur's third album became the calling card of the new wave of music coming from the isles. While undoubtedly nostalgic for a romanticised view of Britain, it also tapped into the zeitgeist with wry observations on modern life, from the raucous Girls And Boys to the comical title track. It spawned countless imitations, but this was the original and best.
Definitely Maybe may superficially appear to be simple, no-nonsense rock and roll, but it's really all about the attitude. While much of Britain was either in the club or in the mosh pit, Oasis made it acceptable to rock out again without trying to pretend to be American, continuing a lineage that reached back to the days of The Kinks and The Who. British music would never be the same again.
The Floyd had done "concept" albums before… but there was something about the unsettling but thoughtdul lyrical content and the polished sonic experimentation that hit home with millions of record buyers. A milestone in "progressive" rock, it influenced Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Muse and anyone else who liked to get a bit ambitious.
In the wake of The Stone Roses' impressive debut, many bands embraced the "indie dance" idea, but it was the Scream that defined the genre. By hooking up with remixer and DJ Andy Weatherall, the band ditched their ropy garage rock roots and dragged their skinny asses onto the dance floor. They also added a touch of psychedelic mysticism that sat well with rave culture.
Struggling to avoid the trap of Just Another Guitar Band following the release of their debut album Pablo Honey, Oxford's finest made huge steps on 1995's The Bends. But it was the follow-up that made them one of the most innovative bands of the 90s. The experimentation that led to ambitious tracks like Paranoid Android and No Surprises made this an instant classic.
While the nation was either gazing at their shoes or heading for the dance floor, the Roses combined the two: they added a spoonful of classic psychedelia to a heady mix of classic guitar tunes and shuffling beats.
The marriage of noise and melody had been done before in the 1980s, with pioneers like Husker Du and Big Black, but it was Boston's Pixies who nailed the form completely. Tracks like Monkey Gone To Heaven, Tame and Debaser formed the template for what would morph into grunge.
It was pretty much all over bar the shouting for the Pistols by the time their one and only studio album arrived at the tail end of the turbulent year of '77. But it includes some of the key songs of the era that smashed British music out of its complacent fog: Anarchy In The UK, God Save The Queen and more.
The Beasties weren't your usual purveyors of hip hop in the mid-1980s: they were three rather well-off white guys that sampled classic rock riffs, most notably on the hit (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party). But it was this genre-hopping that made their debut album one of the records that broke the music in with a whole new audience.
The hip hop collective's second album was the definitive moment that rap stopped being a novelty and became a true art form. Tracks like Bring The Noise and Don't Believe gave the music a voice and a conscience.
The Dusseldorf electronic music powerhouse really hit their stride with this conceptual 1977 album that takes a train journey across Western Europe to the soundtrack of metallic, industrial beats. Future hip hop stars would sample it to death. Influence on: Joy Division/New Order, Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem and anyone who's ever used a drum machine.
Inspired by Kraftwerk's modernist approach and wanting to get his head straight, the Thin White Duke upped sticks to Berlin and entered one of the most creative periods of his career. The clean, atmospheric sound - courtesy of producer Brian Eno - informed much of the post-punk music that was to follow. Influence on: Joy Division, Gary Numan, The Cure and anyone who likes to pose in a Teutonic way.
While the world was embracing the jingle jangle pioneered by The Smiths, these Scottish upstarts created an uncompromising, screeching behemoth of a record. And yet, in amongst the noise, there was melody on songs such as Just Like Honey.