The Albums Turning 50 This Year

Publish Date
Thursday, 19 January 2023, 4:59PM

Bruce Springsteen – ‘Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.’

It’s hard to imagine a time when Bruce Springsteen wasn’t rocking around the world with his three-hour-plus live show of blue-collar anthems. But, back at the very beginning of 1973, the New Jersey icon was a relative unknown compared to his status now – until he released his debut album ‘Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.’, which would slowly attract attention across the rest of the year and earn him comparisons to Bob Dylan for his poetic, everyman tales.

What happened next: It kickstarted an iconic career for The Boss, setting the tone for his man-of-the-people anthems and would go on to be considered one of the best debut albums of all time.

Elton John – ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ 

Elton John’s second album of 1973 would prove to be one of his most popular. ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ was first planned to be recorded in Jamaica, partially inspired by The Rolling Stones and Cat Stevens decamping to the country to make ‘Goats Head Soup’ and ‘Foreigner’, respectively. However, the sessions were quickly scrapped after John and his band arrived due to the political situation at the time, sending the musicians back to the French château where his previous two records were made. The change in plans added some urgency to the process (the songs were largely written on the day they were recorded) but didn’t detract from the quality – a large number of the tracks here are considered some of John’s finest.

What happened next: It spawned many hits – including ‘Candle In The Wind’, which would later be reworked to pay tribute to Princess Diana following her death two decades later. The album also stayed at Number One on the charts for two months, boosting John’s superstar status even more.

Iggy And The Stooges – ‘Raw Power’

The Stooges’ third album was made in haphazard conditions. The band had technically broken up but, as Iggy Pop embarked on a solo deal with Columbia, eventually came back together to make ‘Raw Power’ in London. Iggy, bassist Ron Asheton and drummer Scott Asheton were joined by new guitarist James Williamson, who brought a new, rawer sound to the band, which would bear great influence on the next generation of punks to come.

What happened next: ‘Raw Power’ may be considered a classic now, but it definitely didn’t have mainstream appeal at the time. Its poor commercial performance caused Columbia to drop the band and they split again in 1974, making way for Iggy to eventually rise from the ashes and start his solo career proper two years later.

Pink Floyd – ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’

Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ was groundbreaking, both in terms of audio quality and its content. Conceived as a concept album about “things that make people mad”, it was one of the first records – and certainly one of the most commercially successful – to discuss mental health, touching on the struggles of former member Syd Barrett. Its production quality, meanwhile, was so high that it quickly became known as a record for audiophiles and the seamless segueing of the tracklist created an ‘immersive experience’ long before that phrase felt like a cliché.

What happened next: The album would go on to be one of the most influential records in the alternative and experimental fields, giving inspiration to everyone from Tame Impala to Radiohead, and many more in between.

Led Zeppelin – ‘Houses Of The Holy’

‘Houses Of The Holy’ was Led Zeppelin’s first album with a proper title and that about-turn wasn’t the only shift in style the record represented for the band. Sound-wise, the rock legends also switched things up, bringing a more experimental edge to the songs and adding hints of everything from reggae to folk to the material. Although it wasn’t given an overwhelmingly positive critical response on its release, in the decades since, it has been reappraised and deemed a classic in Zeppelin’s oeuvre.

What happened next: Led Zep’s stratospheric rise continued – the ‘Houses Of The Holy’ North American tour broke attendance records at the time, including that set by The Beatles’ infamous Shea Stadium concert.

David Bowie – ‘Aladdin Sane’

‘Aladdin Sane’ was the first album David Bowie would release after the huge success of 1972’s ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’, but it wasn’t strictly a continuation of alter-ego Ziggy’s story. Instead, its creator viewed ‘Aladdin Sane’ as “a pale imitation of Ziggy”, capturing the persona on a trip to America. Regardless, the songs – from ‘Jean Genie’ to ‘Cracked Actor’ – didn’t feel like a pale imitation of Bowie’s brilliance, adding to his stock.

What happened next: Bowie would announce the retirement of the Ziggy Stardust character on stage at Hammersmith Odeon in July 1973 and he would go on to make one more album with the Spiders From Mars in the covers album ‘Pin Ups’.

The Who – ‘Quadrophenia’

By 1973, The Who were well-versed in how to make a rock opera having already completed the “mini-opera” track ‘A Quick One, While He’s Away’ and the iconic record ‘Tommy’. For ‘Quadrophenia’, Pete Townshend took the reins and concocted a story about a mod trying to find his path in life. It was perhaps the most ambitious of The Who’s many forward-thinking records, earning its spot in many greatest albums lists for its storyline, musicality and cohesiveness.

What happened next: The tour version of ‘Quadrophenia’ fared less well than the album, suffering from issues relating to backing tracks trying to replace some of the instruments on the album. It was taken off the road in 1974, but returned two decades later in a new format.

Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Catch A Fire’

‘Catch A Fire’ marked Bob Marley & The Wailers’ big international breakthrough at a time when interest in reggae was growing on a global scale thanks to films like The Harder They Come. It has since been regaled as one of the greatest reggae albums of all time, with contributions from the likes of Wailers member Peter Tosh showing the band wasn’t just about Marley.

What happened next: Marley became a global icon, although it wasn’t without drama. As the Wailers’ fame grew, Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the group, unhappy with Island Records boss Chris Blackwell’s treatment of other members compared to Marley.

Black Sabbath – ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’

Black Sabbath had already begun mixing up their sound before 1973’s ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ and they continued to keep things fresh on the record. Synths and strings were added to tracks, while Tony Iommi tried – and failed – to become proficient enough at the sitar and bagpipes to make things even newer. Despite those out-of-the-box ideas, ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ still brought the noise and is often regarded as one of the heaviest albums of all time.

What happened next: Black Sabbath returned to their roots for 1975’s ‘Sabotage’, but that couldn’t save the band’s classic line-up. In 1977, Ozzy Osbourne quit and was replaced by Dave Walker, only to rejoin the band in 1978 – and then be fired a year later.


Originally published on NME.


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