“Fifty years old this month, the album chart has tracked the history of pop. But only a select few records have actually altered the course of music. To mark the anniversary, Kitty Empire pays tribute to a sublime art form, and our panel of critics argues for 50 albums that caused a revolution. To see the 50, click here.”
From The Observer:
Alongside film, the pop album was the defining art form of the 20th century, the soundtrack to vast technological and social change. Once, sets of one-sided 78rpm phonograph discs were kept together in big books, like photographs in an album. The term ‘album’ was first used specifically in 1909, when Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite was released on four double-sided discs in one package. The first official top 10 round-up of these newfangled musical delivery-modes was issued in Britain on 28 July 1956, making the pop album chart 50 years old this month.
Singles were immediate, ephemeral things. Albums made pondering pop and rock into a valid intellectual pursuit. Friendships were founded, love could blossom, bands could be formed, all from flicking through someone’s album collection. Owning certain albums became like shorthand; a manifesto for everything you stood for, and against: the Smiths’ Meat is Murder , Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.