5 Classic Albums Released 55 Years Ago This Month

Music fans always talk about what it must have been to live through certain iconic moments in history. For LP aficionados, May 1969 must have been particularly mind-blowing. Some truly groundbreaking, brilliant albums arrived that month.

Videos by American Songwriter

In fact, so many of those powerhouse albums popped up that choosing only five required some tough decisions. But we went for it anyway to bring you this esteemed list.

Tommy by The Who

Just remember you cannot blame Tommy for all the ill-conceived rock operas that came in its wake. Pete Townshend had toyed with song suites (“A Quick One, While He’s Away”) and concepts (The Who Sell Out) in the past. But the scale of Tommy was nothing that anyone in rock had ever attempted before, and that The Who handled that without stumbling all over themselves is miraculous. You can follow along with the plot if you choose or just tune in for the individual moments, from bite-sized mini-classics like “Sally Simpson” to epic recurring themes like Roger Daltrey’s aching chants of see me, feel me.

Stand! by Sly and the Family Stone

Sly Stone understood well the need to take listeners on a ride, and nowhere did that quality come to the fore any more clearly than on Stand! Scathing takes on racial inequalities followed calls for everyone to come together, just as wild funk workouts followed on the heels of bubblegum pop. Despite all this variety, at no point does Stone seem to lose the overall plot of the message he wants to send. And occasionally, he just throws everything at the wall in the course of a single song, as on the glorious “I Want to Take You Higher.”

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

The progression Neil Young made from his self-titled debut in 1968 to Everybody Knows This is Nowhere is quite remarkable. On the one hand, it could have been a case of Young simply finding his footing. More than likely, collaborating with Crazy Horse for the first time was the catalyst. With those racket-makers by his side, Young had the confidence to take on fuzz-fueled excursions like “Down by the River” and “Cowgirl in the Sand.” Other standouts include the country-rocking title track and the punchy, psychedelic “Cinnamon Girl.”

Clouds by Joni Mitchell

On just the second album of her career, Joni Mitchell was already starting to leave contemporaries behind with the ambition of her songwriting. The album includes “Both Sides Now,” which had already been turned into a baroque pop hit by Judy Collins. But in Mitchell’s hands, it becomes something more loose-limbed and questing, which feels right for the ambivalence expressed in the lyrics. Elsewhere, Mitchell opines with her peerless poetry on the highs and lows of a “Chelsea Morning” and takes a searing anti-war stance on “The Fiddle and the Drum.”

Crosby, Stills & Nash by Crosby, Stills & Nash

A supergroup built on harmony was an idea just crazy enough to work. When David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash vocalized together, something otherworldly emerged. But without memorable songs, none of that would have mattered much, and the self-titled debut is teeming with them. Even on the songwriting front, they complimented each other well: Crosby with his mystical musings (“Guinnevere”), Nash with his effervescent pop touch (“Marrakech Express”), and Stills, yearning and soulful (“Helplessly Hoping”).

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Remember When: Van Halen Reunited with David Lee Roth for a New York City Club Gig

Ranking Tom Petty’s 5 Best Album-Closers