* "Rock Around the Clock"
In 1955, Bill Haley & His Comets, who had already covered Ike Turner's "Rocket 88," blasted off for uncharted spaces with that ethereal entreaty,
"One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock- Rock!" it was the first anthem for the nascdent but already huge teenage audience that was Rock 'n' Roll Nation, as well as a dynamic theme song in the film Blackboard Jungle.
* Bringing It All Back Home
Blonde on Blonde was the very definition of magnum opus, and its immediate predecessor, Highway 61 Revisited, is rightly considered one of the
greatest-ever- and most influential- rock records. But it was here, in 1965, on his fifth album, that we first heard a rock 'n' roll band behind the Dylan lyrics- "Subterranean Homesick Blues," "Maggie's Farm"- and heard the band declare "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue."
* Fresh Cream
It's hard to say whenrock got harder but fair to say that in late '66 this debut album by the brilliant trip Cream told us it was time to turn the volume up to 11. Cream opened the door for the quick acceptance of artists like Jimi Hendrix and, in a corollary, paved the way for lesser bands to gain success playing distortion-racked music. Their legacy is seen in the
many permutations of today's metal scene.
Before Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Paul McCartney of the Beatles staged their much ballyhooed creative showdown with Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper, this 1966 album showed the Fab Four had left behind the world of conventional pop songs and was starting toexplore new realms. Rock was never the same.
* "Say it Loud- I'm Black and I'm Proud"
When James Brown said it loud in 1968, black people, young and old,
listened, as the song provided a new kind of backing for a movement- black pride- that was already up and running. To hear a music god shout the slogan through the airwaves, in the very year Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, made real changes seem within reach.
* Sweetheart of the Rodeo
In the same year Brown released "Say it Loud," the Byrds issued an album that was the sonic antithesis of that song and all the psychadelia floating around, but was still very much in the realm of rock. Most heavily
influenced by the band's newest member, Gram Parsons, Sweetheart of the Rodeo took rock 'n' roll down yet another road. To Sweetheart, with its sittin'-on-the-porch country feel, such followers as Poco, Linda Ronstadt, the Eagls, Loggins and Messina, Tom Pettuy and Wilco owe a great deal.
* What's Going On
James Brown notwithstanding, most doo-wop and soul music of the 1950s and '60s was about baby love and in the still of the night, or hearing things through the grapevine; Marvin gaye himself waxed his share of it. When Gaye came forth with this jazzy, introspective album in 1971, with its wonderings about the political and ecological fate of the earth, it was a revelation,
and told all performers- black and white- to start thinking harder.
* Saturday Night Fever
The 1977 soundtrack of the John Travolta film was essentially Disco's Greatest Hits. For better or worse, this is the emblematic record of an era,
a half decade when you sported an open-necked shirt, polyester pants, a flouncy dress and spiked heels on weekend evenings. Yes, you did.
* "God Save the Queen"
Talk about a backlash! Hearing disco, the punks blasted back. This Sex
Pistols song caused the loudest commotion. It reached No. 2 on the British charts in 1977- during the Queen's Silver Jubilee- and set off an outcry nearly as raucous as Johnny Rotten himself. The nilhilist Pistols weren't just attacking establishment Britain, they were attacking everything , and claiming they spoke for their g-g-generation. From the punks through Guns N'Roses to grunge and Garbage, loud, angry rock 'n' roll has never again been out of fashion.
* "The Message"
Grandmaster Flash was a pioneer of the turntables when rap was finding its feet. In 1982 he and the Furios Five, who had been rapping since 1976 and
had developed a rabid following in New York City, delivered their message to the nation: Our culture is our own, it sounds like this, its concerns are these- violence, brutality, inequality, death- and we're going to express ourselves this way.
* "Like a Virgin"
Madonna had already notched a couple of club hits when this became her first No. 1 in 1984. Melodically, it was just another pop song, but it sent an entirely different message than her earlier music had, and allowed for the rise and rise of women in rock 'n' roll. Madonna's persona, developed here and in "Material Girl," was now touch and raunchy. Most Important, Madonna was definitely in charge. Byt the end of the decade, Janet Jackson could dance just as dirty as Michael, and Courtney Love could front a band every bit as loud and nsty as Kurt Cobain's.
* Backstreet Boys
The boy band from Florida first conquered Europe, and this CD, culled from two that had previously been released abroad, didn't become a multiplatinum smash in this country until 1998. At that point, however, it rang the bell for rock 'n' roll's latest round of teenage frenzy. The mania tradition dates to Elvis, Fabian and the Beatles, of course, and extends through
Menudo, New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men. However, it may be said that, as far as phenomena go, rock had never seen a kiddie invasion like the one spurred by the B Boys and quickly joined by 'N Sync and that dangerous mini-Madonna, Britney Spears. The next generation awaits.