Flashback: October 1973 – How Many Of These Albums Ended Up In Your Collection?

One could argue that the Sixties Rock revolution hit its creative and cultural peak right around 1973. Rock music was all over the map, and Rock musicians spared no creative indulgences in pursuit of their muse. It was to be the height before the fall.

By the mid-seventies, Rock would begin to buckle under the weight of those collective indulgences, and start to resemble a bloated caricature of itself, resulting in the emergence of radical new visions of Rock by the end of the decade.

But in 1973, things were still bell-bottomly groovy. And October of that year, 42 years ago this month, saw the release of some massive all-time great albums. Here are 10 of the best:

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1. Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

This was Elton’s double masterpiece, his top-selling album, Billboard’s #1 album for 1974, and for a year or so, it made him the top Rock act on the planet. From the synthesized sweep of “Funeral For A Friend”, to the unexpected emergence of “Bennie And The Jets” on R&B radio, to Davey Johnstone’s churning guitar licks on this track, this album touched a lot of bases.

2. The Who – Quadrophenia

Like Ginger vs. Mary Ann or Betty vs. Veronica, the world can be divided into those who think Who’s Next is the best Who album, and those who think Quadrophenia is. As with the other examples, I say why argue? Each has their strengths, and I love ‘em both.

3. Bob Marley and the Wailers – Burnin’

The follow-up to his breakout album Catch A Fire, Burnin’ had more a political bent, and gave us the classics “Get Up, Stand Up” and “I Shot The Sherriff”. “If you are the big tree/We are the small axe/ Waiting to cut you down”. A populist call for the ages.

4. Steve Miller Band – The Joker

Incredible how many huge breakout albums came this month. Steve Miller had honed a powerful psych rock sound since 1966, but on this, his eighth album, he established a new pop/rock/blues/R&B hybrid sound of his own. The amazing laid-back originality of the song “The Joker” really set the Rock world on its ear.

5. David Bowie – Pin-Ups

OK, so it wasn’t Bowie’s greatest album by any stretch, but it is a Bowie album, and that counts for a lot. He wanted to do an album of covers so that he could bury his Ziggy Stardust persona. As it turned out, just about every new Bowie album buried one of his old personas.

6. Genesis – Selling England By The Pound

The breakout album for Genesis in North America, this one had some nice moments, but let’s be honest — it set the tone for the bloated, overwrought muck that brought the Sixties Rock revolution to its knees by the mid-Seventies. Still, I understand it has some great sentimental value to those who were there.

7. Rick Derringer – All-American Boy

The debut solo album for the Ohio native, who as a teenager had the number one hit “Hang On Sloopy” with his band The McCoys. This album was a hit, based on the massive single “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo”, and highlighted his fluid and much-in-demand guitar playing. Lordy mama, light my fuse.

8. The Band – Moondog Matinee

It’s interesting that three of the albums on this list consist of all cover tunes. It seems that by 1973 many Rockers finally had enough perspective to look back and reflect on the previous decade. Although in the Band’s case, they did a covers album because nobody in the group trusted each other about original songwriting credits.

9. Bryan Ferry – These Foolish Things

This one is an acquired taste, but as a big fan I’ve always loved this wild and wooly selection of covers. It’s funny and fun stuff from an artist who had previously been associated with moody art rock. From Dylan to the Stones to Janis Joplin to Leslie Gore’s “It’s My Party”, this album is a riot.

10. Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

Back in 1973, there was a lot more crossover between Rock and jazz, and this record became hugely influential not just in those communities but also later on in R&B and hip hop circles. Hancock pioneered the use of the new synthesized keyboard sounds, opening the door wider for Sly Stone, Steely Dan and many more.

Other Albums That Dropped in October 1973 Include:

Neil Young Time Fades Away / Jackson Browne For Everyman / Suzi Quatro Suzi Quatro / America Hat Trick / Greg Allman Laid Back / John Martyn Inside Out / Grateful Dead Wake of the Flood / Montrose Montrose

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