The 1970s marked a decade of tremendous growth and change for rock and roll music. As the 60s came to a close, artists began pushing the boundaries of what was possible both in the studio and on stage. This led to a surge of new sub-genres, including punk, heavy metal, and progressive rock.
In between the rise of different bands, there were a few albums that stood out above the rest, leaving an indelible mark on the history of rock music. Here are the 10 defining rock albums of the 1970s.
2112 – Rush
Released in 1976, 2112 is a prog-rock masterpiece that showcases Rush’s incredible musicality and storytelling ability. The album is divided into seven tracks that tell the story of a dystopian future where music is banned. The title track, a 20-minute epic, is a standout moment on the album, featuring some of the most intricate guitar work and time signature changes in rock history.
Rumours – Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is one of the best-selling albums of all time, and for good reason. Released in 1977, the album is a masterpiece of pop-rock songwriting, with hits like “Don’t Stop,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “Dreams.” The album is also famous for its troubled production, with the band members dealing with relationship breakdowns and substance abuse while recording.
Who’s Next – The Who
The Who’s 1971 album Who’s Next is widely regarded as one of the greatest rock albums of all time. The album features some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” The album also features a number of experimental elements, including the use of synthesizers and tape loops.
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, released in 1975, is considered one of the greatest albums in rock history. The album features Springsteen’s trademark storytelling and larger-than-life production, with hits like “Thunder Road” and the title track. The album was a commercial and critical success, cementing Springsteen’s status as a rock icon.
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – David Bowie
Released in 1972, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is one of David Bowie’s most iconic albums. The album tells the story of a fictional rock star, Ziggy Stardust, and features hits like “Starman” and “Suffragette City.” The album is also famous for its gender-bending imagery and theatrical stage shows.
Ramones – Ramones
The Ramones’ self-titled debut album, released in 1976, is considered the birth of punk rock. The album features fast, loud, and simple songs, with hits like “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” The album’s raw energy and DIY attitude inspired countless punk bands to follow in the Ramones’ footsteps.
Van Halen – Van Halen
Van Halen’s self-titled debut album, released in 1978, is a hard rock classic. The album features Eddie Van Halen’s groundbreaking guitar work, with hits like “Runnin’ with the Devil” and “Eruption.” The album was a commercial success, and inspired a new generation of hard rock guitarists.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut album, released in 1970, is widely regarded as the birth of heavy metal. The album features heavy, riff-driven songs, with hits like “Black Sabbath” and “N.I.B.” showcasing the band’s dark and ominous sound. With Tony Iommi’s distinctive guitar work and Ozzy Osbourne’s haunting vocals, Black Sabbath set the standard for a new era of rock music that would become known as heavy metal.
Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin IV, released in 1971, is considered by many to be the band’s masterpiece. The album includes some of their most iconic songs, such as “Stairway to Heaven,” “Black Dog,” and “Rock and Roll.” Led Zeppelin IV showcased the band’s range, with blues-influenced tracks, hard rock anthems, and folk-inspired ballads.
The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, released in 1973, is one of the most successful and influential albums of all time. The album’s themes of life, death, and the human condition are woven together by a seamless flow of music, with songs like “Money,” “Us and Them,” and “Brain Damage” becoming instant classics. The Dark Side of the Moon’s use of experimental sounds and techniques, such as the use of spoken word samples and the iconic “heartbeat” sound, cemented Pink Floyd’s place as one of the most innovative bands of the era.