Top 10 Albums of the 1960s

Your votes for the best albums of the 1960s have been counted. You might be surprised to see who made it to the final top 10...

Top 10 Albums of the 1960s
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What are the best rock records of the 1960s? That's was we asked UG readers on Wednesday. It's a tough question - some of the most influential artists of all time emerged in this decade among a cultural explosion of drugs and political awareness, and it's hard to rank their awesome releases against each other. But your votes rolled in, and we've got the results right here. There were a lot of great nominations that didn't quite make it to the final top 10, but still deserve a nod for being so influential. The Rolling Stones' "Let it Bleed" missed out on the top 10 by only a handful of votes; the Velvet Underground and the Who could easily have had more luck on another day and made the chart, and jazz hero John Coltrane did remarkably well for a non-rock musician by reaching no. 15 with his masterpiece "A Love Supreme." So which albums stood the test of time, and more importantly, earned your votes this week? Read on and hit play to enjoy our run down of the top 10 albums of the 1960s.

10. Jefferson Airplane "Surrealistic Pillow" (1967)

Jefferson Airplane were the first band from San Fransisco to break out and make a name for the city's bohemian musical landscape. Their fusion of folk and psychedelic rock put them in line with the likes of Bob Dylan and the Beatles.

09. Bob Dylan "Highway 61 Revisited" (1965)

Dylan's sixth studio album was his debut with a rock backing band, to the distain of his old folk following. It didn't matter; a new hoard of fans loved his new direction, which layered his rocking new sounds with the same genius poetry that marked him out as a prodigy in his previous acoustic years. We're sorry to say that the full album isn't available online that we can see, but you can get a taster of it right here:

08. Pink Floyd "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" (1967)

The first single from this psychedelic experiment was rejected by London radio stations who refused to air a song about kleptomaniac transvestites. Who would have guessed? Singer Syd Barrett led the direction of this album, presumably influenced by his experiments with LSD.

07. Johnny Cash "At Folsom Prison" (1968)

Cash always wanted to record a live show in a prison, and a new boss at Columbia Records granted his wish in 1968. Several prior years of drug abuse had almost stalled his career, but this live record put him back at the top of the US charts and kickstarted the next phase of his remarkable life.

06. Cream "Disraeli Gears" (1967)

"Disraeli Gears" was the record that helped Cream break into the US conscience. Apparantly the name came from a friend who wrongly pronounced "derailleur gears" from a racing motorbike, which the band found hilarious.

05. King Crimson "In The Court Of The Crimson King" (1969)

One of the defining progressive rock albums of any decade, and perhaps the most influential. It's been remastered more times than might be dignified, and often from tapes which were several generations removed from the original recordings, but in 2003 the original tapes were found for a much improved version in time for its 40th anniversary. Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson also had a go at a remaster in 2010.

04. The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1967)

You might be surprised not to see this rocking the top spot in this week's chart. But that's not to say the Beatles aren't among the most important acts of the 1960s, let alone the entire 20th century. In fact, if we had room to post more than one album per artist in the top 10, they'd appear four times with "Abbey Road," "Revolver" and "The White Album." UG readers have voted "Sgt. Pepper's..." their favorite Beatles album from the '60s this time.

03. The Doors "The Doors" (1967)

This stunning debut sounded like nothing before it, but has been emulated by wannabes a million times since. It was recorded at the legendary Sunset Studios by producer Paul Rothchild and engineer Bruce Botnick, who layered their music to a straightforward four-track recorder. Or rather, three-tracks, because the forth was saved for occasional overdubs. Then again, most albums on this list were recorded on relatively simple rigs - which puts our modern digital systems to shame, eh?

02. The Jimi Hendrix Experience "Are You Experienced" (1967)

Jimi Hendrix didn't invent rock music, but he certainly showed the world how a real rockstar should play the guitar. As his debut, Hendrix was still a newcomer to the studio and spent relatively little time experimenting on this record compared to later years when he saw studios and their equipment as yet another instrument in his arsenal. In this case, the results were straight-up rock 'n' roll from a stunning lineup of musicians - and it became a classic. The only YouTube copy of the album comes in two parts, played back from a vinyl copy of the album:

01. Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin" (1969)

When Zeppelin fans look back at their entire discography, it's their forth album that earns most attention. But when you zoom in on their 60s repertoire, their debut record stands out as an earth-shattering moment in music history - and not just because of John prove themselves to be a force of nature which modern bands could never rival. "Led Zeppelin II" would also have charted in the top 10 today, according to UG voters, but today it's their debut that wins as your favorite album of the 1960s. Great choice!
That's the end of our roundup of top 10 rock records from the 1960s. What are your personal favorites, and how would you tweak the final results? Let us know in the comments.

193 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    BigMacDT
    I'm sad the Beach Boys and Frank Zappa didn't make it, but overall a fairly good list.
    PRSeg5150
    Why must Led Zeppelin always be number one? I'm just happy the Doors made it near the top and that the list overall is very solid.
    MaXiMuse
    Because UG users vote for it and apparently they liked it the most...
    UncleBluck
    The Partridge Family Album gets my vote with a close second for Bobby Sherman "Hey Little Woman"....
    dontfakeit
    I wonder how many ug users know that some of there favorite zep tunes are actually COVERS..lol
    K33nbl4d3
    For what it's worth, a lot of the ones people say they "stole" were pretty much unrelated to the original track except by lyrics. That said, there was an issue of failing to give proper credit.
    ToolCreedence
    Giving credit to yourself for something someone else created is more than "failing to give proper credit." It's called plagiarism.
    UncleBluck
    That's an ages old story....the credit was finally given years ago and the songs covered sounded nothing like the originals....OLD NEWS....
    ysalimari
    So? Crossroads by Cream sounds nothing like Robert Johnson's original.. but it's still a cover.
    Rex Inclitus
    I think anyone in the know are aware that LZ were the widely known as the biggest plagiarists in the music industry at that time, there are documentaries which explore this. I am old enough to have owned these albums at the time of their release and it wasn't until many years later that the credits were given on the subsequent prints.
    xonty
    I'm probably more happy King Crimson made the list, and at number 5 as well Great list overall too!
    ToolCreedence
    Glad to see KC up there as well. Also, A Saucerful of Secrets is 10 times better than Piper At the Gates of Dawn in my opinion. I'm a huge solo Syd fan, but Saucerful is genius and should have been on here instead.
    UniformRecon
    Because Led Zeppelin is ****ing awesome. Maybe they don't deserve number one for everything , but they're still ****ing awesome.
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    I just don't understand how Zeppelin I is better than Zeppelin II.
    99deadballons
    II just sounds like leftovers from the first album imo
    60s&70s
    Yeah, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker, Ramble On, Moby Dick and Bring it on Home sound like leftovers.... sure...
    99deadballons
    Killers by Iron Maiden is leftovers from their first album, yet 9 times out of 10 when I just want to listen to one song, I listen to the the whole album
    Minis3b
    the first Maiden album, Iron Maiden, is still the best!
    Satrianifan281
    Minis3b has obviously never listened to any of Iron Maiden's Dickinson era albums.
    richard.warts
    I agree with him, their first IS the best. Nothing against any of their later albums but they just don't compare.
    iommi600
    Because this site lives in an eternal circlejerk of bands. We all know that. If you make a list with the 10 best albums of the 00's, someone will find a way to put Led Zeppelin on it with a remastered version of a bootleg or something like that. It gets tiring...
    60s&70s
    Dear UG, Given that Led Zeppelin won so many of your Wednesday Questions, the UG community is begging for a Best "Anything" from Led Zeppelin. Thank you.
    third(-)eye
    How about a "Best of anything that's not Zeppelin, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, etc."?
    sroze478
    Well, then we wouldn't be finding the best, would we?
    jpk6044
    Interesting to note that almost every song on Zep I is a uncredited rip off of another artist. But it is still groundbreaking for its style and sound.
    jpcl
    You just answered your own question... If they are consistently being named as such a good and successful band, just maybe it's because they are? This album in the 60's was like being in the 1960's with a Mclaren F1 hypercar passing by you.
    robo37
    I know, especially considering they only wrote 2 original songs on the whole album >_>
    sroze478
    This is primarily a guitar website, and Jimmy Page will always be near the top for anyone who likes, plays, or listens to classic rock...he's supremely talented, very popular, and long-lived. The fact that the other band members also happened to be supremely talented and popular doesn't hurt either. Zeppelin ushered in a new era of rock'n'roll, so even if they weren't at No. 1, they'd be top 10 for sure and probably top 5 on any list of best albums from the 60s, that's just what happens when a great band makes a great album.
    Animal_Farm
    oh cmooon the he cant play for shit hes just overall player i mean at the same time Ritchie Blackmore was making a helluva lot more with that piece of wood in the same musci scene and time
    dontfakeit
    I couldn't agree more..and I know im going to catch a lot of flack for this probably..but this is a guitar forum and any real student(of guitar)knows blackmore is hands down the better musician..any1 who disagrees is either a HUGE zep fan..or they really just don't know there shit....
    Minimallamb
    It's very subjective. I can clearly see that John Petricci is an insanely talented guitarist, but I cant stand Dream Theater. Just because someone has impeccable technique, doesn't mean that they are any more inspirational or iconic. Being technically skilled doesn't necessarily make you a 'better' guitarist
    nl_wilson
    Well JImmy always said he wasn't so much on the technical side of playing, he just picks it up and plays, running on emotion. So like Santana or BB King, they may not always be playing the greatest solos (jimmy's can be a bit sloppy, but hey, that's his style). I personally prefer that style, the fury and sort of windswept attack on the blues. Using the guitar to get out the deepest, darkest points of human emotion, it could be compared to yelling or punching something in anger.
    Rex Inclitus
    Voted this up erroneously, influential yes but also one of the sloppiest guitar players of his era though their were many other notable ones. At the same time Robert Fripp was one of the few exploring higher levels other than the pentatonic's painfully prevalent at the time. Even Hendrix was elevating his level and playing with the likes of John McLaughlin and going in a more technical jazz oriented direction if he had of lived longer you would have seen his playing evolving.
    Calymos
    He's really not as sloppy as people make him out to be, sir. I mean, look at his record- you don't become the top session guitarist by being sloppy.
    tukk04
    OMG guise that keys player from the doors JUST died, they haz to b #1! It's based on votes, a lot of people like Zeppelin more than The Doors.
    Shaggy91
    Because Zeppelin without a doubt was the most influential rock band. Ever.
    iommi600
    Hah. Hahahahah. No.
    nl_wilson
    Led Zeppelin changed the face of writing, recording, and playing music live. Their slip-ups in crediting original artists is not unheard of (Bob dylan, the beatles, the stones, jimi hendrix-all used other atrists work without giving credit), and their "covers" sound like monumentally different songs. Their writing expertise is still unmatched, their efforts in recording changed the way all engineers think about the process, and their live prowess need not be mentioned, but I may as well. No band, repeat NO band, had a more encapsulating live show. In closing, Led Zeppelin may not be the band influences everyone directly, but any band you like took an innumerable amount of cues from Led Zeppelin I. Even Zeppelin influenced KISS, Van Halen, GNR, so by extension they are the influence, albeit indirectly, for bands influenced by GNR, Van Halen, etc, in the same way that blues were the backbone of the 60s/70s.
    iommi600
    "Led Zeppelin changed the face of writing, recording, and playing music live." No... "Their writing expertise is still unmatched" No... "No band, repeat NO band, had a more encapsulating live show." ...and no.
    nl_wilson
    You just keep saying no, yet you have no evidence to back it up. So, since I have absolutely nothing better to do... 1.Writing: Led Zeppelin I alone shaped the entire writing schematic of the 70s. Blending electric guitar fury and acoustic sensitivity had never been done so well, much less done that well on a debut record. Recording: Jimmy Page alone changed the way engineers do their job. Ambient micing setups, particularly for the drums, had never really been done. And the fact that Led Zeppelin II was recorded in improper "studios" all across the US is astoudning. 2. Seriously, have you ever actually listened to their music? The rain song? Ten years gone? Hots on for nowhere? Everyone know Zeppelin can play the hell out of the blues and many credit them with really kicking in the aggressive persona rock n roll became associated with in the 70s. Their first four albums open with good times bad times (1) whole lotta love (2) immigrant song (3) and black dog (4): all of which define the genre of hard rock music. After that face was established, they tore through every genre man has created, from celebration day, d'yer mak'er, no quarter, stairway, kashmir, fool in the rain, achilles last stand, the list goes on. Brilliant songs that intertwine the whole collection of music man has thought up, and they put balls to it. They breathed rock n roll into the history of world music, and from there you get the 70s. Wispy mysticism and heavy guitar riffs, drummers with a gong and bassist hanging back in the shadows. 3. Their live shows. Dear God. If anyone ever knew anything about music it should be that Led Zeppelin put on some of the greatest musical performances in history. Some of the worst as well, but drugs and booze made everyone play strings of bad shows back then, so hey, if you want to hate for that, hate clapton, van halen, hendrix, joe perry, whoever, they've all played terribly live before. Zeppelin's heights in improvised pieces, culminating often in 40 min versions of 6 minute songs, are the stuff of legend, and they created entire environments of sound within their vicinity. They were sonic architects. If you saw them live, their energy was powerful enough to just draw all your focus and suddenly space and time are irrelevant, you're totally removed because of the music. Thats what its like playing music that way, and the connection between the band and the audience was so intense they would share that removed feeling from reality.
    nl_wilson
    PS-I dont think Led Zeppelin 1 was the best album of the 60s :O I just feel they are too much of a 70s band and didnt really influence the 60s much. I liked seeing Disraeli Gears and Sgt. Pepper, I think those are two records that definitely epitomize the psychedelia and odd pop that was floating around.