As the ‘60s were dawning, rock and roll had come a long way from just being the kind of music that could get the kids moving. The first wave of rock with Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley had started to fade, and the new school of rockers were bringing a lot more stuff to the table. These weren’t just songs that were meant to be fun. These had the potential to change the world.
Across every one of these records, you can hear the band getting tighter and tighter, honing their craft until they hit upon something that no one had ever heard before. Though most of the ‘60s rock scene concerns itself with the British Invasion, the rest of the decade was all over the map, going from psychedelic sounds to the blues to the beginnings of punk and metal starting to rear their head.
The best examples of these classic records are the ones that tend to leave rock behind altogether, pulling from different influences until the music matches the noise that they have in their head. With the backdrop of the counterculture looming in the background, this was more than just another fun record for the summertime. The world was progressing by leaps and bounds, and it was about time that the rock scene started to follow suit.
10. Freak Out - Frank Zappa
In the wake of the psychedelic period, it was officially time for rock to start getting weird. The old 12 bar blues format wasn’t really going to be working for too much longer, and artists were starting to throw everything at the wall to see what they could work with in the future. And in the middle of it all was Frank Zappa, who became the weirdest man in rock and roll without the help of any hallucinogens.
Because when you go through the album Freak Out, there are points where you start to question whether or not you’re actually listening to a rock album. Structured as a double album experience, the tone of these songs feel weird for weird’s sake, from songs that feel like they’re being played as a joke to random jams that stretch well beyond 10 minutes. On paper, this thing should fall apart, but the music is enough to really keep you invested, with each of the jams leading your ear in that much more every time you listen to it.
This was only the beginning of Zappa’s streak of strangeness, going down the rabbit hole of rock opera, jazz rock, and even some blues thrown into the mix, each of them becoming more and more interesting later down the line. If anything, that’s just a testament to what we were working with back then. Since something like this could get on the charts, there were no rules anymore.