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Five classic albums turning fifty in 2021

Brown Sugar, The Rolling Stones by Morgan Howell

1971 was a seminal year in music, in fact David Hepworth’s celebrated book ‘1971 – Never A Dull Moment: Rock’s Golden Year’ claims the year saw the release of more monumental albums that any other year before or since. Here we have chosen to celebrate five of these classic albums that turn 50 in 2021, but in truth this list could have been much longer, testimony to the quality and longevity of the music being produced at that time.


Rolling Stones, London, 1971 by Alec Byrne

Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers
Sticky Fingers is regarded by many as the Rolling Stones’s best album and the first to reach No 1 in both the UK & US album charts. It features classic songs like the opening track ‘Brown Sugar’ and the highly acclaimed ‘Wild Horses’. The original artwork for the record was conceived by Andy Warhol and designed by The Factory, his art collective. The iconic cover became almost as well known as the album, with its suggestive picture of a man in tight jeans including a fully working zip, that could be opened to reveal a pair of underpants.


David Bowie print by Terry Pastor based on a photograph from the Hunky Dory photo session shot in 1971

Hunky Dory: David Bowie
Hunky Dory is critically acclaimed as one of David Bowie’s best works, despite receiving very little promotion from RCA and failing to chart when it was released in 1971. It has gone on to become one of Bowie’s most celebrated records with iconic songs such as ‘Changes’ and ‘Life On Mars?’.

The photograph of David Bowie on the front cover of Hunky Dory was taken by Brian Ward and shot at his studio on Heddon Street, the location for the iconic Ziggy Stardust cover. Originally shot in black and white, the photograph was colourised by Terry Pastor, an illustrator who shared a design studio with Bowie’s friend George Underwood in London’s Covent Garden at the time.


Joni Mitchell, Wembley Stadium, 1974 by Mick Gold

Joni Mitchell: Blue
Joni Mitchell’s Blue is regarded by many music critics as one of the greatest albums of all time. In January 2000, The New York Times chose Blue as one of the 25 albums that represented "turning points and pinnacles in 20th-century popular music". Also in 2020, Blue was rated the third greatest album of all time in Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". It is widely praised for its combination of outstanding song-writing, musical composition and haunting vocals.


The Who, Marquee Club, 1967 by Ray Stevenson

The Who: Who's Next
Who’s Next is The Who’s fifth studio and generally regarded as their best; featuring tracks such as Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again. The album started life a project by Pete Townshend called Lifehouse, a follow up to the band’s 1969 album Tommy. When the project was aborted the group reworked some of the songs to lay the foundations for Who’s Next. It became the only Who album to reach No 1 in the UK charts.


Led Zeppelin, Copenhagen, 1973 by Jorgen Angel

Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV
Led Zeppelin’s fourth album was officially untitled although has become commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV. The band had decided not to name the album but to instead represent it by four symbols, each one chosen by the band member it represented.

In an interview in 1971 Jimmy Page explained “After all this crap that we’d had with the critics, I put it to everybody else that it’d be a good idea to put out something totally anonymous. At first I wanted just one symbol on it, but then it was decided that since it was our fourth album and there were four of us, we could each choose our own symbol.”

The album is also notable for its inclusion of ‘Stairway to Heaven’, often described as the band’s signature song

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