Eight epochal and enticing English rock albums from 1969

1969 was an incredible year for music, and particularly for the album format.
Led Zeppelin Performing in Concert
Led Zeppelin Performing in Concert / Jay Dickman/GettyImages
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3. Led Zeppelin II – Led Zeppelin

The second album Led Zep released in 1969 also happens to be one of their crowning achievements; a staggering salvo of top-flight rock and roll that delivered thunderous guitar riffs and finger-shredding solos aplenty – the likes of which the music world had never seen.

One album removed from setting the template for what rock would sound like for much of the 1970s (and beyond), the group expanded that sound and delivered all-time classics such as opening track “Whole Lotta Love,” (which contains perhaps the group’s best-ever guitar riff) as well as the seminal “Heartbreaker,” which features both an astoundingly good riff as well as an incredible guitar solo – which is truly a solo, as all other instruments drop out behind the incredible fretwork of Jimmy Page.

There’s plenty more here, such as the Tolkienesque “Ramble On,” as well as the striking “What Is and What Should Never Be.” Awe-inspiring, influential work from Zep.

2. Tommy – The Who

The Who’s 1969 album Tommy can only safely be compared to Pink Floyd's The Wall in terms of scope and breadth of material, but it predates that far-reaching masterpiece by 10 years. This album truly represents the first-ever "rock opera," with a wide variety of genres represented as well as an orchestral "Overture" as track one, which introduces various melodic themes.

The first classic track on the album is "Christmas," which features powerful lyrics and strong vocal performances from both lead singer Roger Daltrey and lead songwriter and guitarist Pete Townshend. Each track masterfully moves the plot along (and what a far-reaching plot it is), but almost all of the songs manage to stand on their own as tremendous works on their own – though some are admittedly slighter than others.

Highlights include the rock standard "Pinball Wizard" with its brilliant acoustic guitar intro, the striking melody of "Go To The Mirror!" (which is performed by Jack Nicholson in the original film version), the cathartic “I’m Free” as well as closing track “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” which features the central musical theme of the album entitled “See Me, Feel Me.” Amazing stuff, though The Who still had greater heights to reach on their subsequent studio album Who’s Next.