For years the music industry has been dominated by British Icons, from the Beatles taking America to the UK stars making their name all over the world today. Our writers had a look at some of the best albums to come from the UK, and why we should all be listening to them.
The Beatles – Revolver
Somewhat overshadowed by the industrious period of creativity immediately succeeding it, the years 1965-66 were nonetheless some of the Beatles‘ most fruitful. Having cast off any pretention towards making inoffensive pop music, the band drew influence from the introspection of Bob Dylan, the multi-layering of the Beach Boys, and the jangling guitar tone of the Byrds, compounded with their own talents. What emerged in 1966 was one of the decade’s most influential albums: Revolver.
Acting as the Beatles’ first foray into psychedelia, Revolver set the gold standard for albums in the genre. Songs like ‘Taxman’ and ‘She Said She Said’ need no introduction. What makes the album legendary, however, is its experimental tracks that stretched even further from the norm – the unofficial UK national anthem ‘Yellow Submarine’, the violin-driven ‘Eleanor Rigby’, the haunting ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, and the Indian-inspired raga track ‘Love You To’. The Beatles could simply do no wrong.
Wham! – Make It Big
There is no such thing as a list dedicated to the greatness of British music without Wham! Their 1984 Make it Big album really did make it big featuring classics such as ‘Wake Me up Before You Go-Go’, ‘Freedom’, ‘Careless Whisper’ and my personal favourite ‘Everything She Wants’. The astonishing album is one that could easily be mistaken for a greatest hits record, and its success in the UK and America prove this as it went straight to number one. It’s a flawless record and introduces a new genre to the mainstream, a new wave of pop-soul, which was only truly made by the amazing vocals of George Michael. Wham! were one of the most commercially successful pop acts of the 1980s and this album put them in the music history books as they were amongst other British artists who took part in the ‘second British invasion’ of music in America.
Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You
No list of great British albums would be complete without the quintessentially British icon, Lily Allen. Her album It’s Not Me, It’s You follows the major popularity of her song ‘Smile’, and features British classics such as ‘Fuck You’, ‘Not Fair’, and ‘The Fear’ amongst others. Everyone loved a bit of Lily Allen when they were growing up, from her thick London accent to her outrageously candid lyrics. Lines like “you’re just some racist who can’t tie my laces” in ‘Fuck You’, and ‘Not Fair’ being about her partners self-focussed pleasure during sex being selfish and never making her “scream”, showcase her politically focussed, comically-inclined lyrics. All of this aside, with a title like It’s Not Me, It’s You, how can anyone not love Lily Allen and this great British album?
Motörhead – Ace of Spades
Iconic rock ‘n’ roll band Motörhead have released an unruly 22 studio albums (amongst numerous live albums and compilations) but Ace Of Spades stands out as a significant release for the band and for British heavy music. With two prior successful releases under their belts, Motörhead were one of the bands laying down the foundations for the 1980’s insurgence of the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” which included the likes of Iron Maiden and eventually influenced a movement of thrash metal that divulged with bands like Metallica and Megadeth. The title track of Ace Of Spades is still a resounding song 40 years on since its release in 1980. Other tracks like ‘Live To Win’ and ‘Love Me Like A Reptile’ still find themselves regarded as some of the best Motörhead tracks released. For the sheer influence the band had on heavy music around the time of Ace Of Spades, the album is truly iconic.
Radiohead – In Rainbows
Radiohead is a cornerstone in music culture, innovating rock since 1985. Throughout, constantly evolving and surpassing those that came before them. In Rainbows is a British rock classic, and a first stylistically. In Rainbows is the bands’ seventh studio album, released in 2007, their first since 2003’s Hail to The Thief to become less heavy-handed and more palatable. It was initially released as a ‘pay-what-you-want’ on their website, a response to prior piracy of their music.
Yet, what changed the game was the ability to access the record for audiences. Tracks such as ‘All I Need’ and ‘House of Cards’ gives more breathing space while addressing romantic interest: “I’m in the middle of your picture, lying in the reeds.” Yet, innovates with track ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’, the by-product of a (rare) resistance of anxieties and arpeggios. Ultimately, In Rainbows is fun yet tender. Subdued in its nature, it’s an instant classic.
Eurythmics – Ultimate Collection
The British pop-duo Eurythmics formed from a previous break up of the band The Tourists, and whilst their discography spans from 1981-1999, the Ultimate Collection album is perhaps the best summation of their catalogue. Released in 2005, after the reissues of their eight albums, it demonstrates in 19 tracks everything we loved about the musical duo and is one of my favourite albums ever. Included on the album are tracks such as ‘I’ve Got a Life’, ‘Sweet Dreams’, and ‘Sister’s are Doing it for Themselves’, all classic tracks that many know and love, depicting the true Eurythmics image, but the lesser celebrated tracks such as ‘There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart)’ and ’17 Again’ demonstrate the unique beauty of Annie Lennox’s voice paired with David Stewart’s musical arrangement. Perhaps its cheating to choose a best of album, but this is the epitome of everything great the Eurythmics produced and one I could listen to forever.