Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run
Bruce Springsteen had released two albums and had found moderate success. In 1974, Jon Landau, after seeing Bruce perform, wrote “I saw Rock and Roll’s future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.” In 1975, Springsteen teamed up with Jon Landau and released one of his most successful albums. When producing Born to Run, Bruce and longtime producer/manager Landau set out to make an album that resembled “Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan” while employing the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” technique. This was the first album to feature Max Weinberg of Conan O’Brien fame. What came out of these sessions was “Thunder Road”, “Born to Run,” and an album that remained in Billboard’s top 100 for over two years. The cover featured Bruce with his signature Fender Telecaster. He’s leaning on Clarence Clemons.
The Who, The Who By Numbers
By 1975, The Who were huge. Coming off of the success of rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia, Pete Townsend composed a confessional. Alcoholism, lust, fame, self-loathing, and midlife crisis are the major themes of The Who By Numbers. The cover features cartoon charactures of the band ready for the listener to connect the dots and paint by numbers.
Elton John, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Believe it or not, a concept album. The concept? The struggles of Elton John and Bernie Taupin early on in their career together. If you don’t already know, the two collaborate on songwriting. Elton writes the music and Bernie writes the words. I’m sure you can figure out who Captain Fantastic represents. Allegedly, the album’s hit single “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” (again, one of the greatest songs ever) is about Elton’s suicide attempt in 1969. John Lennon appears on the album to contribute guitar, but records under an alias. Captain Fantastic has a wonderful cover.
Largely a tribute to former member Syd Barret (see 1968), Wish You Were Here was a five track album released in 1975. Syd Barrett showed up in the studio unannounced on the same day David Gilmour got married. He wasn’t recognized by the band initially. He lent his voice for background vocals on “Shine On…” Featuring famous songs “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” “Have a Cigar,” as well as the epic title track. The band wanted to release the album with a completely black cover with no writing; essentially an anonymous release. The record company balked at that and the burning man handshake concept was born.
Honorable Mentions for 1975:
Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffitti
Jackson Browne, Late for the Sky
Bob Dylan and The Band, The Basement Tapes
Tom Waits, Nighthawks at the Diner (Based on the Hopper Painting, Nighthawks)