UNIVERZITA PALACKÉHO V OLOMOUCIFILOZOFICKÁ FAKULTAKatedra anglistiky a amerikanistikyRomana SedláčkováThe Rise of the Concept Album: Rock Turns ComplexBakalářská práceVedoucí práce: David Livingstone, Ph.D.Olomouc 2015

Prohlašuji, že jsem tuto bakalářskou práci vypracovala samostatně a uvedla jsemvšechny použité podklady a literaturu.V Olomouci dne 6. 5. 2015 . .Romana Sedláčková

Ráda bych poděkovala Davidu Livingstonovi, Ph.D. za vedení mé bakalářsképráce a za poskytnutí informací a rad souvisejících s její tvorbou.

Content1 Introduction . 52 Getting ready for the concept albuma) Record marketing through the 1940s and the 1950s . 7b) Singles rule the music industry . .9c) The LP changes the philosophy .113 YES! We are ready: the arrival of the concept albuma) Its pathfinders 14b) Revolutionary Sgt. Pepper 16c) A greater emphasis on lyrics .194 Sgt. Pepper inspires the late 1960s rockersa) The less significant after-Sgt. Pepper albums .22b) The Kinks .23c) The Who .275 The concept album floods the marketa) Progressive rock 31b) The Kinks and The Who in the progressive era (1970s) .32c) Progressive concept albums .34d) The backlash reaction . . .40e) The concept album up to the present .416 Conclusion .437 Resumé . 448 Bibliography .489 Annotation .5110 List of appendices . .5311 Appendices . .54

1 IntroductionWhen the Beatles released their 8th studio album entitled Sgt. Pepper‘s LonelyHearts Club Band in 1967, it contributed to the gradual change occurring in themusic industry in the late 1960s. In that decade, musicians tried to be lessdependent on the music companies that released their work. The musicianswanted to express their own thoughts and appeal to people through the power ofmusic. The alternative sphere became mainstream. The above-mentioned albumbrought completely new trends into the creation of albums as well as into thesubsequent listener’s perception – the trend of theme unification and the overallmessage conveyed. The newly born tendencies needed a name and consequently,a simple coined term was established – the concept album.As I have already mentioned, the concept album is a collection of songsthat are connected in some way. Concept albums ‘introduce non-musical ideas tostructure an album’ because ‘it isn’t really meaningful to call something a conceptalbum if its tracks are only linked by musical approach or style.’1 A sampleconcept album engages the lyrics, music and the cover artwork to fit the overallthematic frame or story. During the progressive era, the concept was brought evenfurther; to the concert hall bandstand. Special attention will be paid to rock opera,together with the explication of the term and its comparison with the conceptalbum.Previously, a typical model of a studio album was a mixture ofheterogeneous unconnected songs. It did not try to expose artists’ thoughts andopinions in a manner that would force people to think further about the messageof the lyrics. The mission was clear – create a single concerned withcontemporary fashions and problems, become a hit and make a quick profit fromit. The music market was based on singles and there were not many possibilitiesto express complexity in shorter forms such as single tracks or albums consistingof a small number of songs due to the limited technological opportunities of thetime. The main focus was on a single, not on large-scale structures like an album.Later, in the 1960s, prominent bands attempted to create more elaboratealbums and soon the trend of focusing on albums spread. The historical period in1Gareth Shute, Concept Albums (Investigations Publishing, 2013), 13.5

which the album is an essential unit of recorded music is called The Album Era.2Initiated by Sgt. Pepper and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (from the previous year),the enormous success of these two albums enticed other musicians to dedicatethemselves to this new concept.Nevertheless, the new course would not be possible without technologicaldevelopments that pushed the industry forward. The first important invention wasvinyl long-playing (LP) album. Thanks to the 12-inch LPs that could play up tofifty two minutes (as opposed 7-inch singles), the idea of an album as the basemedium for recorded music expanded.This thesis attempts to trace the mutual progress of the concept albumfrom its birth, through its early days and golden age to its decline, abandonmentand recent slow revival. The process is accompanied by technologicalimprovements, the overturn of a single oriented marketing, the turn from shallowand facile lyrics to deeper and purposeful texts, psychedelia and progressive rockand the counteraction against the later showy concept albums. It focuses on adifferent approach towards song-writing during the gradual transition of attentionfrom mainstream singles to less popular albums. Lyrics find their way into theprominence and the music shifts from dancing to a listening one. The conceptalbum changes the perception of rock music and influences the music industry formany decades ahead.2Popular song, ‘Albums of the Rock Era,’ Popular Song, accessed April 17, 2015,

2 Getting ready for the concept albuma) Record marketing through the 1940s and the 1950sTo fully understand the development of the music sphere conceptualization, onealso has to mind the technological progress which greatly advanced the albumevolution, as well as the preferred marketing proceedings that were conditionedby technology. Until the 1940s, there was practically no possibility to produce athematic album due to two aspects. First, technological state at that time was notprepared yet to produce recordings in the song-cycled fashion and second, theprocess of song-writing was coordinated by managers and music companies. Itwas not subordinated to artist’s sentiments.The first widespread recording format was the 78 rpm disc made fromshellac.3 This fragile disc comprised only three minutes of sound per side andtherefore shellac was slowly substituted by nearly unbreakable and more soundprecise vinyl. After the Second World War, vinyl fully dominated the market bytwo basic formats: 33 1/3 rpm 10/12-inch LP developed by Columbia Records and45 rpm 7-inch single developed by RCA as a marketing response to the precedingone. The end of the 1940s was the period of battling between these two formats.Each label tried hard to beat the other one in consumption of their format and‘after several years of competition between the two speeds, the companies pooledtheir talents and agreed to produce in both formats.’4While both formats coexisted simultaneously, each concentrated ondifferent type of music. The labels of popular artists (rock ’n’ roll, soul, pop)applied a song-by-song strategy. These labels did not support mainstreammusicians to publish whole albums and preferred to produce 45 rpm singles, ‘onlyonce an artist had a few successful singles could they look at putting thesetogether on a long-player (LP).’5 In contrast, the long-format market was firstdriven by soundtracks, classical music, collections of several artists and later bymood or exotica music compilations. Naturally, the 45 singles appealed to youthswhile LPs to adults and ‘by 1952, the LP had become the major format for3Rpm revolutions per minute (the speed of spinning).Roy Shuker, Popular Music: the Key Concepts (Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2003), 253.5Gareth Shute, Concept Albums (Investigations Publishing, 2013), 11.47

classical music and the 45 the format for single records for popular radio airplay,jukeboxes, and retail sales.’6The slip of the record also became a strategic aspect for record labels.Initially, the packaging of records was only a simple wrapper with emphasis onvisible label (appendix 1 below). Later, ‘record labels found they could sell morecopies if they printed a photography of pop artists on the sleeve.’7 To becomemore eye-catching, the photos were gradually modified and altered. Eventually,the cover artwork happened to be an indispensable part of record marketing, inparticular during the later concept-album-oriented period.Appendix 1Source: the photography of the 78 rpm shellac disc with the emphasis on the labelRock ‘n’ roll was not considered to be a serious genre. Therefore,musicians had little endeavour to step out from the single-focused marketing andturn to song-cycled principle. 45s ruled the popular sphere. Moreover, to have agreater control over the artist’s outcome, record labels prioritized professionalsongwriters to compose songs for musicians, ‘which meant [the artists] wereunable to purposefully write a complete set of tracks around one theme.’8 Simply,the market was not prepared yet to welcome conceptualization.Nevertheless, there were also exceptions amongst the musicians likeAmericans Lee Hazlewood, Johnny Cash or Woody Guthrie, who ‘wrote the Dust6Roy Shuker, Popular Music: the Key Concepts (Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2003), 253.Gareth Shute, Concept Albums (Investigations Publishing, 2013), 10-11.8Ibid., 10.78

Bowl Ballads (1935) and became the first major singer-songwriter.’9 Theseauthors are also considered to be the first to attempt to create complex music (thiswill be further discussed in chapter 3 a)). However, these were rare exceptions inthe 1930s to 1950s music industry interwoven with hired songwriters.The increased consumption of LPs, by the end of 1950s, draw moreattention to this format, ‘so over the next few years more and more young, rockoriented artists would try to find ways to enter that market.’10 Artists endeavouredto be more self-reliant and produce authentic music. This resulted in pushing theprofessional songwriters into the background and in ‘the emergence of a traditionof self-contained groups or performers writing their own songs (most notably theBeatles), which weakened the song-writing market’ later in the 1960s.11Nevertheless, this new music direction was preceded by market predominantlyinterested in profiting singles.b) Singles rule the music industryAs already mentioned, singles ruled the mainstream. Singles’ sales served as areflection of the music society tendencies and the companies altered theirmarketing strategies according to it. The public interest in singles gave rise to themusic charts. In the United Kingdom, the first music chart was compiled in 1952by the New Musical Express (NME) magazine, corresponding to its Americancounterpart Billboard. The chart’s market survey was based on the single’s salesnumbers of twenty music shops. Within a few years, other magazines came upwith their own charts, but according to The Official Charts Company, the NMEchart is taken as canonical until 1959. From 1960 till 1969, the Record Retailer’schart is regarded as the official one.The most influential music powers were the United Kingdom and theUnited States of America. During the 1950s and the 1960s, these two countriesgreatly affected each other’s mainstream. Firstly, American rock ‘n’ rollinfatuated the British scene, which projected onto the UK charts in the 1950s.According to the NME chart, only two British musicians managed to be number-9Piero Scaruffi, A History of Rock Music: 1951-2000 (Lincoln: iUniverse, Inc., 2003), 8.Elijah Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of AmericanPopular Music (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2009), 198.11Roy Shuker, Popular Music: The Key Concepts (Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2003), 277.109

one single of the year between the years 1952 and 1959 (one of which shared itsposition with American).12 Bill Harry, British journalist from Liverpool, togetherwith his peers, noticed that ‘there was a degree of American popular culturedomination in Britain and people seemed to be copying it.’13 Also the best-sellingsingle of the 1950s decade comes from the US – Bill Haley & His Comets andtheir song ‘Rock Around the Clock.’ Out of four artists, who had three or morenumber-one hits, four come from America (Frankie Laine, Guy Mitchell, ElvisPresley and Johnnie Ray).With the arrival of the new decade, the lust for novel British music wasrising. British artists extricated from duplicating the American style. The 1960sbelonged to the Beatles, together with other British bands, who turned the courseand invaded massively into the charts of the US. The British new sound pervadedthe one of the US. The starting point of The British Invasion is according to BillHarry considered to be the year 1964.14 The year when the Beatles’ song ‘I Wantto Hold Your Hand’ was released in America and mastered the charts. ‘For therest of the decade, British bands and artists stormed the American charts andairwaves with rebellious reinterpretations of American rock ‘n’ roll.’15 Between1960 and 1969, according to Record Retailer in the UK, out of the thirteen mostsuccessful number-one hits’ artists are only three Americans (and one Australian),the rest is British.16 American Billboard shows that between 1958 and 1969 theBeatles had eighteen number-ones, being the most successful hit parade band. TheBeatles also hold the first position for best-selling single ‘She Loves You.’17Nevertheless, bands or solo musicians with more than one number-one hitsingles were exceptions, particularly in the 1950s. In America, ‘of the seventyeight recording artists listed in the 1955–1959 charts, seventy-four percent hadonly one number-one hit on the list. Presley, on the other hand, accounted forfifteen percent of the hits d