Concept Albums With a Story to Tell
    • MONDAY, JULY 24, 2017

    • Posted by: Ally Farrell

    Lots of bands have written concept albums. Albums that are tied together by a common thread, whether it be musical, lyrical, thematic, or some combination of the three, with the purpose of the album meaning more than the individual songs. But few have dared to dive further into their conceptual masterpieces and create a narrative album. Here are five concept albums that really tell a story.

    Tommy - The Who

    Ask anyone what the most famous concept album is, and they'll probably respond with Tommy. The album was composed almost entirely by The Who's guitarist, Peter Townshend, as he aspired to write what is now regarded as a "rock opera." Tommy is a young boy who after experiencing the death of a loved one, becomes "deaf, blind, and dumb." The album acts as his biography, following him throughout childhood, and his unexpected rise (and fall) to fame.

    Today, Tommy is noted as one of the most important and influential albums in the history of rock and roll. The original album has sold over 20 million copies to date, and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Since its initial release, Tommy has been adapted into a ballet, an actual opera, a film (Tommy) and a Broadway musical, The Who's Tommy.

    American Idiot - Green Day

    Strip away the musical-angst surrounding Green Day's American Idiot, and you'll find an album detailing the life of the Jesus of Suburbia, and his fight with "rage and love" in a George W. Bush/Iraq War-era America. A story of teenage arrogance, American Idiot follows the anti-hero and his relationships with St. Jimmy and Whatsername, who act as the devil and angel on his shoulders, so to speak. Unlike most concept albums, there is no definitive ending to the story, and it is up to the listener to decide the fates of the characters.

    A Broadway musical, American Idiot, was adapted by Billie Joe Armstrong, that further dove into the adventures of the Jesus of Suburbia, officially named Johnny in the musical, and his friends. The musical won two Tony Awards.

    The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - David Bowie

    Picture David Bowie in your mind. A man with electric red hair, and a lightening bolt painted across his face is most likely what you conjured up. I hate to break it to you, but that isn't really David Bowie; it's actually his extraterrestrial alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. Want to know more? Listen to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. The album is all about Ziggy and his trip to earth to tell humanity not to lose hope, despite the world being set to end in five years due to a lack of natural resources. Ziggy's human form is that of a textbook glam rocker: well-acquainted with drug use, sexually lax, and preaching a message of hope and love. It can be a bit difficult to differentiate between Ziggy and David. At the time the album was released, David was generally seen as kind of, well, weird. He was never outright with his sexuality, he was not afraid of makeup, and he was not-so-subtly obsessed with outer space. And despite all this, Ziggy Stardust was chosen for preservation in the National Recording Registry, as the Library of Congress called it "culturally, historically, or artistically significant" earlier this year.

    The Wall - Pink Floyd

    At any given point in time, you can probably find a shirt with The Wall album art printed on it for sale at Forever 21. What the middle school girls wearing the shirts don't know is that The Wall is not just a trendy t-shirt design. Pink Floyd's The Wall tells the tale of Pink, a character based on the band's bassist and lyricist Roger Waters and founding member Syd Barrett. The album takes the listener through Pink's life detailing his childhood with an overprotective mother, his rise to fame as a rock star, and his crumbling marriage, amongst other issues. As Pink slips further into depression, he adds more metaphorical "bricks in the wall." The first line of the album is "…where we came in?" and the closing line is "Isn't this where?" creating a full cycle of both the album and Pink's life.

    There's a really cool movie, creatively titled Pink Floyd - The Wall, that sets the whole album to music with a screenplay written by Roger Waters. It's a mixture of live-action and really trippy animations. The video above actually uses some of the animations from the movie, so if you're into that definitely watch it, you won't be disappointed.

    Ever After - Marianas Trench

    Ever After is the second concept album from Canadian pop-rock band, Marianas Trench. Lead vocalist and songwriter Josh Ramsay wanted to write an album that was more like a storybook than just a collection of songs. Ever After recounts the tale of a fictional version of Ramsay, and his journey through Toyland. Ever After has all the aspects of a classic fairytale: a hero, an evil queen, and beautiful princess. Each song can be listened to as a stand-alone track, but when played in order, you'll feel like you're fighting toy soldiers right alongside Josh.

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