UCR is officially 10 years old! And while we’re extremely proud to hit our milestone, we’re also very aware that our decade of survival pales in comparison to some of rock’s truly great 10 year runs.
A lot can be accomplished in 3,650 days; band formations, ground breaking albums, era defining concerts, chart topping hits, etc. Heck, the Beatles entire existence only lasted eight years, yet their output was so prolific and influential, they are still regarded as the greatest band of all time.
We asked a handful of UCR contributors to examine the best 10 year runs in rock history – both past and present. The only rule? Artists had to be active a full decade to be eligible (sorry, Fab Four).
Which artist or band had the best 10-year run in rock history?
Michael Gallucci: The Rolling Stones. From their self-titled debut album in 1964 through 1974’s It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, they released more than a dozen great albums, including one of the all-time best live LPs, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! Whether you stick with just the U.K. versions of the albums or the U.S. editions, which contained different track listings, there really isn’t a dud among them. Even their dumped-on Summer of Love contribution Their Satanic Majesties Request has some awesome moments. Right in the middle of all this begins the four-album, four-year stretch that ran from 1968’s Beggars Banquet to 1972’s Exile on Main St. – perhaps the greatest unbroken streak of classic albums ever released.
Ryan Reed: Genesis: 1970-1980. I almost went with a few other bands, including Led Zeppelin, but I ultimately landed on my beloved Genesis. I can’t say it’s the objectively correct answer, but it’s my answer. Plus, I can cobble together a decent argument: Few bands, if any, evolved more than Genesis in that decade-long stretch — they went from folk-prog to symphonic prog-rock to prog-pop, and they made interesting music at every point. They also withstood the loss of numerous key members, including Peter Gabriel, and wound up at a commercial peak after the shake-up. The run from Trespass to Duke is almost untouchable in its range and consistent quality.
Allison Rapp: Led Zeppelin, 1969 – 1979. There are many who lament the fact that Led Zeppelin did not have as long of a career together as others. Had John Bonham lived, perhaps there would have been more in store for the band, but there’s something to be said about a group that comes in, introduces itself to the world at the tail end of a whirlwind decade, proceeds to shake the rock and roll world to its core and then promptly dissolves just before the complicated matter that was 80s’ music arrived. Their debut self-titled album is nothing but bone-shaking rock from start to finish, and yet remains concise until the last song. Their final studio album, In Through the Out Door, is perkier, a bit more fun (“Hot Dog!”) and still just as engaging. Consistency (not to be confused with monotony) is key in a good rock band, and Led Zeppelin gave it straight for 10 whole years, leaving fans a bit dizzy in their wake.
Corey Irwin: On another day, I might have said Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones. However in this moment, I’m choosing Prince. From 1982 -1992, he churned out 10 high quality albums during an incredibly prolific period. These include some of his most iconic releases, such as 1999 (1982), Purple Rain (1984), Sign O’ the Times (1987) and Diamonds and Pearls (1991). Add in constant touring, writing material for other artists and the profound affect he had on pop culture, and it’s hard to say anyone else had a better 10 year run.
Matthew Wilkening: Van Halen, 1978-1988. The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin would also be excellent answers, but let’s skip to the next generation. OU812 came out 10 years and three months after Van Halen, so this window includes the first six David Lee Roth albums and the Sammy Hagar-fronted 5150. (If you want to expand to include Hagar and Roth’s ’80s solo careers, you also get Eat ’em and Smile, Standing Hampton and VOA, among others.) The only other rock band that arrived as fully formed on their first album and stayed so strong for the next six was Led Zeppelin. While Jimmy Page and company were one of a few legendary acts that helped make hard rock a cultural force in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Van Halen brought it back from the dead nearly single-handedly in the early ’80s.
Also, as the Editor in Chief of UltimatePrince.com, I’m also obliged to note Prince‘s incredible 1980-1990 run, during which he released Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Parade, Sign O’ the Times, Lovesexy, the Batman soundtrack and Graffiti Bridge. The Black album would have been in there too if he didn’t delay its release for seven years, and there’s also the hit singles and / or complete albums he wrote and often also recorded for the Time, Sheila E., the Bangles and many others.
Which rock artist or band has released the most great music since May 16, 2011?
Gallucci: David Bowie was a decade into a recording break when he finally released The Next Day in 2013. Its spiny art-rock was both a throwback to his most experimental work (the cover art was a variation on 1977’s classic “Heroes”) and a forward-looking work that had its own ideas about how modern pop music should sound. Three years later, on his 69th birthday (and two days before his death), he released Blackstar, a genre-defying record that enveloped everything from jazz and avant-garde to electronic and experimental rock that ranks among the best albums of the past decade. Most classic rockers are in nostalgia mode at this point in their careers; Bowie was rewriting the rules until the very end.
Reed: Tame Impala, the kings of modern trippiness, whose influence seems to have spawned an entire psych-rock wave in their native Australia and beyond. You could split hairs and argue they’re not a capital-R rock band at this point — their two most recent LPs, Currents and The Slow Rush, draw on synths and electronics as much as guitar. But that only makes them more interesting. Few festival-headlining, rock-adjacent bands are so willing to experiment album to album.
Rapp: Neil Young‘s work ethic of the last 10 years deserves some recognition. Again, consistency and dependability are big factors here, especially when it comes to artists who have been around for several decades, but there’s a fine line to walk between keeping things interesting for fans over the course of time and staying true to your identity as a songwriter — no one likes to be thrown off guard, but no one likes to be bored either. Neil Young started out the decade with a couple albums with trusted collaborators, Crazy Horse, a covers album in 2014 (which featured Jack White on a couple songs), then some albums with Lukas Nelson’s band, Promise of the Real and finally, a return to Crazy Horse for his last record, 2019’s Colorado. There’s plenty of room for both old and new friends at Neil Young’s studio.
Irwin: Josh Homme. I know this is kind of cheating, but look at the wide array of projects he’s been involved with over the past decade. Queens of the Stone Age have released two sterling albums (2013’s …Like Clockwork and 2017’s Villains), his 2016 collaboration with Iggy Pop was fantastic, he helped Arctic Monkeys craft the best LP of their career (2013’s AM), he brought back the Dessert Sessions with an exceptional list of guest musicians, he’s worked with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, he appeared in the Sound City documentary (as well as its soundtrack and all-star live performances), he guest starred on a Run the Jewels track, he produced three songs on Royal Blood’s new album… the list goes on and on. Homme has quietly been one of the biggest forces in rock, yet it feels like the guy doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
Wilkening: This question was my idea, and now I’m going to infuriate my co-workers by not giving a straight answer. David Bowie’s The Next Day and Blackstar were incredible. Robert Plant continued his streak of constant quality and creative restlessness with Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar and Carry Fire, and 2010’s Band of Joy missed our window by about half a year. Neil Young put out a staggering amount of interesting new albums and archival material. Billy Gibbons has been on a great run, both with ZZ Top and with his suddenly active solo career. Moving out into the fringes a bit, the Melvins put out eight great new studio albums with continually shifting lineups and approaches.