Music History

Weekly Survey: What one album would you give to aliens to explain rock?

Nearly seventy years after its birth, there’s are infinite flavours of rock music, but we still know it when we hear it. But what if you encounter someone who has never heard it before? How would you introduce that person to the entire concept of rock?

Here’s the thought experiment: Aliens make First Contact and want to know everything about us. The United Nations has tasked you to determine what one album would best explain rock to our new extraterrestrial friends. What would that album be?

A simple question with a devilishly difficult answer. Do you go with Carl Sagan’s choice for Voyager’s Golden Record and choose Chuck Berry or do you opt for some Beatles? Would Led Zeppelin be a better idea? Or should it be something more contemporary, an album that tells our new alien overlords something about the current zeitgeist?

Think about it. Leave a comment below.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38300 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

14 thoughts on “Weekly Survey: What one album would you give to aliens to explain rock?

  • Led zeppelin 1, I think it is one of the purest rock sounds.

  • One album or band can’t define rock music. Make a playlist of rock from the 50’s to present day and tell them this is rock music, enjoy! Better yet, have them contact AC and he’ll explain in depth the history of rock music.

  • To represent rock Led Zeppelin 1. To represent humanity, Dark Side Of The Moon

  • I’d probably go with something from one of Jack White’s projects. It’s modern enough to be a pretty decent representation of modern rock but still holds fairly true to a lot of early rock concepts. It’s downfall may be in relying more on Blues and Rockabilly roots than on Pop the way someone like the Beatles would. Or yeah just given them a playlist. I don’t think any genre can be adequately represented by a single record.

  • I agree, there is no one single album. Jonny B Good would be my starting point and then Beatles, then something from Zepplin then VanHalen 1 (Thats a good one), then Appetite for Destruction and finally ending with Nirvana/SoundGarden/Pumpkins – Anything heavier in my books is a bit outside the “rock” category.

  • The Fabulous Little Richard…if it was good enough for David Bowie, the Starman, well…

  • Quadrophenia by The Who. Doesn’t explain everything, but it is an excellent introduction.

  • This is one that would require weeks of thought, deliberation, and re-listening…my initial thought would actually be some sort of compilation album. Of course since this is Alan’s site, we should say one of the Ongoing…CDs, but that surely is more centered on the seminal alternative songs. You’d have to go with one of those albums you just always have ready, whether on you phone all of the time, or near the top of that CD pile; or something that you’ll never tune away from, if it comes on the radio. For pure rock, the above recommendations are strong, Zep/Berry/Beatles/GnR. The album would need to have different tempo songs, not just thrash, goth, classic rock, or blues. Right now, without long thought, I’d lean towards Metallica Metallica. But GnR Use Your Illusion (can I and II be considered “one” album?) be far behind? I’d also have to consider the Tea Party Tangents. It helps, for sure, that it has the Stones cover on it.

    Damn, maybe being a UN diplomat isn’t as easy as we all think.

  • The newest in new… And we’re putting it on wax…. It’s the new style… while not my favourite beastie boys album even.. That honour goes to pauls boutique.. I think the answer to this question is licence to ill… You have yer best of..Zeppelin samples.. Nods to tons of other artists… Silly solos… Even Saxophone on brass monkey… Epic simple riff on no sleep…. Wtf even was Paul revere and girls..Punk but not… Rap but also ish.. Go back and listen to the ongoing history episode… I think you already answered your own question… rip yauch.


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