Making a classic album isn't easy. I mean, I wouldn't know for sure, but it must be at least kind of difficult. If that wasn't the case, everyone would make one, right?
That's what makes the albums on this list so special. To go along with all of the other difficulties that come with putting together something great, these bands and musicians had to fight through an extra step of insanity before some of their best work could see the light of day. For example ...
#4. Green Day's American Idiot Replaced a Completed Album That Was Stolen from the Band
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Green Day, my absolute favorite band in the world to write about, were in a bit of a slump by the time 2003 rolled around. Their last proper studio album, 2000's Warning, was a commercial disappointment. Furthermore, Avril Lavigne's debut album had come out a year earlier, and there's no way the band wouldn't have felt at least partially responsible for laying the tracks that let that shit train pull into the rock station.
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This has to be the worst thing to ever happen at the Viper Room.
Understandably bummed, Green Day took a break from making music. When they finally reconvened to record a follow-up to the folk-influenced Warning (a B-sides and rarities collection, Shenanigans, was released in 2002), it should come as no surprise that the band made a focused effort to return to their roots by recording an album of up-tempo punk songs reminiscent of those found on their earliest records. What is slightly more surprising, though, is what happened when they finished recording that album.
Apparently, someone just stole that shit. Like picked it up and walked out of the studio with it, never to be seen again. That's the story the band has always stuck to, at least. The album would have been called Cigarettes and Valentines and, if I'm guessing, it would have been kind of terrible. Evidence of that can be found in what the band decided to do after the theft, which, basically, was to take it as a sign that they should just record a different album altogether.
Wait, what? That seems like an awful lot of work, right? Were there no backup copies of this stuff? Sure there were, but it was decided that they "just weren't the same" and that the material in general wasn't "maximum Green Day" (which at the time couldn't have meant much more than "lacking booger lyrics").
"Actually, the band was already blah blah yawn whatever," said some sad Green Day fan just now.
So, instead of trying to salvage that album, the band gave it another shot with all-new material. As luck would have it, they could probably feed their high-end-eyeliner habit for the next hundred years with the money they made from that decision.
The album that resulted from those sessions was called American Idiot, and it definitively proved that "anti-war rock opera" was a hole in the market that desperately needed to be filled, eventually selling 6 million copies.
What became of that other album, though? Did it ever surface? Interestingly, there are some Green Day conspiracy theorists who claim it has ...
That's an album called Money Money 2020 (pronounced "money money two-thousand twenty") by a band called the Network. It was released on Billie Joe Armstrong's own record label and, for a variety of reasons, many people suspect that "The Network" is actually "Green Day" and "Money Money 2020" is actually "Cigarettes and Valentines." If you give it a listen, it's hard to imagine that the two voices you're hearing aren't Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt, and the band does have a long history of releasing albums under wacky side-project names, but there's never been any confirmed connection between the two albums. Whatever Money Money 2020 may be, it's definitely not the kind of thing you write a Broadway musical over.
Glee fans, rejoice!
That takes a special kind of album, and this one came one honest studio employee away from never existing. Supposedly.
#3. The Who's Best Album Was Almost a Science Experiment
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Internet users are forever indebted to the 1971 album Who's Next for providing the soundtrack to one of the most meme-tastic TV show intros of all time.
The enthusiastic scream that's served as the rim shot to so many David Caruso punchlines is from "Won't Get Fooled Again," the closing track on what could very well be the Who's finest album (and they must have recorded millions by now, I bet). To give you some more evidence of its validity to that claim, this is also the album that gave us the song that 9 out of 10 of your friends think is called "Teenage Wasteland."
That song is actually called "Baba O'Riley," and it's a great example of what the album that we know and love as Who's Next could have been. Here are a few fun facts:
- "Baba O'Riley" was originally 30 goddamn minutes long.
- At one point, it was believed that the famous backing track was made by inputting the vital statistics of a man who thought he was God into a synthesizer.
- Motherfucking what?
Yeah, and we're just getting started. See, the album that spawned some of the Who's best songs (and an infuriating Limp Bizkit cover) was originally intended to be a batshit insane experiment called Lifehouse.
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No, not that Lifehouse. This experiment wasn't about writing Nirvana songs for soccer moms, any more than this article is completely about jokes 90 percent of the audience won't understand. This Lifehouse, in one of its earliest forms, was a wacky plan to create an entire album in the borderline incomprehensible manner that music lore once claimed gave birth to "Baba O'Riley," except using random audience members instead of shamans or whatever the shit. From there, the project was said to be everything from a rock opera (aren't they all?) to the soundtrack to a film before taking its final form as the impetus for Pete Townshend to fulfill his own wish to die before he got old.
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It was too late like four months after he said it anyway.
That's a suicide joke, ladies and gentlemen, because the only satisfying outcome of the Lifehouse concept was that trying to turn the music of the Who into a social experiment sent Pete Townshend fleeing into the warm embrace of a nervous breakdown.
Oh, and also, Who's Next is basically the assembled wreckage of that project. After abandoning the Lifehouse concept, the Who re-entered the studio with producer Glyn Johns and turned the best material into an album. That album is a mere 13 minutes longer than "Baba O'Riley" itself was intended to be.
If you think cuts like that are ever a bad thing, you're crazier than goddamn Pete Townshend.