Father’s Day is just a few days away. To celebrate, we’re gathering some of our favorite “dad rock” albums. What is “dad rock,” you might ask? We’re talking about those staples your parents owned on vinyl, the ones that weren’t cool enough for you to discover on your own—no Black Sabbath, David Bowie or The Doors here—but that nonetheless are essential albums in rock history. Listen to one of these ol’ classics this Father’s Day and think about how your dad was right all along—“Hotel California” is pretty far out. Here they are, in no particular order:
Now Fleetwood Mac are cool again, but there was a long period when they weren’t. You don’t make one of the biggest albums of all time without some backlash. But after a Smashing Pumpkins cover, a high-profile reunion special and extensive touring, the Mac came back into public favor, and you can see their influence in a huge way these days, especially in young, female-fronted rock bands like Best Coast, Haim and Beach House. Anyway, Rumours kicks ass and pretty much every baby boomer owns it.
Bob Seger sings like he has never cleared his throat once, had a pretty wicked mullet and facial hair and played populist electrified blues rock with fist-pumping passion. Similarly voiced to dad rock icon Rod Stewart and similar in spirit to classic-rock-radio mainstays The Steve Miller Band, Seger had enduring influence with Night Moves—for instance, there’s a new Kelley Reichart movie starring Jesse Eisenberg called Night Moves, and Tina Fey immortalized the title track on “30 Rock.”
Boasting the saxophone-laced cheese classic “Baker Street,” City to City was a solid return for Rafferty, who’d not released an album in six years (he was busy in another dad rock act, Stealers Wheel, who were behind the immortal “Stuck in the Middle With You”) and went to No. 1 with this one. That sax riff alone will be stuck in our collective heads ‘till the day we die. Anyone know what the hell makes that “bwooooo” sound?
A much-maligned dad rock band that now sounds pretty sweet to us, Steely Dan were famously fastidious in their recording—they allegedly went through dozens of guitar solos before landing the one they wanted for standout “Peg.” Though it vaguely seems to define the excess of ’70s recording until punk, Aja now plays out sweetly and smoothly, a perfect marriage of jazz and pop-rock. Rappers would get a lot of mileage out of sampling the unbeatable groove of “Black Cow.”
The end of “Black Magic Woman” is still the best. God I hate it when K-Earth cuts it off.
Some call this the greatest rock concert ever set to vinyl. An awesome double-LP set of Southern-fried rock ‘n’ roll with several telltale dad rock signs: harmonic guitar playing; the word “band” in the band’s name; the fact that it’s a live album; and mustaches galore!
Despite the later annoyingness of Eric Clapton (could we put his Unplugged album under worst dad rock albums ever?), this album has one of the most famous guitar riffs of all time (on “Sunshine of Your Love”) and is solid throughout. A hippie rock classic whose influence is oft-overlooked these days—listen to garage rockers like Ty Segall’s Fuzz or Thee Oh Sees and you’ll hear Cream’s chunky riffs blown up into new psychedelic frontiers.
Well before The Lion King and his duet with Eminem, Elton John was a glam-rock weirdo with big ass glasses and fun songs like “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” The country-rockin’ Tumbleweed Connection could be a little daddier, but this is his best album.
The greatest backing band ever became one of the flat-out best bands ever on their debut album, which eschewed the prevalent psych-rock of the time in favor of soulful roots-rock. Hard to think of contemporary dad-rock proliferators like The National, Ryan Adams or Wilco without The Band.
Bruce Springsteen’s mainstream breakthrough record is the dad rock album of choice for leftist dad, a wall-of-sound heartland rock record that helped put Springsteen’s songcraft, everyman imagery and mouthful-of-oatmeal growl on the map and pave the way for future dad-rockers like Tom Petty. I guess dads are younger now, so 1984’s Born in the U.S.A. works too.
While most of The Who’s catalog still seems pretty contemporary, Quadrophenia is one of those crusty ’70s relics that can only be called dad rock, a sprawling rock opera that defines excess. But it’s an important, time-capsule worthy document anyhow.
It’s hard to call this dad rock, but it is. Maybe I’m just speaking from personal experience—I specifically remember my dad buying this on tape and force feeding it to us, hating it, then coming to worship it years later. Another fun fact about me: My parents’ first date was a Led Zeppelin concert. I GUESS YOU COULD SAY I WAS BORN FROM ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. Led Zep are worth mentioning, anyway, since the first three Led Zeppelin albums just got reissued on vinyl (I, II and III), and they’re all absolutely essential (obviously). IV should be reissued too sometime this year.
I’m guessing Wings sounded like dad rock even when they were first around. The Beatles and John Lennon—hell, even Paul McCartney’s solo career—are too cool to qualify. However, Wings were unabashedly cheesy, and thus alone get the distinction of falling under corny music our dads made us suffer through. But Band on the Run is actually really good, helping launch power-pop and eventual new wave with its nonstop exuberance and then-novel use of synthesizers as a lead instrument on songs like “Jet.”
James Taylor just sounds like a dad, tucking you into bed with his mellifluous voice and acoustic guitar notes that fall like beads of soft rain.
Could’ve put just about any prog-rock record on here, but … Yes is the daddiest. This takes the place on this list for Pink Floyd, Genesis, Rush and a lot of other bands that clocked in 10-plus-minute songs on the reg.
Reviled by some critics, Chicago nonetheless have the dad rock sound on lockdown. This album has most of their big hits, including the fatherly classic “Saturday in the Park.”
CCR are sort of the poster boys of dad rock, albeit in the best sense. John Fogerty’s ragged voice and guitar playing sounds more punk to me than a lot of bullshit classic rock.
I like this album too much to even pretend to make fun of.
David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young wrote politically charged folk songs with gorgeous harmonies on albums like their best, Deja vu, and they looked like your dad when he was young. All four members played in other dad rock bands (like The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies) before coming together, and Neil Young is kind of a dad rock icon (although he’s slightly too cool to be considered as such), making this one of the daddiest rock albums around.
However, there can be non daddier than The Eagles’ Hotel California. Not only is it one of the highest-selling albums of all time (only bested in their catalog by Their Greatest Hits, which for a time held the No. 1 position of all time for any artist), The Eagles’ brand of instant-nostalgia soft rock is emblematic of both of its time and the rosey way some would prefer to remember it. Even if time and classic rock radio have blunted the impact of songs like the title track, those lyrics are still pretty cool and dark when you think about them.