The Bicentennial for The United States was quite a year. NASA successfully landed the Viking 1 Lander on Mars, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak for Apple Computer Company, and Sylvester Stallion ran up some stairs to the motivational, “Eye of the Tiger“, as boxing legend Rocky. In 1976 we were introduced to debut albums from Heart and Boston, and one of the greatest albums ever, Songs in the Key of Life. Check out our full list of the essential albums of 1976 below and let us know which albums are your must-haves.

Station to Station – David Bowie 

Station to Station is the tenth studio album from David Bowie. “Abandoning any pretense of being a soulman, yet keeping rhythmic elements of soul, David Bowie positions himself as a cold, clinical crooner and explores a variety of styles. Everything from epic ballads and disco to synthesized avant pop is present on Station to Station, but what ties it together is Bowie’s cocaine-induced paranoia and detached musical persona.” (AllMusicBowie’s new persona for this album whom he called The Thin White Duke, depicts his drug dependent state. Bowie has also reported remembering little-to-nothing of the recording process in and around the time of the album. Bowie later called Station to Station to be one of his best, explaining: “First, there’s the content, which nobody’s actually been terribly clear about. The “Station to Station” track itself is very much concerned with the stations of the cross. All the references within the piece are to do with the Kabbala. It’s the nearest album to a magick treatise that I’ve written. I’ve never read a review that really sussed it. It’s an extremely dark album. Miserable time to live through, I must say.”

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 Ramones – Ramones

Powered by violence, drug use, relationship issues, humor, and Nazism, the Ramones self-titled debut album Ramoneshas gone down as one of the most influential albums of all time. Not initially successful, Ramones’ fast paced, loud, and simple rock songs, have since had a huge influence on the development of genres like Grunge rock, heavy metal, and punk rock. As explained by AllMusic’s Thomas Erlewine, ” the Ramones offer a twisted, comical take on pop culture with their lyrics, whether it’s the horror schlock of “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement,” the gleeful violence of “Beat on the Brat,” or the maniacal stupidity of “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.” And the cover of Chris Montez’s “Let’s Dance” isn’t a throwaway — with its single-minded beat and lyrics, it encapsulates everything the group loves about pre-Beatles rock & roll.” The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concludes, “The Ramones got back to basics: simple, speedy, stripped-down rock and roll songs. Voice, guitar, bass, drums. No makeup, no egos, no light shows, no nonsense. And though the subject matter was sometimes dark, emanating from a sullen adolescent basement of the mind, the group also brought cartoonish fun and high-energy excitement back to rock and roll.”

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Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder 

Songs in the Key of Life is the eighteenth album from legend Stevie Wonder. Released at the end of what is considered Wonder’s “classic” period, the album is both intimately personal and socially aware. Songs in the Key of Life is Wonder’s most commercially successful album, selling over 10 Million copies and topping the charts all around the world. “The opening “Love’s in Need of Love Today” and “Have a Talk with God” are curiously subdued, but Stevie soon kicks into gear with “Village Ghetto Land,” a fierce exposé of ghetto neglect set to a satirical Baroque synthesizer. Hot on its heels comes the torrid fusion jam “Contusion,” a big, brassy hit tribute to the recently departed Duke Ellington in “Sir Duke,” and (another hit, this one a Grammy winner as well) the bumping poem to his childhood, “I Wish.” (AllMusic) But the hits didn’t stop. The 4 sided record also includes “Isn’t She Lovely,” “As,” “Black Man,” and “Another Star“. With such a stacked lineup of songs, it’s no surprise the Wonder would go on to receive his third straight Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.

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Desire – Bob Dylan 

Desire is the  seventeenth album from Bob Dylan. The collaborative effort that Dylan chose for the album make it distinctively different from any other Dylan record in his catalog. Dylan recruited help from Emmylou Harris, Ronee Blakley, Jacques Levy, and Howard Wyeth, but it’s  the violin of Scarlet Rivera that brings the album to a different level. Desire topped the charts supported by the singles “Hurricane,” “Isis,” and “Mozambique,”. Desire certainly isn’t the personal narrative album that Dylan had become famous for, but it does contain arguably his most personal song ever, “Sara“, “a plea to his then-estranged wife, Sara Lownds, to return to him. According to Levy, Lownds showed up at the studio the night they recorded the song. “You could have heard a pin drop,” said Levy. “She was absolutely stunned by it.” (RollingStone).

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2112 – Rush 

2112 is the fourth and slightly rebellious album from Rush. Rush’s previous album Caress of Steel, Mercury had not performed as well as the band had been hoping for, and so their record company suggested they abandon their thematic approach for their next album. Rush decided to ignore that advice, and the result is somewhat of a masterpiece. “Based in the future, a galaxy-wide war results in the union of all planets under the rule of the Red Star of the Solar Federation. By 2112, the world is controlled by the “Priests of the Temples of Syrinx,” who determine the content of all reading matter, songs, pictures – every facet of life” (Rush). The first side is considered one song, “2112“, which is broken up into 7 parts. “The second side contains shorter selections, such as the Middle Eastern-flavored “A Passage to Bangkok” and the album-closing rocker “Something for Nothing.” 2112 is widely considered by Rush fans as their first true “classic” album, the first in a string of similarly high-quality albums. (AllMusic)

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 Dreamboat Annie – Heart

Dreamboat Annie is the debut album from American rock group Heart. Led by the sister duo of Nancy and Ann Wilson, this was one of the first times that a women led band had dominated the rock scene. As explained by Nancy Wilson,“It was a real first to see two women who were not just the ornaments, but the writers and the singers and the players too. I think if anything that it did for other women in the biz, it gave them a lot of encouragement and a lot of hope.” Dreamboat Annie peaked at #7 on the Billboard 200 and has received 2 x Platinum Certification. 3 singles from the album made it onto the charts including “Crazy on You,” “Magic Man,” “Dreamboat Annie“, all of which still see considerable radio play today. In retrospect, sister Ann Wilson has stated, “When it was finished, we looked back amazed at what we’d done, because there had been no real road map. It was just a bunch of songs and a lot of gumption. It was nothing like anything that was being played on the radio. We most certainly weren’t sexy disco chicks or leather-wearing Suzi Quatros who might kick your face out. It was something else. I never dreamed they would eventually dig it in Detroit…but they did.”

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Boston – Boston 

Boston is the self-titled debut album from Boston. According to Vik Iyengar of AllMusic, “Because of the rise of disco and punk, FM rock radio seemed all but dead until the rise of acts like Boston, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen. Nearly every song on Boston’s debut album could still be heard on classic rock radio decades later due to the strong vocals of Brad Delp and unique guitar sound of Tom Scholz.” 3 singles from the album were released, “Peace of Mind,” “Long Time,” and “More than a Feeling” all of which cracked the top 50, and propelled albums sales. It only took the album 3 weeks to attain Gold Certification, and has since become one of the best selling albums of all time, selling over 17 million copies to-date. Boston continues to be the band’s best selling album and for good reason. It’s a must-have for any classic rock collector.

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Rocks – Aerosmith

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“Diamonds are called rocks, and nothing is harder than a diamond. I wanted the hardest-rocking record imaginable.” Aerosmith guitartist Joe Perry hit the nail on the head for Aerosmith’s fourth studio album Rocks. “Like its predecessor, a pair of songs have become their most renowned — the menacing, hard rock, cowboy-stomper “Back in the Saddle,” as well as the downright viscous funk groove of “Last Child.” Again, even the lesser-known tracks prove essential to the makeup of the album, such as the stimulated “Rats in the Cellar” (a response of sorts to “Toys in the Attic”), the Stonesy “Combination,” and the forgotten riff-rocker “Get the Lead Out.” (AllMusic) According to guitarist Brad Whitford, “We saw the record as a jewel, the culmination of all our angst and anger and excitement and joy as go-for-broke rock and rollers. Rocks was the ultimate soundtrack to the party we were throwing for our fans at every one of our live shows.”

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