When Fantasy Ruled the Charts

Mention fantasy inspired music now and, if anything, you probably think about a niche genre of heavy metal. But once upon a time, in a land not so far away, fantasy was a major inspiration on some of the music that troubled the charts, and on their artwork. Here are some of the albums, all released between 1967-75, from an era when fantasy ruled the charts.

1973. An iconic album cover featuring mystical sites on earth, Tales from Topographic Oceans by Yes, was written at the high point of progressive rock-a genre full of complex lyrics and music that was well suited to literary ideas. This is a concept album inspired by ancient hindu texts. Ridiculed by some for its pretension, you don’t get music like this in the charts any more. Key track: The Ancients/Giants Under the Sun

 

1969. Led Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin, complete with a steampunk style cover featuring German WW1 fighter pilots. The moment when Led Zeppelin first mix their folk blues music with mystical storytelling. No doubt much of the link between heavy metal and fantastic themes can be traced back to this album. Key track: Ramble On

 

1972. Demons and Wizards by Uriah Heep. Another prog rock cover, combined with heavy music inside. This record is full of fantasy influenced songs. Key track: The Wizard

 

 

 

1968. This debut by psychedelic outfit Tyrannosaurus Rex long held the record for the longest album title: My People Were Fair and Had Sky in their Hair…But Now they’re Content to Wear Stars on their Brow‘. Full of Marc Bolan’s whimsical lyrics, this album was always going to be fantasy influenced when the bongo player was called Steve Peregrin Took. Key track: Dwarfish Trumpet Blues

 

1967. The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion by Scottish folk duo The Incredible String Band was one of the classic psychedelic albums. Key track: Mad Hatter’s Song

 

 

 

1968. A Saucerful of Secrets by Pink Floyd. The last Floyd album featuring Syd Barrett, it retains his interest in fairy tales and fable. Key track: Let There Be More Light

 

 

 

1975. Warrior on the Edge of Time by Hawkwind. Really, any Hawkwind album would do. What makes this one stand out is the fantasy style cover – and the fact that many of the lyrics were provided by Michael Moorcock. Key track: The Wizard Blew His Horn

 

1971. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by The Moody Blues. A great cover, this is prog rock with some mystical elements. Key track: Emily’s Song

 

 

 

What do you think? Anything missing? Any more recent music deserving of a mention?

2 thoughts on “When Fantasy Ruled the Charts

  1. A few other examples from my shelf:

    Jon Anderson: Olias of Sunhillow.
    Rick Wakeman: The myths and legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
    Sally Oldfield: Water Bearer. Features “The Songs of the Quendi”, inspired by The Silmarillion.
    David Bowie: The Man Who Sold the World. Some tracks, such as “The Width of a Circle” are clearly Fantasy.
    Emerson Lake and Palmer: Tarkus.
    King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King and several other albums.
    Genesis: Trespass. Several Fantasy tracks, including “White Mountain”.

    • Great list, Torben. I need to check some of these out. There’s a thin line between sci-fi and fantasy but you’re right about The Man Who Sold the World, even though you generally think sci-fi with Bowie.

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