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1981’s Best Rock Albums

The calendar dictates that decades end on certain days, but the above gallery of 1981’s Best Rock Albums tells us something different. Clearly, this is the moment when the ’70s were officially over.

By August of that year, MTV had launched – heralding the true beginning of a new era. New Wave was soon joined by hip-hop as defining elements of the early ’80s and then, some years later, by hair metal. But for now, inside the comfy confines of 1981, more established classic rock artists like the Rolling Stones, Rush, Journey, Tom Petty and Genesis still held sway.

That said, they sat side by side with newer acts including the Clash, the Police, the Cars and U2. There was no denying musical shifts happening all around.

You had the Who making their first album without Keith Moon, and Phil Collins making his initial foray into solo work. Iron Maiden welcomed Adrian Smith, and said goodbye to Paul Di’Anno. George Harrison returned to the studio with both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, giving us the closest thing we’d had to a Beatles reunion since their breakup more than a decade earlier.

Ozzy Osbourne continued his path away from Black Sabbath, as his old band moved on (for now, at least) with replacement Ronnie James Dio. Eric Clapton left his longtime record company. Even Joe Jackson, then a relative newcomer, had blown up his original group. Meanwhile, the Stones notched their final Top 10 single in their native U.K.

Something new was just over the horizon. Anyone who questioned it need only put an ear to ZZ Top‘s offering from the year, which continued their move toward synth sounds. But before everything changed forever, there was this: 1981’s 40 Best Rock Albums. Click through the above gallery to see how we ranked them.

Next: Top 100 Rolling Stones Songs

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