Classic rock was hardly the genre du jour in 2003, but several of its biggest names still made impressive statements, while a handful of pioneering younger bands took cues from the masters.
Southern rock legends the Allman Brothers Band issued their last studio LP, Hittin’ the Note, their only album without founding guitarist Dickey Betts. Singer-songwriter Warren Zevon also released his final album, the Grammy-winning The Wind, just two weeks before he died of pleural mesothelioma, cancer that affects the membrane surrounding the lungs and chest lining.
Other artists built upon their successful reunions with new albums that solidified their longevity. Steely Dan followed up their Album of the Year-winning Two Against Nature with Everything Must Go, which reached the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 like its predecessor. After reuniting with singer Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith for 2000’s Brave New World, Iron Maiden struck back with Dance of Death, a solid album whose standout tracks were nonetheless overshadowed by an all-time stinker of an album cover.
Meanwhile, 2003 saw landmark releases from several younger rockers who were indebted to their forebears. Radiohead made a return to their alt-rock roots with Hail to the Thief, which they recorded mostly live with minimal overdubs, in stark contrast to the multilayered, laborious Kid A and Amnesiac. Anti-rock snobs got a fierce kick in the teeth from red-hot English rockers the Darkness, who combined the blue-collar riffing of AC/DC with the stadium bombast of Queen on their audacious debut, Permission to Land.
And the White Stripes entered the upper echelon of rock stardom with their fourth album, Elephant, a Top 10, double-platinum smash that yielded the perennial sporting-event anthem “Seven Nation Army.”
Revisit all of these albums and more in UCR’s list of 20 Albums Turning 20 in 2023.
20 Albums Turning 20 in 2023
Classic rockers made bold statements, while pioneering new bands took cues from the masters.