This series looks at the writing and recording of some of the greatest albums of our era. Musicians, producers, and engineers are interviewed in the studio, and the master tapes are played, sometimes isolating particular channels, to highlight certain instrumental sounds or voices. Many of the musicians play live along with the tracks, demonstrating how they played the parts. In some cases, group members are reuniting after considerable time as they reminisce together. This is usually interspersed with some vintage clips and photos of concert performances.
The BBC produced series began in 1997, with Ringo Starr as narrator. Later episodes have no narrator. The first seven episodes were licensed to VH1 for showing in the US, then periodically more were released, one at a time. Some have been shown on A&E, PBS, and Biography Channel. One or two were repackaged by VH1 as 'Ultimate Albums'. In April 2006, 26 DVD's were released as 'VH1's Classic Albums', with additional footage and bonus features. In October 2006, the show began a weekly airing on VH1 Classic on Tuesday evenings. The original airdates in some cases are sketchy, as VH1 are rather tight-lipped about past programming, preferring to focus on upcoming 'premieres'.
Iron Maiden has been both criticized and praised for their unforgiving presentation of hard rock. This album took them to worldwide stardom, and awoke accusations of backward masking, subliminal messages, and Satanism. Producer Martin Birch dissects the master tapes with the five band members, who discuss the writing and recording of each song, while looking for the 'hidden' elements.
Elton John, along with some of his past and present band members discuss the creation of his opus, 'Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road'. Producer Gus Dudgeon and engineer David Henschel pull up some of the original multi-tracks, and demonstrate how the music was played and sang. Bernie Taupin is also on hand to describe his lyric writing, and some rare footage of rehearsals, and photos shot in the studio, are presented.
Metallica's 12 million selling breakthrough album is examined in depth. Taped at One on One Studios, where it was recorded, Producer Bob Rock, along with all four band members, discuss the making of each song, and how they polished their sound to command a wider audience.
The metal classic 'British Steel' is examined here. The band, minus drummer Dave Holland, explain the songwriting process and lyrical ideas, interspersed with live footage of performances from that period. Producer Tom Allom demonstrates how the sound effects were achieved, and the two guitarists show how their 'trademark' twin guitar sound is generated.
The debut album of the King is examined here. It was the first million-selling rock album, and the first million-selling popular music album for RCA. We hear from some of the producers and musicians who contributed, and each track is discussed in depth. Five of the songs were taken from Elvis' Sun Sessions, and Sam Phillips is on hand to discuss those sessions. Elvis' version of Carl Perkins' classic, 'Blue Suede Shoes' is dissected, and his first smash single, 'Heartbreak Hotel', is included, though not originally on the album.
Co-produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, this 1972 landmark album took Lou Reed from cult idol to glam superstar status. Here Reed examines each track, discussing with engineer Ken Scott the creation process. Bassist Herbie Flowers shows us how the riff for 'Walk On The Wild Side', was recorded, and we see some archives of Lou's performances.