Music History

The Texas Albums We Wish Had Made it to Rolling Stone's Top 500

Kris Kristofferson, one could say, is more influential than Kris Kringle. Somehow he didn't make Rolling Stone's Best Albums list.
Making any sort of comprehensive pop culture list is bound to be controversial no matter what. At the end of the day, it's a matter of opinion and is completely subjective, but that will never stop people from complaining about their personal favorites missing the cut or claiming that the top picks are all overrated.

Rolling Stone magazine recently published a revised version of their Top 500 Greatest Albums Of All-Time, a comprehensive ranking that spans music history. Earlier versions of the list were published in 2003 and 2012, but the latest update drew from a more diverse set of critics, artists and industry figures, resulting in a list that was more inclusive of women and people of color.

Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On took the no.1 spot that had previously belonged to The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which this time clocked in at No. 24. That didn’t stop The Beatles from having the most albums of any artist on the list (nine), which narrowly defeated Bob Dylan’s eight and Neil Young’s seven.
Yeah, it’s a good list. But did anyone at Rolling Stone think that it would not be recapped and debated by critics and fans everywhere? We think there are some local legends that deserved a place somewhere in the 500, so here are the best Texas artists who were left off.

Mystery Girl, Roy Orbison
He was born in Vernon, and Roy Orbison’s voice became synonymous with sensitive rock ballads that were a breakthrough during the '50s and '60s. Orbison’s most iconic songs include “Crying,” “In Dreams,” “Running Scared” and, of course, “Oh, Pretty Woman,” which ranked within the top 25 of Rolling Stone’s 2000 list of the Top 100 greatest rock singles of all-time. Orbison’s final album, 1989’s Mystery Girl, was released posthumously and helped to solidify his mastery of the operatic yearning that had defined his career.

Mystery Girl doesn’t rank on Rolling Stone’s list, nor does any other Orbison album. This is a shame, as Orbison’s work is a formative piece of rock history that would influence artists like Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and the Bee Gees; his painful reflections on love and loss were the opposite of the hyper-masculine rock stars that came from the same era. Mystery Girl is among his most dynamic albums, featuring more purposive tracks like “She’s A Mystery To Me” with gloomy favorites like “A Love So Beautiful.”

Bat Out Of Hell Il: Back Into Hell, Meat Loaf

Ever since his acting debut as the motorcycle driving delivery boy Eddie in the 1975 classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Meat Loaf has been credited with bringing the same level of theatricality and emotion to his acting roles as he has to his impassioned rock ballads. Appearing in both Hollywood films (Fight Club) and Broadway productions (Hair), Meat Loaf broke out with his first studio album Bat Out Of Hell in 1977. Acclaimed for the mannered delivery and expressive lyrics, Bat Out Of Hell made it onto Rolling Stone’s 2003 list but was left off the newest revision.

We’d argue that the omission is a glaring one, and as great as Bat Out Of Hell is, the 1993 follow up Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell is even more deserving. Not only does the sequel contain Meat Loaf’s most iconic track, “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That),” it also saw the rocker grow even more comfortable with his repetitive phrasing and depiction of teenage romantic idealism. It remains impressive how personal each of the tracks feels (despite the fact that they largely talk about the same things), and the album has inspired many of Meat Loaf’s greatest live performances.

Kristofferson 1970, Kris Kristofferson
Kris Kristofferson’s debut album remains a masterpiece of outlaw country, and while Rolling Stone’s list is largely dominated by rock 'n' roll classics, it’s definitely weird that none of Kristofferson’s 18 studio albums made the cut. Combining classic country imagery of wandering travelers and tinges of countercultural musings, the 1970 album is among Kristoferson’s most beautiful and playful. Kristofferson would go on to have a lengthy career as a musician and artist, but it's impressive just how much wisdom is packed into his first real effort.

Kristofferson works best when telling individual anecdotes; tracks like “”Duvalier’s Dream,” “Darby’s Castle” and “Casey’s Last Ride” are packed with memorable personal details, while more whimsical tracks like “Blame it on the Stones” feel more pointed and critical of the larger shifts in the music industry. A time capsule of a transitional period in country music, Kristofferson 1970 features some of Kristofferson’s most profound and memorable work.

The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, The 13th Floor Elevators
This Austin-based rock band pioneered many of the psychedelic rock themes that would dominate the late 1960s. Although they remained more of an object of cult appreciation rather than mainstream success for the majority of their career, The 13th Floor Elevators are now credited as highly influential thanks to their dynamic, experimental combination sounds and explicitly psychedelic lyrics. Dallas-born guitarist Roky Erikson founded the group in 1965 and is responsible for the group’s unique confluence of inspirations.

Although the group made few studio albums, 1966’s The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators is their undeniable masterpiece, featuring iconic tracks like “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and “Kingdom of Heaven (Is With You).” Countless garage bands are indebted to the influence of the group, and Rolling Stone owed them at least a mention on their expansive list.