A year of change brought important albums from across a dizzying spectrum, but 1989 was also a great year for tried-and-true classic rockers.

The old guard managed to hold its own with important records, even as alternative rock moved into the commercial mainstream, grunge began to bubble up and hip-hop continued its golden era. Two of the acts featured below – Guns N' Roses and Motley Crue – rose all the way to No. 1 on the U.S. album chart, despite this increased competition.

Aerosmith scored their best Billboard showing since 1973's Rocks. Tom Petty hadn't had a better finish since 1979's Damn the Torpedoes. Don Henley had never had a higher-charting album to that point.

Records by Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan were hailed as career comebacks. Lou Reed released his bestselling album ever in the U.S. Five of the following artists also made it onto Billboard's year-ending Top 100 Songs of 1989 list.

Our focus on 1989's best classic rock albums means that some terrific records were left aside. The year yielded career milestones across indie, goth and hip-hop – from the Pixies' Doolittle and the Cure's Disintegration to De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising, the Stone Roses' self-titled debut and the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique.

This was the year Nirvana arrived, and when MTV Raps debuted. Still, as you'll see in the following list, rock wasn't dead yet.