Okay, yeah, I get it! The banner today is cheesy, like a bubblegum nerd version of the Sex Pistols’ vision, which pretty much sums up me. I’m a grandfather, in my mid-Fifties, trying to write about a subject that initially was created as a disposable, teen-oriented music, that ended up becoming the defining music for two generations of people. Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers were the generations that grew up immersed in popular rock music. Sure, the Millennials like our music, but, for the most part, music is not the unifying art form of their generation like it was for ours.
You know what? I don’t care! Rock music has gotten me through so difficult times as well as being the soundtrack of so many great things, that I don’t know what I’d be like if I hadn’t gotten that 8-Track tape of Alice Cooper’s School’s Out back in elementary school all those years ago. And, although the readership of this blog is minuscule when compared to those of the great writers at the rock magazines of the Western world, I am so surprised how many people now visit this blog just to look at what I have to say, or what I said in the past. Do I wish I were reaching more people? Absolutely! But, there’s something subversive about writing about rock music to the few.
So, who saw Paul Simon perform on Saturday Night Live for a record tenth time? You know, Simon and SNL have been intertwined for the whole span of the iconic TV show. Everyone knows that Simon was the host AND performer on the second show ever and has made appearances during every decade the show has been on the air. So many great musical guests have performed on the show over the course of its 44 years on the air, but Paul Simon is kind of like the Steve Martin/Alec Baldwin of musical guests. And his 1986 performance with Ladysmith Black Mambazo remains one of my all-time favorites to this day. By the way, Simon nailed his performance on the show once again with a cut from his new album, In the Blue Light (“I Can’t Run’), along with a reworking of his Simon & Garfunkel standard “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that was captivating. Cheers to Paul Simon, an artist whose stature has only grown over the years in my eyes.
With that said, let’s shift topics again and get on with today’s segment of the countdown of My Top 100 Artists of All-Time. Today, we are going through numbers 81 through 90.
90. Teenage Fanclub – This early entry into the Britpop sweepstakes took the UK and the US underground by storm back in 1992 with their ode to Big Star Bandwagonesque. While, very little of their catalog hit me with the force of that album, the band had maintained a great career of fantastic music that butts right up to being power pop. Favorite Album: Bandwagonesque. Favorite Song: “What You Do to Me”.
89. Metallica – One of metal’s most talented bands, Metallica brought the actual speed of lightning to metal that the genre was sorely needing back when the band burst on the scene in 1983. At one time, Metallica was arguably the biggest band in the world. Favorite Album: Metallica (aka “The Black Album”). Favorite Song: “One”.
88. Warren Zevon – One of rock’s more acerbic songwriters, Zevon has a reputation of being a songwriter’s favorite songwriter. Unfortunately, the general public did not get to hear much of this terrific music other than the ubiquitous “Werewolves of London.” Favorite Album: Sentimental Hygiene. Favorite Song: “Hasten Down the Wind”.
87. Van Halen – Unknowingly at the time, Van Halen’s success kicked off the whole Hair Metal scene in LA. In the late-Seventies, heavy metal was fat and bloated and fun of cliches. But, Van Halen injected the genre with fun, partying and booze. No wonder Spicoli blew the money he got for saving a drowning Brooke Shields on Van Halen to play at his birthday party in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Everyone my age wanted Van Halen at their parties. Favorite Album: Van Halen. Favorite Song: “Unchained”.
86. Aerosmith – They were the “Van Halen of the mid-Seventies.” The only problem is they took a liking to alcohol and drugs more than their careers. At least, until Rick Rubin convinced Run-D.M.C. to re-record “Walk This Way” with the band’s creative duo known as the Toxic Twins, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry in 1986. That jump-started the band’s second act as Hair Metal godfathers and a pop hit factory. Favorite Album: Toys in the Attic. Favorite Song: “Walk This Way”.
85. Beastie Boys – Originally saddled with being known as white rappers, the Beasties turned from the formula that brought the band their initial success and became artists and arguably the voices of a generation. The band was silenced upon the untimely death of Adam Yauch, aka MCA. Favorite Album: Paul’s Boutique. Favorite Song: “Intergalactic”.
84. Donna Summer – The Queen of Disco has been underrated ever since the end of the disco era. Disco artists have been unfairly savaged as being disposable ever since the disco era ended in protest with refrains of “Disco Sucks!” heard throughout the country. However, Summer possessed one of popular music’s greatest voices, just a level below the late, great Aretha Franklin. Whatever, Donna Summer’s music continues to bring joy to my life. Best Album: Bad Girls. Best Song: “I Feel Love”.
83. The Cure – Originally lumped into the Goth Rock scene, and unfairly I might add, The Cure burst forth in the latter half of the Eighties with a couple pop hits here in the States, “Just like Heaven” and “Lovesong”. There music is not as dark as it has been made out to be by critics, but when you prefer to wear black clothes, black eyeliner, black nail polish and keep your hair dyed black, it’s easy to make assumptions.
82. The B-52’s – THE party band of my college years, The B-52’s hit a career lull in the mid-Eighties when guitarist Ricky Wilson passed away from complications due to AIDS. Then the band hooked up with Chic’s Nile Rodgers, and our heroes soared to even greater heights behind their Cosmic Thing album and the eternal “Love Shack.”
81. INXS – As Australia’s second best band, INXS was able to synthesize their winning sound by taking the Stones’ grimy raunch and hooking it up with some good old Eighties dance beats. By the time the band perfected the sound, the world welcomed them with open arms with the Kick LP and the stream of Top 10 hits songs the album spawned. It continues to hurt that lead singer and band image center Michael Hutchence passed away in the Nineties because we could sure use INXS now. Will The 1975 ever fill this void? I’m about to give up hope on that.
Well, music fans, that ends today’s entry. Tomorrow, I will be back with the next ten artists in my countdown of My Top 100 Artists of All-Time. Peace!