We are now halfway through my countdown of my favorite artists of the rock era. For the most part, I feel my list is predictable for a man of my age. Mostly, there are the usual pop/rock suspects from the Seventies and Eighties, with a sprinkling of artists of the same time period that off that beaten path. There might be a choice or three that might catch the reader by surprise, but mainly, I am probably average with whom I list. The only thing that might make my list unique is that the artists that dominated my generation are listed in the bottom half. Still, those names are in my mix.
If the truth be told, first, I am more of a pop guy than a rocker. Second, I generally like tunes with a “good beat and are easy to dance to,” to use the most common description of a highly rated tune on American Bandstand. Plus, I prefer alternative music to metal, though there are some excellent heavy metal artists. Finally, if given the choice, I’d much rather listen to soul/R&B/funk than metal as well. But, of course, you, the loyal reader, had all ready surmised my tastes in music.
So, yes, I would LOVE to see Casey Kasem inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I believe he hard more to do with pushing music to the masses than any other disc jockey of his era. Sure, there were probably many who were better, and Casey’s AT40 demeanor was prime for parody. But, something about him made him eternal to me. Then, thrown in rock journalists Lester Bangs, Lisa Robinson and Cameron Crowe, as the first three rock journalistic voices that brought the music by artists alive for me, voices who I had to read before anyone else.
Speaking of the RRHOF, I was just on the voting site to see how the voting was going. Initially, Stevie Nicks was leading the fan voting, but recently, Def Leppard has taken the lead, as I predicted. But, it was the next three that caught me by surprise, with The Cure in third, my fave of the nominees Todd Rundgren fourth and Sixties icons The Zombies in fifth place. Much to my surprise, Janet Jackson was in sixth place and Devo seventh, both of whom I honestly thought would be higher in the standings. Also surprising to me was Radiohead being in eighth place. Maybe, they are more of a critic phenomenon than an actual pop group. Most disappointingly were the showings of Rage Against the Machine (ninth), Roxy Music (tenth), LL Cool J (eleventh), Kraftwerk (14th) and MC5 (15th). I honestly thought there would have been much more support for those last two. All of this proves that I generally do NOT know what I’m talking about, I guess.
So, with all of that said, let’s get on with the countdown and go into the clubhouse halfway through the whole exercise.
60. John Mellencamp – I can remember the excitement I felt the day I saw Mellencamp, then known as John Cougar, “performing” on American Bandstand and seeing original guitarist Larry Crane wearing an Indiana University t-shirt. There’s something about Hoosiers because we always get excited about people representing us on the national stage. That’s why everyone in the state will become a fan of the Pacers or Colts when they have great seasons, or when little Butler University gets to the national championship game in the NCAA tournament, or even when we get behind a singer on the Voice to drive them to the championship on the show. Anyway, here in Indiana, Mellencamp is something of a saint. Basically, he’s our Springsteen or Petty. And, I respect him for basing his band here in Indiana. Favorite Album: The Lonesome Jubilee. Favorite Song: “Cherry Bomb”.
59. Jackson Browne – As teenager with enough angst to light up Chicago’s energy grid for years into the future, Jackson Browne was perfect music for those sleepless late nights. And, I don’t care that he recorded “Somebody’s Baby”! He had recorded too many great songs to allow that song to mess up his career. Favorite Album: Running on Empty. Favorite Song: “Doctor My Eyes”.
58. The Who – Back in 1982, I promised my brother that I would take him to see The Who on their farewell tour that year. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get tickets. Then, right after bassist John Entwistle passed away, my boys got me tickets for us to see them. It was good, but it was also obvious that half the band was missing. Still, Who’s Next is one of the greatest albums of all-time. Favorite Album: Who’s Next. Favorite Song: “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.
57. The Replacements – Back in the mid-Eighties, when R.E.M. was rocketing up my favorite artists list, The Replacements were becoming something of a rocking counterpoint to R.E.M.’s Beatlesque standing in the alternative community. Unfortunately, the Mats never really caught on to this band’s genius, and it was the mainstream’s loss. For a bunch of supposed drunks, this band created some of the most lasting and compelling rock music of the mid- to late-Eighties. Favorite Album: Let It Be. Favorite Song: “Talent Show”.
56. George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic Empire – No one combined hard rock and funk like Clinton’s stable of virtuosos, vocalists, studio wizards and weirdos. Sure, initially Parliament was more of a horn band and Funkadelic a rock band. But, as Clinton’s ambitions grew, the distinctions between his main two bands grew hazier, as did all of the other “minor” players in his stable, like Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Parlet, Brides of Funkenstein, the Horny Horns, just to list a few. Clinton’s late-Seventies creations are among rock’s most vital, let alone black music. He was for everyone! Favorite Album: Mothership Connection – Parliament. Favorite Song: “Flashlight” – Parliament.
55. Duran Duran – When I call them “The Beatles of the Eighties,” I’m NOT be derogatory at all. These guys had it all: talent, looks, and the best music videos of the era. Favorite Album: Rio. Favorite Song: “The Reflex (The Nile Rodgers Single Remix)”.
54. Michael Jackson – Yet, another Hoosier, whose family left for the good life in sunny Southern California. Jackson’s trilogy of albums, Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad were the pinnacle of pop music that proved the true power of music. This was truly music for the masses, Too bad his weirdo personality became the story in the Nineties until his untimely death in 2009. Jackson was THE master of popular music. Favorite Album: Thriller. Favorite Song: “Billie Jean”.
53. Paul Simon – I keep saying that as the years pass, I come to understand Simon’s music more and more. Back in 1975, I hated “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Now, I can honestly defend that song’s honor. Favorite Album: Graceland. Favorite Song: “Late in the Evening”.
52. Steely Dan – This guys have to be one of the more insidious bands going. On the surface, their jazz-influenced and -structured music came off as smooth and relaxing. But, their lyrics could be a bit on the dark and perverted side, which made for compelling listening sessions. Steely Dan and Chic were the two bands that successfully mined this area. Favorite Album: Aja. Favorite Song: “Deacon Blues”.
51. New Order/Joy Division – In 1980, on the eve of Joy Division’s American tour, lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide. Unfortunately, that great band’s vision died off with Curtis. However, the other band members picked up their synthesizers and another band member to create some of dance music’s most innovative and vital music of all-time. New Order rose like a phoenix from the ashes of Joy Division to take alternative music into the discos around the world. Now, New Order is held in the same high regard as its predecessor Joy Division. Favorite Album: Substance 1987. Favorite Song: “Bizarre Love Triangle”.
OK, folks, we are half-way through this countdown. Next week, we will wrap this all up. I hope everyone has a great weekend! Peace out!