Whew! What a past 24 hours or so! Earlier this year, I had purchased two tickets to see Elton John in Louisville, Kentucky, for my wife’s birthday present. And, although we saw him a half-dozen or so years ago when he performed a solo concert to raise money for the Ryan White AIDS Foundation (or something like that), my wife still wanted to see the man live with band in tow. And, then, nearly three-quarters of a year ago, Elton John announced that this tour would be his last, which only seemed fair after spending the better part of half a decade on the road. As we know, musicians find it very difficult to stay away from the stage with so much money being thrown at them these days, at least it seems as though Elton will really remain off the road. He has done it all from number one albums and singles to Grammys and an Oscar, to whom would Sir Elton ever try to top his illustrious career. Elton, thanks for all the memories you have given me personally: your music, your sense of humor on TV shows, your performances at the funerals for Ryan White, a young man from rural Indiana who contracted HIV from a tainted unit of blood used to treat Ryan’s hemophilia, and Princess Diana, the People’s Princess, and the three concerts that I attended (1980, 2012 and 2018).
The concert was a near three-hour performance in which Elton John performed 24 songs, 19 of which are hits. Sure, he could have performed another three hours and still not have had enough time to perform EVERY hit or signature song in his catalog. Yet, at 71, Elton Hercules John and his stalwart band still played as though they were all 20 years younger. This was one of the finest songs I have ever scene. If you cannot tell, I recommend that every reader who is an Elton John fan go see him on THIS tour, because even though the tickets are pricey, the opportunity to see a genuine master of his craft at work one last time. Elton John is definitely better in concert in 2018 than he was in 1980, during all the bisexuality controversy and protests and his substance abuse problems at the time. He is definitely going out on top.
But, more about Elton latter this week – HINT! HINT! Let’s get this ball rolling again and start the countdown!
30. Jellyfish – This band was underappreciated during its brief career in the early-Nineties. However, if you are a fan of meticulously arranged pop songs, the band is for you. Listen to either of their two studio albums and you can pick out all of their influences, from The Beatles (together AND individually) and Squeeze to Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys and Queen and all spaces in between. Jellyfish should have been stars but were dealt the exact fate as THE power pop standard-bearers Big Star: their influence out weights, and outlives, its financial reward. Favorite Album: Bellybutton. Favorite Song: “The King Is Half Undressed”.
29. Electric Light Orchestra – Yes, this was Jeff Lynne’s band, but who cares? No one was able to take Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles as a starting point and make an innovative career out of it as ELO did. Name a band who could have a Lennon-esque hit song (“Can’t Get It Out of My Head”) AND a McCartney-sound-a-like hit (“Mr. Blue Sky”). Few would try both directions, but ELO pulled it off. Still, they were much more than another band that genuflected at the Beatles alter. This was a pop band at heart with prog window dressing to straddle both worlds. Favorite Album: A New World Record. Favorite Song: “Mr. Blue Sky”.
28. Fleetwood Mac – Honestly, I thought they were a new band back in 1975. And, I guess, they kind of were. But, it was the way they shifted from a great UK blues band into a purveyor of the Southern California sunny soft rock sound that surrounded dark lyrics of love lost, betrayal and the anger that surrounded the whole drama. Yet, the most famous Mac lineup somehow stuck it out to create some of rock’s most enduring adult-themed music. Favorite Album: Rumours. Favorite Song: “Tusk”.
27. The Cars – The Cars made New Wave acceptable to rockers and classic rock tolerable to punks. They straddled the two camps effortlessly as they pushed rock and pop back together for a brief time in the early Eighties. In the early 2000s, there was a run of Cars-soundalikes who had a brief run on the pop charts when bands like The Killers, Franz Ferdinand and The Vines were all the rage on MTV. And, I haven’t even mentioned their fantastic videos either. Favorite Album: Heartbeat City. Favorite Song: “Bye Bye Love”.
26. Stevie Wonder – Once Stevie Wonder was able to gain control of his creative process at Motown did the public learn of Wonder’s true genius: the man could play every instrument and make it sound like a real band of session players. And, then the commercial floodgates opened full-throttle. His early Seventies run of hit and Grammy-winning albums, from Music of My Mind to his magnum opus Songs in the Key of Life. Stevie Wonder is arguably the most important artist from the Motown stable (though Michael Jackson fans might want to complain about that statement). Favorite Album: Songs in the Key of Life. Favorite Song: “Master Blaster”.
25. Raspberries – Since I was too young to have experience any kind of the original impact of Beatlemania, it was the Raspberries who brought Power Pop into my life. The Raspberries, along with Badfinger, represented that beautiful quadrant in rock music where pop music co-existed with hard rock guitars of The Kinks, The Who and The Small Faces. I simply call it beautiful music. Favorite Album: Fresh. Favorite Song: “Go All the Way”.
24. The Beatles – Hey! Stop yelling at me! When you see my Top 30, you will see the Fab Four’s fingerprints all over it. There’s no denying that they are the originals of many of rock’s subsequent genres. Plus, the four individuals had very productive solo careers, so I lumped them all together. Favorite Album: Rubber Soul. Favorite Song: “We Can Work It Out”.
23. The Rolling Stones – Perhaps, The Stones were the original rock band, hands down. And, their run of classic albums, from 1968’s Beggars Banquet to Exile on Main St. in 1972, set the tone for the sound of classic rock. By most people’s standards, The Stones are the greatest band ever. Favorite Album: Some Girls. Favorite Song: “Miss You”.
22. The Band – Generally speaking, The Band was involved with Bob Dylan going from a folkie to an electric guitar-playing rocker. But, on their own, The Band were a beast unto themselves. They had three lead singers who never harmonized but sang against each other in a manner that allowed their songs to reveal a natural tension to the lyrics. The most important thing about The Band? They invented this genre of rock called Americana. Favorite Album: The Last Waltz. Favorite Song: “The Weight”.
21. Green Day – Punk rock was commercially popularized in the Nineties by Nirvana, but it’s been Green Day who has outlasted them all to become America’s Punk Emeritus. They exploded on the scene with Dookie, as well as introducing the Rock Opera to punks around the world with their classic album, American Idiot. They have developed into the second-greatest rock band of the Nineties behind Pearl Jam. Favorite Album: American Idiot. Favorite Song: “Minority”.
That’s 80 artists complete, and twenty more to go! I’ll be back again tomorrow.