…Or did it??? I really think rock has enriched my life.
The Top 20! Finally, we are getting somewhere. So, let’s just get this thing going.
20. Pearl Jam – Back in the Nineties, you almost felt like you had to decide to back either Nirvana or Pearl Jam. Sorry, everyone, I love both bands. I just with Kurt were still with us because I would have love to heard how he would have gotten Nirvana to grow into adulthood. Most fans felt Nirvana was an example of “real” grunge. I disagree. Pearl Jam had a legitimate grunge pedigree when they first burst on the scene. Now, Pearl Jam are the elder statesmen that they were truly meant to be all along. To get the whole band history watch Cameron Crowe’s outstanding documentary PJ20, which happens to be one of the best “rockumentaries” ever. Favorite Album: Ten. Favorite Song: “Yellow Ledbetter”.
19. The Clash – When I bought The Clash’s third album, London Calling, the hype sticker on the album stated, “By the only band that matters!” And, on that album, along with their output from 1980 through 1983, The Clash truly were the only band that mattered. If only Joe Strummer had not been brainwashed by the band’s stupid manager to fire his songwriting foil Mick Jones, maybe they would have assumed the mantle of being the world’s truly greatest band, which U2 ended up ascending to. Yet, they remain one of my all-time favorite bands, and London Calling just maybe my favorite album ever. Favorite Album: “London Calling” Favorite Song: “This Is Radio Clash”.
18. Big Star – I honestly did not join the Big Star bandwagon until I heard their debut album in college, nearly a decade after it was recorded. It seemed as if that album, #1 Record, had been placed in a time capsule after it was recorded in 1972 and opened in 1984, the perfect time for this music to actually become a hit. Unfortunately, only a few record lovers were around for that time capsule’s opening. Next to the Velvet Underground, Big Star may be rock’s greatest cult band; a band that sold a handful of records, yet every one of those record buyers started bands that had the Big Star sound of power pop. Favorite Album: #1 Record. Favorite Song: “Thirteen”.
17. The Police – From the moment I heard the opening salvo of “Roxanne” in the Spring of 1979, I was a Police fan. And that fandom grew and grew with each album they released in the late-Seventies and early-Eighties. By the time the band released their fourth album, Ghost in the Machine, I thought they were the greatest band in the world. Unfortunately, the three members of The Police were strong-willed and talented, so musical differences could escalate into fisticuffs and fights. So, when the band came off the Synchronicity Tour in 1984, you just knew their creative juices were spent. Unfortunately, the three waited until after Sting’s successful debut album, Dream of the Blue Turtle, to announce they had broken up. And, I am still sad. I prefer my Sting songs played by Andy Summer and Stewart Copeland more that Sting with all the session musicians in the world. The Police could have even bigger if they could have remained together. And, maybe, just maybe, we would have NEVER heard that stupid Sting album he did last year with Shaggy! Favorite Album: Ghosts in the Machine. Favorite Song: “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”.
16. Chicago – This band may actually be the most individually talented band in my countdown. These guys are so much more than their hit ballads. Go ahead and give a their first five albums a listen (but skip #4, as it is a boring live album, nothing like they really are in concert. I will NEVER understand why the critics hated Chicago so much. Yes, they were nearly all music majors in college. Yet, their music retains a loose, rock element within the strict, jazz-influenced arrangements. It’s no wonder why Chicago remains such a strong following to this very day. Favorite Album: Chicago II. Favorite Song: “Dialogue Parts I & II”.
15. Todd Rundgren/Utopia – Todd Rundgren may be rock’s great Renaissance man, as he was on the cutting edge of record production and engineering, songwriting, performing both solo and with Utopia and video production. You cannot fully evaluate Rundgren’s career without throwing Utopia into the discussion. If you think David Bowie and Madonna are musical chameleons, I suggest you go through Rundgren’s solo AND Utopia’s catalogs. Between the two, this man has made fantastic records in power pop, blue-eyed Philly soul, pop, album oriented rock, prog rock, new wave and even a tongue-in-cheek disco excursion. I guess the best way to sum up Rundgren’s career is by mentioning that he produced Meat Loaf’s bombastic, teenage rock opera classic Bat Out of Hell. If he can lovingly deliver that classic to the public then the man can do anything he wants. Favorite Album: Hermit of Mink Hollow. Favorite Song: “Can We Still Be Friends?”.
14. Blondie – THE pop band as the Seventies became the Eighties. Although America did not discover the band until their third album, Parallel Lines, with their mega-hit “Heart of Glass,” their first two album were making a noise with the punk underground and critics alike. Blondie’s run of hits ended in 1982, when their album The Hunter stiffed while the band imploded due to musical tensions, drug use and a rare mysterious ailment suffered by the band’s leader Chris Stein, former boyfriend of lead singer and visual center of the band Debbie Harry. Today, the band still tours and records, but their big commercial days are in the rearview mirror. Favorite Album: Eat to the Beat. Favorite Song: “Rapture”.
13. U2 – For the better part of last 25 to 30 years, U2 have carried the banner as the world’s greatest band. They are definitely the world’s most politically passionate band, putting their money where their collective mouths are (Bono). They are a Gen X-ers dream, an alternative band that has not forgotten its roots, that did not compromise their standards in order to become the biggest band in the world. U2 are active in many worldwide political groups, including their very own ONE Foundation. They have accepted the responsibility of being the voice for a generation by taking on the leadership role that other rockers have shunned. Favorite Album: Achtung Baby. Favorite Song: “Beautiful Day”.
12. Talking Heads – I was hooked on this band’s take on minimalist funk on their first two albums upon seeing them perform on Saturday Night Live in 1978. Then, Talking Heads took on African rhythms into their basic sound, winding up with an unbeatable amalgamation of punk, funk, bubblegum, pop, rock, African rhythms and dadaist lyrics to create a dance sound on 1983’s Speaking in Tongues. Yet, another example of a band that broke up way too soon. Favorite Album: Remain in Light. Favorite Song: “Burning Down the House”.
11. David Bowie – The great David Bowie checks in at #11 on my countdown. Since his untimely death in 2016, everyone has become very familiar with his catalog. What David Bowie did was leave behind one diverse sounding set of albums. From his Glam Rock Ziggy Stardust days to his Thin White Duke soul man mid-Seventies to his cocaine-ravage Berlin days through his Thin Tan Duke pop/rock maestro, through his noise rock Tin Machine days up to his face-off with death on Black Star (released a day before his passing), David Bowie took on a rich musical trip that few musicians have had the balls to do. Every phase of his illustrious career has value to the overall music story Bowie left behind. Rock will never be the same because of his contributions. Favorite Album: Scary Monsters. Favorite Song: “Young Americans”.
So, who do you think will be in my Top 10. If you have been reading this blog or have known me that should be easy to discern. Tomorrow, all answers will be revealed! Peace!