Part Two of my reaction to Rolling Stone’s Greatest 100 Musical Acts Of All Time. Click here for part one. Otherwise….
70. The Police
This entry is quite amusing – written by Brandon Flowers of ‘that shitty band’ fame, hardly the most ringing endorsement, and written without a trace of irony, try to say The Police was a deceptively clever band because they wrote songs which sounded like they were about one thing, but were actually about something else. Yes, that’s a great trick when you can pull it off. Unfortunately, what sort of moron misinterprets Every Breath You Take or Roxanne? They’re as blatantly obvious as Flowers is oblivious. In any case, Roxanne is awful, Every Breath You Take is superb, and most of the rest of the songs I’ve heard fall on a sliding scale starting from ‘meh’ and ending up at ‘aborted baboon feces’.
69. Jackie Wilson
A sorry tale of talent gone to ruin and vultures picking over the scraps, Wilson was undoubtedly a great performer. His voice was ludicrous, reaching peaks his contemporaries couldn’t dream of while being smooth when required.
68. The Temptations
Everything you could want in a male vocal group, the voices, the poise, the presence, and the songs to go with them.
I don’t give them the credit they deserve, mostly because I feel their individual songs aren’t great often enough, but there’s no doubting their influence. They played with immense technical skill, and they played loud while retaining melody.
66. Al Green
Yeah, don’t know much about him, only know a couple of songs.
65. The Kinks
One of the finest English rock bands, it’s a shame they came out at the same time as The Beatles, The Stones, The Who. They were fantastic, challenging, they wanted to challenge themselves, and Davies remains one of the all time great songwriters.
64. Phil Spector
It seems a little cheeky including him on the list given that he’s a Producer. His influence over the music he was producing undoubtedly turned the songs into something better. Famed for his Wall Of Sound, he’s easily one of the greatest Producers of all time, but he doesn’t need to be on this list.
63. Tina Turner
The singer every mother in law seems to love, Turner had her own brand of ferocity when she performed and that carried her beyond Ike to a vast number of personal hits. With one of the more unique voices in female pop, Turner makes music anyone can enjoy.
62. Joni Mitchell
You probably know my feelings about Joni – she’s one of the greats. One of the great true artists in music, constantly doing something different and doing it differently, a wonderfully talented musician, songwriter, lyricist, vocalist – she has it all, and does it all with grace and wisdom. I of course prefer her folk to her jazz, but it’s all worthwhile. In the pantheon of great female artists – she’s at the top.
The band that brought Metal to the mainstream, the band that changed the metal game forever. Love or hate them, take a listen once more to any of their first four albums and try not to be blown away by the creativity, ambition, skill, and energy. Then slap on The Black album and see how they could channel all of that into something which the masses could swallow. They’re more of a touring band now – I wish they didn’t have such huge gaps between albums as that usually means artists are resting on their laurels or don’t have much to say. Each time they come back though (beyond a few hiccups in the late 90s) it’s something approaching heartwarming for every metal fan. They still have a knack for making the outsider feel like part of something, and make you want to smash the place up and release all of that pent up anger and excitement.
60. The Sex Pistols
Of course. The be all and end all when it comes to Punk, they ignited a movement. I’m not talking about their politics or punk as a whole, I’m talking about inspiring kids to get up and fucking do something. Start a band, start a riot, pick up an instrument and go conquer the world. Their few songs were pretty alright too.
Taking the Blues rock back from the Brits, Aerosmith saw the fame of Zeppelin and The Stones and decided they could have a slice of that pie, while glamming it up and making it all American. With Tyler they had a voice to rival any wailing English man, and with Perry a guitarist who brought some of the first doses of sleaze to rock. They are one of the few bands to have successive, successful returns – sounding different each time, yet the same. They were sleazy blues in the Seventies, everybody’s mates in 80s, serious hit makers in the 90s, and have kept on plugging into the new millennium. They’re the biggest selling American rock band of all time – keep that in mind.
58. Parliament and Funkadelic
I need to give them a chance. Anything I’ve heard I usually dismiss as either silly or not to my taste.
57. The Grateful Dead
More of the same – never been a fan, haven’t heard enough, need to give them a chance
56. Dr Dre
Well, duh. Dre is a great producer and has discovered some of the best and many of the worst RnB artists out there. But his work as a rapper remains some of the best, most seminal in the game with both his solo stuff and work with NWA influencing essentially everything which came afterwards. Almost nothing has come close to topping it.
55. Eric Clapton
We all know he’s a great guitarist. Bit of an asshole, but he can play. Like most great guitarists, their ideas rarely translate into good solo songs and they tend to work best when they can influence or be influenced by a like-minded group. In essence he was a beast and did some great stuff, then he calmed down and didn’t.
54. Howlin’ Wolf
Every so often an artist will have a name which tells you all you need to know – Megadeth… umm… Ed Sheeran? Howlin’ Wolf is exactly that – bloodthirsty, exotic, eccentric, and ear-piercing. One of the true greats of the early rock era.
53. The Allman Brothers
Wouldn’t you know, it’s more Southern Rock. And wouldn’t you know, I don’t know a hell of a lot about it.
Probably the rock band with the most widespread popularity outside of The Beatles. Everyone loves Queen it seems, from middle aged women usually terrified of guitars to snobs, hipsters, chavs, metal-heads, critics, musicians. Maybe it’s that they just have so many hits or that so many of those hits have an anthemic quality. Maybe it’s that their songs have so far transcended time and still sound fresh now. I’ve never considered myself a huge Queen fan, beyond mostly liking all of the singles that I’ve heard. I’ve only listened to one full album, and enjoyed it, so I guess I am a Queen fan.
51. Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd cover so many genres, yet always retain that something special which makes them them. They have covered prog, punk, psychedelic, dance, mellow, and have made some of the best concept albums ever. That four album run which covers Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall, may be the best run in musical history. Each on is unique, each one flawless. Before that run the had the experimental insanity of Syd and the patchwork miscellany his shadow uncovered, and afterwards the politics of Roger and soothing six string of Gilmour to keep them going. That four album run though, with Mason and Wright keeping the music both tight and flexible, is rock perfection.
50. The Band
Can’t say I know much about them.
49. Elton John
I’ve never been a fan, but then piano led rock comes off as cheesy to me and almost never makes me feel anything but the need to turn it off. I love the piano as an instrument, but so few artists use it to my tastes. Obviously he’s a superstar and I’m in the minority. I don’t mind the writing, I like a couple of songs, and I haven’t heard any complete albums, but his vocals and presence and songs in general aren’t my bag.
48. Run DMC
The original pioneers of rap, pretty much any of the Run DMC songs I’ve heard I’ve liked. But that’s a very small number, so I’ll have to change that.
47. Patti Smith
Those friends I mentioned earlier whose musical tastes are similar to mine? Some swear by Patti Smith. I’ve only heard a handful of songs so she is another artist I need to explore.
46. Janis Joplin
Jeebus, that voice. Have you ever heard or felt anything like it when Janis lets rip? I’ve no idea what she could have gone on to become – it was always a shame to me that the actual songs she performed weren’t overly interesting to me. She had the voice and the expression and the performance – just needed the songs to pull it together.
45. The Byrds
Another band whose singles I know, and that’s about it. I know they’ll be coming up plenty in my other long-running series, so I’ll get to them.
44. Public Enemy
Yeeeah Boyee! For my money, Chuck D is the greatest rapper of them all. The combination of his smooth yet aggressive vocals, his sharp observations stabbed into some of the best lyrics of the last thirty years, and his inviting, eloquent delivery is everything which is missing from the rap I hear these days (not that I’m paying much attention). Throw in the madcap exhalations and ramblings by Flavor Flav and their ability to take metal riffs, disjointed samples and effects from reports, movies, past hits, and you have a group capable of establishing a meaningful uprising and cross musical borders.
43. Sly And The Family Stone
Again, a blank spot in my musical knowledge outside of a few obvious songs.
42. Van Morrison
A fellow Northern Irish man, that’s enough reason to dislike him. I’m not sure at the point of writing this whether or not I’ll have posted something else I’ve also written about Van. In summary – sometimes I like his voice, other times I hate it – he comes across as a complete knob, and I know little outside of his big hits.
41. The Doors
They’re the band all disenfranchised kids and teens get into at some point, or should do. I go back and forth on The Doors – Morrison as a frontman – there’s fewer more charismatic, he brought a lot of intelligence and poetry to lyrics although many of them are hit and miss. The keyboard also comes across in that hit or miss way – sometimes it’s perfect, other times it’s cheesy as fuck and sounds like a bad pub band. The playing is always great though and I love many of their songs. Krieger had some great licks.
Check back soon for Part Three!