Nightman Reacts To The Greatest Artists Of All Time (According To Rolling Stone)! 40-21

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Part Two of my reaction to Rolling Stone’s Greatest 100 Musical Acts Of All Time. Click here for part one and part two Otherwise….

40. Simon And Garfunkel

As mentioned in post one, I haven’t discussed the ordering of this thing at all. I’ve no idea what their ordering criteria is but at the moment it doesn’t seem like there is one at all. Until we get to the top five of course and see Elvis, The Stones, and The Beatles. I always assumed I would like Simon And Garfunkel. Then I listened and posted about one album – the first of theirs I’d heard – and it wasn’t great. I’ve since listened to another album which was better. The jury’s still out on how I feel about them, but I know most people are fans.

39. David Bowie

Speaking of the Jury still being out… I understand and appreciate how much Bowie brought to music and how many artists he inspired and how he did his own thing for decades. I’m annoyed I don’t like him more – the glam stuff does nothing but irritate me and I’m generally not moved by his vocals. There are plenty of songs I love and plenty I like, but maybe the time for me to truly love him has passed.

38. John Lennon

His work with The Beatles would be enough to top any list. Then he did ten years of solo work, most of which I haven’t heard. It’s probably not as good as The Beatles, but probably not far behind.

37. Roy Orbison

When I was young I took one look at Orbison and said ‘naw’. But then you hear him sing, and you hear him play, and you get it. He wasn’t some knock off Elvis, he was his own thing and I much prefer his voice to The King’s. His songs have lasted too.

36. Madonna

Bitch, she’s Madonna. Mad as a bottle of snakes and might just pour them over you, but show me another artist who’s had her longevity and success and hits. You can’t. You can tear apart her vocals or her politics or certain creative or musical choices, but when you look at the best hits of her vast body of work, you can’t help but be in awe.

35. Michael Jackson

Probably the greatest voice in all of music, probably the greatest entertainer of all time. In the beginning it was all about his voice and style – how cute he looked, how he danced, how he sang. Then he branched out from his brothers and more success. Then he branched out on his own and became the biggest thing in the world. All through that time he was writing his own stuff and honing his perfectionist style. There has never been anyone like Michael, and there likely never will be again.

34. Neil Young

I’m still waiting for that thing to make me like Neil Young music. It must be there.

33. Everly Brothers

Fair enough.

32. Smokey Robinson And The Miracles

Smokey is such an underrated writer, but with The Miracles he was able to get his best work across. I still find it amazing that Smokey was around before Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and The Beatles, and he’s still going.

31. Johnny Cash

Everybody loves Johnny Cash. Me? Not so much. It’s another example of appreciation rather than enjoying the music. It may be dark, on occasion, but it’s still Country. And Gospel too, which is worse. A unique figure though.

30. Nirvana

Everything I wanted and needed in a band when I was young; everything the music industry needs now. Nirvana wasn’t just grunge, rock, metal, punk, pop, whatever – it was a rare concoction of fury, intelligence, wit, integrity – you listen to any interview with them at the time, you watch any performance – no matter how fucked up they were they played with more intensity and feeling and passion than anyone else. I don’t care if you were Metallica or The Beatles or Yngwie Malmsteen or Pavarotti, Nirvana were going to blow you off the stage and make you look like amateurs. Then they’d destroy the stage and fuck off. A complete nobody came from nothing and changed the lives of millions. There have been few greater losses to the musical world than when Kurt ended his life.

29. The Who

On stage in their prime there was nobody like The Who. Complete maniacs. Off stage too. Luckily they had the chops and prowess to pull it off. They had the balls to make shit like Tommy and Quadrophenia, grand sweeping stories which had great songs in the mix. And they would throw out amazing anthems like My Generation and Baba O’Reilly too.

28. The Clash

One of the first punk bands I got into, but my relationship with punk has almost always been surface – I’ll dip in and out when I need quick blast on how powerful music can be. It’s not just about the notes, it’s about the raw passion, the need to express yourself, or tell a story, or connect with an audience. The Clash could connect while also writing simple, catchy songs. They went and experimented with a tonne of other styles – most of which was not to my taste – but all the while they remained true to their vision of self.

27. Prince

I get he’s a good writer and a multi-talented musician. The music does little to nothing for me. I don’t find it sexy, it doesn’t make me want to dance, it doesn’t inspire me to listen or create or procreate. Hands up once more – I still haven’t heard much from him outside of some of his hits. He apparently has a million songs. Some of them are bound to pop up in my other series.

26. The Ramones

I’ve always found The Ramones to be on the silly side of punk. That’s not to say they’re not authentic, just that it’s hard to take a lot of their stuff seriously. They still play with fury but more often than not it’s the fury of a kitten trying to attack my hand – charming, fun, entertaining to be part of, but ultimately harmless.

25. Fats Domino

I mean, it’s Fats Domino. He was good, influential, but there’s a cultural and historic divide which will likely never be bridged to make me truly align with most of his stuff. I’ll listen, but I won’t think about it much.

24. Jerry Lee Lewis 

I’ll take him over Elton any day.

23. Bruce Springsteen

The nicest man in rock, or maybe the most genuine (assuming Dave Grohl went out for a walk). Again outside of the Born In The USA album and a few songs, I’m not too knowledgeable about his actual songs but there are so many singers who have come after him who try to mimic or embody his spirit – the voice, the style, the workmanship, and the message.

22. U2

Chris Martin in the article, opening his mouth and embarrassing himself as always, says some of the most stupid things. I get he’s trying to compliment the band, but when he says U2 is the only band whose entire back catalogue he knows by heart, what I take from that is that Chris Martin is not a music fan and should be kept far away from any recording studio. God, he then goes on to say ‘they may be the only good anthemic rock band ever’. Why is Chris Martin a thing? Can anyone explain it? Does he realise by simply existing in the same time and space as U2, he’s making them look worse? He then closes his love-fest with a sermon, of course, where he unironically states (when mentioning musician’s abilities to discuss a wider political or cultural issue) ‘every time I try, I feel like an idiot’ Yeah, mate, that’s because you are. I like U2 – some of their songs. I’m not some superfan. Bono’s a bit of a twat and they stopped making decent music about fifty years ago, but for a while they were good. Coldplay though – I liked that ‘beautiful world’ song, for five minutes before self-exorcising.

21. Otis Redding

Another great story with a tragic ending. Redding had his hits and his fame and likely would have had more. It wasn’t to be, yet most of his stuff feels as good today as I imagine it did in the 60s.

Next time, we complete our rundown with the Top 20! Let us know in the comments how you feel about any of the artists above and their position within the list!

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Tonight!

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Greetings, Glancers! We’re back in Bowieville today with an album I know absolutely nothing about. Most of the Bowie albums, even though I had not previously listened to them, I was at least aware of their name or their popularity or success. This one I don’t recall ever hearing of, so my first assumption is that it was not well received. Lets check the tracklist… oh. Is this a cover album? It seems like at least half of the songs are covers… that usually means a quick rush job to capitalize on success and keep things ticking over while you plan your actual next album. Right, all signs point towards this not being great, but I hope I’m wrong.

Loving The Alien: Well, this certainly starts out with an 80s vibe – that dreadful 80s drum sound is here in full force, but the overall 80s vibe isn’t too cheesy, instead hitting the right nostalgic chord with me. The vocals… I’m not sure yet whether they are okay are annoying…. bit of both really. Great bridge between verse and chorus. It’s just a tad odd, not enough to put most people off, but just odd enough for people to mutter ‘wtf is this’ to themselves while still liking it. I haven’t, or can’t pay attention to the lyrics here… seems to be something about religion? A good guitar solo/off kilter string section in the middle, leads to a longer instrumental section which is mostly a repetition of the main melody along with strings. Then a guitar solo. Just an extended jam to close. This was perfectly fine – not amazing, not bad, interesting.

Don’t Look Down: Neon drenched steamy US detective show. With added reggae. I’m not a fan of the whole white boy reggae thing. I don’t think I’ve heard the original. It’s slow. Pretty one-note, doesn’t change much from minute to minute. Nothing wrong, but I wouldn’t choose to listen to it again.

God Only Knows: Hmm, well it’s different enough from the original. Very deep vocals, made into more of a drone than what The Beach Boys did. I like the string parts and the stutters. Added horns.

Tonight: You know it’s the 80s when people duet with Tina Turner. More reggae, so not to my tastes. I would enjoy this song much more if they didn’t go for that style, as it’s quite sweet and soothing. I think I’ve heard the original, but can’t remember it at the moment.

Neighbourhood Threat: So, it’s A View To A Kill. Man, this reeks of a lost 80s power rock classic. Again, I’ve probably heard the original, but can’t recall it. Still, this is my favourite on the album since the opener.

Blue Jean: There is a consistent sound and tone throughout the album, I’ll give it that. And even with all the 80s stuff, it never becomes too 80s.

Tumble And Twirl: This one is a little bit reggae, a little disco, and a little 80s rock. Too many horns for my liking. Turns into a bit of a dancing bonanza. Goes on a bit.

I Keep Forgettin: This isn’t overly different from the original, retaining a streamlined old fashioned rock and roll feel. Definitely feels like a bit of random B material.

Dancing With The Big Boys: With all the Iggy covers it only seems fitting to close on a song which features him. Drums feel like the opening to another Bond song. Guitar kind of follows that line of thought. Too many trumps for my liking, as is the case many many times. This comes across as just another average, forgettable rock song.

So, a consistently 80s sounding record without falling into the usual trappings of 80’s guff. It still sounds like a Bowie album, even if a lot of the songs are covers, and unlike many of the other stars of the 70s who struggled to keep up with the new decade. I’d likely only listen to two of the songs again, and the rest is miscellaneous take it or leave it stuff. Not good, not bad, very indifferent. At least it wasn’t an embarrassment, but it’s not one I’ll remember. Let us know your thoughts on Tonight in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Loving The Alien. Neighbourhood Threat.

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Joyride!

Greetings, Glancers! In 1990, the pressure was on Roxette to release a follow-up to their multi-million selling second album. Momentum was on their side with that previous album seeing a number of hit singles as well as the re-release of their biggest hit It Must Have Been Love being played around the world thanks to Pretty Woman. The band were at their creative and commercial peak and the new album would prove to be an even bigger success. Like I mentioned in my previous Roxette post, this album was on regular rotation during car trips. For some perspective, we would spend most holidays at a caravan park on a beach near to where my mother grew up and the car journey from my house to our destination was roughly 90 minutes. Sometimes at weekends I would come home for a day with my dad, before returning the following morning. So there was a lot of time listening to songs from this album, along with other favourites of my youth. I’m sure there are a few I’ve forgotten about here, but overall it’s an album I know well.

Joyride. A great intro to the album with one of their biggest singles. You’d be forgiven in thinking this was the lead in to a concept album what with the artwork and the spoken intro. It ain’t. Roxette have this habit of including multiple great hooks in certain songs – this one has a tonne – the whistling part, the pre-chorus ‘magic friends’, the chorus itself, certain guitar parts – each is addictive and will gnaw away at you. If you like some of the weirder stuff on this site you’ll be please to know I actually did one of my delightful remixes to this song years ago, but I never uploaded it. I must get around to that.

Hotblooded. This comes in heavy, a little cheesy but we can forgive that. Mostly. I’d mostly forgotten the verse but the chorus is another one with fangs. Lots of raunchy lyrics, a fast pace, a harmonica solo, guitar solo, it’s pretty simple but with a decent rock flavour. Good vocals from Marie.

Fading Like A Flower. This was always one of my favourites, but then you know how I love the ballads. This is a power ballad following the 80s template. We have a piano lead in, a lot of atmosphere and emotion, a surge into a crunching chorus. It’s actually heavier than I remember it, more emphasis on the power than the ballad with plenty of guitar to drive things. It also has a greater pace and shorter running time than I remember, but it’s still just as good and gives me nostalgic chills.

Knockin’ On Every Door. This starts with some dated drum sounds before pulling out a very funky verse – lots of riffs and weird sounds along with Per’s fast paced vocals. It’s not very exciting but the chorus is another decent one. Things get weirder in the second verse with stranger vocals and a few interesting musical choices. It could do with a little trimming.

Spending My Time. I feel the same about this one as I do about Fading Like A Flower. It’s another power ballad, but this time the focus is more on ballad than power. It opens with just Marie and an acoustic guitar, very lonesome and atmospheric – especially when the synth and twinkles come in. Then the chorus drops, terrific vocals, nostalgic synth, pure 80s stuff even though this was 1990/1991. Downer lyrics, defiant guitars, massive chorus. It’s perfect power pop.

I Remember You. This opens with some didgeridoo sound before stabilizing. Riffs, decent pace, rock infused pop. The chorus has that annoying Def Leppard feel. The verses aren’t that interesting and the chorus is merely okay, making this the weakest one so far. Still, there is enough here that it is still worth hearing.

Watercolours In The Rain. Another acoustic opening, reminds me a little of Led Zep’s Tangerine. It’s very soft and sweet. This one is unusual in that the chorus doesn’t live up to the verse. It feels like a song that strives for greatness but doesn’t quite reach it.

The Big L. I remember this one feeling heavy. There’s a little bit of guitar there and it’s quick, but it isn’t heavy. We have dual vocals and the melodies are fine throughout. It does have terrible hand claps though, you know I hate those. It’s catchy but it’s one I would have liked much more as a child. This one goes on a bit too long too.

Soul Deep. It’s a rip off of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction but it’s still good. Marie yelps and howls, the drums are solid, and it’s upbeat. Not much else to say.

(Do You Get) Excited? A synth one which feels more in tune with the direction 90s pop was going. The synth also feels like any number of John Carpenter movies. It suddenly bursts into life for the second verse with a loud guitar riff, but the song doesn’t continue in that vein – the verses are still plain. The chorus is good but not as strong as the big ones here.

Church of Your Heart. This one is interesting – it’s another which tries to be a power ballad but just lacks that certain something. I think this one is too upbeat, for some reason I always treat power ballads as ones which come from a place of pain or sadness. This is just happy and though it has the same trademarks as those ballads it doesn’t strike the same chord with me. I still like it, just isn’t essential.

Small Talk. This is a weird song. It’s all drums and synth bass and strange spoken parts and little acoustic jingles. The chorus is okay. It feels very similar to Hotblooded but a less sexy version. A strange mixture, yet it mostly works.

Physical Fascination. Another weird one, or at least a weird intro. Lots of strange 80s sounds and funk stuff. It’s a bit all over the place but I do remember there were a bunch of songs like this – throw in as many instruments and sounds as possible and see if a song pops out the other end. A song usually does, but it’s almost always crap.

Things Will Never Be The Same Again. Ah yes, I always loved this one. I’m sure you can guess why. Somber intro. Sudden big synth and guitars. Atmosphere. Downbeat. You got it, it’s another power ballad. The verse melodies here aren’t as good as others but the pre-chorus and chorus are both great. It’s not as good as I remember, certainly not as good as the biggies, but still one of the better ones here.

Perfect Day. The closing song is another good one. Good verse, good chorus. This one doesn’t rely on silly sounds and production balls – just melody, vocals, idea. The album ends on a strong note.

It didn’t long before my brother started chopping songs from albums to make his own mix tapes fro car journeys, so quite a few of these didn’t make the grade. I also made my mix tapes and the only two songs I remember taking from this album were Fading Like A Flower and Spending My Time. My opinions haven’t really changed – those are the two clear best songs here, with three or four close behind. The rest of the album I can take or leave – there’s really only one crappy one and the rest are average album fare. What about you? Do you have any specific memories of this album or any of its songs? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Music!

Greetings, Glancers! It’s Madonna time again and an album released back in 2000, a simpler, less stressful time some would say. Not me though – I was in the middle of my A-Level preparations, I was 17, drinkin’ and a druggin’ and a womenin’. As you’ll have read in my previous post, Ray Of Light had been a massive hit with me and some of my friends, but in the few years between these albums we had started to see Madonna in a less favourable light. She had a lot of stuff going on which made her a prime candidate for ridicule, not that she’d care, and her release of American Pie was met with general laughter. To many of us it seemed she had lost it. I don’t know how much, if any, this contributed to me not paying much attention to the album but Music is not one I know much about, outside of some vague memories of the singles.

The album seems like it could be short and brisk – only ten songs and the only one I can clearly recall is the title track, and that’s a song I wasn’t a fan of. William Orbit did an awesome job on Ray Of Light so presumably the same will be said for this, although I think this album has a more general dance music flavour with less focus on atmosphere and rock. There’s no point guessing, lets just get into it.

‘Music’ was the first single from the album, and I didn’t like it from the first moment I heard it – much too much focus on quirks and production than, you know, actual music. The video likely influenced me too, what with its apparent love of celeb culture and lifestyle. Lyrically of course the song is supposed to be about the power of music to bring people together and overcome… something, but when the music is mostly dire the message falls flat. I appreciate the creativity and the production, but the style is not for me, the vocals are too whiny, and the melodies grating.

‘Impressive Instant’ is… well, my instant impression is that I’ll never want to listen to this again. It seems to be like another irritating dance song, entirely manufactured in the studio with nothing tangible. The vocals are annoying, the music is repetitive, the lyrics are garbage… unless you’re into dance music there’s nothing good here.

Runaway Lover‘ is a more traditional dance track. As a general rule I’m not a fan of dance music in most of its guises, but there are exceptions. This, I don’t mind. It could be any style of song, they just happened to make it dance – take away the beats and replace them with guitars or generic pop stuff and you’ll have a decent rock or pop track. Some of the noises and drums stuff annoys me, but it moves swiftly with a tidy energy and some decent melodies.

I Deserve It’ seems familiar somehow. I’m almost certain I’ve never head it, but I’ve shared many a set of earphones with many a person, so possibly… This one rambles along never quite reaching any sort of point or peak, though based on the lyrics that in itself is possibly the point. There are moments of potential where I thought it was going to build into something more, but then it didn’t.

Amazing‘ starts with manufactured bird-like noises and bell type sounds. Before long a beat that’s unusually similar to Beautiful Stranger takes the song further along. The song has more of a rock vibe like some of the songs from Ray of Light, though in a completely different style.

Nobody’s Perfect’ begins with something that sounds like ‘I am wet when I am with you’ which seems a little inappropriate even for Madonna. This is annoying because I do like the melodies here, but they are largely ruined by the auto-tuning nonsense. The drum sounds feel too weak in places, but I do like all the robotic laser stuff going on. This would be great if it had a traditional vocal throughout, but even with the nonsense I can’t help but like it and I think it could become one of my favourites over time.

Don’t Tell Me‘ is one I’d forgotten about. I like the disjointed nature and I remember this one had fairly heavy rotation when I was in the University Student’s Union bar anytime Kerrang wasn’t being shown. It’s a decent single but clearly I’d forgotten it for a reason, gets annoying before long.

What It Feels Like For A Girl’ begins with experimental sounds, some annoying English accented speaking, lyrics about androgyny etc. I have a feeling I have heard this before. The good qualities here are buried under the production – the melodies and the backing sounds don’t go together at all, making the whole affair feel like two completed different songs which got mashed together accidentally.

Paradise (Not For Me)’ is a song that mostly goes nowhere until the second minute where a very John Carpenter piece emerges followed by a much stronger vocal (though still downgraded by auto-tune). It’s clearly an attempt at an epic and it doesn’t quite get there, though I appreciate the effort. I love the strings which join the mess near the third minute, but the opening two minutes are too uneventful – a better melody lifting towards that middle section would have improved things drastically. The final couple of minutes repeat variously the good and bad without offering a final distinct section – aimed for the stars and scraped the clouds or something.

Gone‘ begins as an unusually streamlined and simple song – only voice and acoustic guitar. I love the melodies, the vocals and lyrics are plaintive, and the chorus is great. Given what has come before I keep waiting for the big production to come blasting out of the speakers. It does come, kind of, but it’s not as intrusive or all encompassing as elsewhere on the album. This is good stuff, and a great ending – another song I wasn’t aware of that I already look forward to hearing again.

For me this was an ambitious yet disjointed album. As a sequel to Ray Of Light it tries a host of new ideas but it doesn’t have the impact, musically or emotionally, which that album had. Where one felt urgent and inventive, this one feels at times like a joke or more accurately that the people involved were just having fun without caring about the quality of the end product, while at other times it feels as if they are throwing as much sound and technique into the mix in the hope that some of it will come good. The best moments are those where the simple tune is allowed to speak for itself – some of the songs are bogged down by production to the point where the melody is drowned, while in others the production fails to disguise the dull core. There are still some great moments here, and a few songs that I’ll add to my regular rotation, but as a sequel to a great, it falls below expectation.