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11:59 a.m. - June 21, 2006
That's IT! That's the List! My Top 25 Bands (As of This Milli-Second)
Let’s get back on the horse, shall we? Enough navel gazing and woe-is-uh-me-bopping. It’s time to rock and roll!

(I will say that I was only online from 6:45 to 7:30, except for about 5 minutes after the end of the 3rd quarter of the game when I was seeing if the Sports Editor of the Paper of Montgomery County had given me my assignments for the F-1 race. I have them now – two previews plus a race recap!)

If you remember (and you do – and if you don’t, check my archives) in December, I posted about 15 essays detailing the 150 albums that I dug the most (at that time!). Again, check the archives for those lists. I was just re-reading them and the comments and they all made me smile again!

People always seem to ask me to name my favorite bands of all time, and while I seemingly have stock answers, it always seems incomplete for some reason. In fact, for this exercise I jotted down a listing of bands, and kept adding to them as I forgot bands, and moved them around.

So I am going to name my top 25 bands of all time, starting with…

Head East - Psych! Got you there!

Seriously, I am going to list my top 25 bands of all time at this current juncture in my life, because I am a mercurial sort, a forgetful sort, and just a sort of guy to make lists and change them the next day. And there are no new bands on the list, because the new kids just haven’t proven themselves over the long run.

And there’s no solo artists on the list (it’s of bands, ya know), so Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson are out, along with Bob Dylan and Neil Young.

In fact, here’s a listing of bands that I considered for the list, or would have been on the list on a different day or week: Soundgarden, Camper Van Beethoven, Rage Against The Machine, Sonic Youth, Social Distortion, Helmet, AC/DC, Tad, The Velvet Underground, Prong, Iron Maiden, Metallica, The Jayhawks, Big Black, The Stooges, Squeeze, Ultravox, Morphine, Mudhoney, Nirvana, Living Colour, The Talking Heads, Black Flag, Prong, Iron Maiden, Steely Dan, The Long Ryders, The Radiators (New Orleans), Built To Spill, The Smithereens, Devo, The Pursuit of Happiness, Jawbox, They Might Be Giants, The Ramones, The Who, and the Rolling Stones.

Yeah, I left off the Who and the Rolling Stones. But who is on the list? Well, read on! And if I forgot one, don’t stone me, please.

25. Uncle Tupelo - The ‘founders’ of the “No Depression” movement, and the reason that alt-country exists, they’re on the list basically because Anodyne moves me, and the song “Looking For A Way Out” speaks volumes to me and about people in this town.
24. ZZ Top - Yes, I like ZZ Top better, right now, than the Stones and the Who, but I’m in a phase where I just want to hear Billy Gibbons rip on the guitar. I’m pretending that after Eliminator they vanished from the Earth, though. “Just Got Paid” needs to be played at 5:00 every Friday, as loud as possible.

23. The Three O’Clock - You can really hear an astounding evolution (and a steep decline) with this group. From actual punk rock, to paisley underground, to power pop, in about three albums, the Three O’Clock had a lot of elements that endear them to me – strong melodies and harmonies, inventive arrangements, and they could rock when they wanted to. However, Michael Quercio succumbed to his twee side, and that was the end of it.

22. Big Star - They really released just two albums, and Sister Lovers is a shambling mess of sessions, but what albums they were. I could listen to them all day! Chris Bell and Alex Chilton had a great way with a song and a sound, and that just couldn’t be duplicated.

21. Television - Another band with just two records (and a reunion album) but those two albums are classics. Plus, there are a couple of fantastic live albums available (though one was limited edition and is now out of print) that really show how powerful the band was live.

20. Van Halen - Again, anything after 1984doesn’t exist, because Sammy Headache should have stuck to making his own lame albums. However, make a mix from the first six Van Halen albums, get some meat for the grill, and throw a big ol’ block party. Don’t forget the sunscreen and the beer! All right you sinners, SWING!

19. The Posies - Now, I haven’t bought their new album (shock, but money is tight right now) but in their mid 90’s prime they had it all for my ears. Their songs are dark, even though the harmonies make them sound light (right Serena?) This is good music for the soul, and makes you dream all day about your solar sister.

18. The Mothers of Invention - An amazing, staggering amount of work was produced by the various incarnations of the Mothers. Most all of it is incredibly complicated, and almost all of it is worthy of hearing, at least a few times. The later versions of the band, with Flo and Eddie, are rather sophomoric, but the early work is incredible.

17. Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - What? You said no solo artists? Well, you can’t exclude the Magic Band, because in all of their incarnations they were just incredible, and except for a couple of bad albums in the 70’s all of their music is vital and needs to be heard. Right now, the title track of Lick My Decals Off, Baby is on my iPod, as I put it on a mix for Evil. I really can’t describe it, it’s just so intense, and dense.

16. The Kinks - Ray Davies has certainly been around a long long time, and while some eras of the Kinks don’t suit me, really, the early stuff (up until 1972) is phenomenal, with the best stuff being the stuff that was ignored in America. They also had a decent renaissance in the 80’s as well, before fading fast. You can’t really pick up a decent anthology that does them total justice, so just buy the albums!

15. R. E. M. - Oh, about 10 years ago they would have been in the top 5, for sure. But I really dislike the direction they took when Bill Berry took leave, and now I find some of their stuff just isn’t doing it for me right now. However, the early stuff (my college years) works on many different levels. Maybe Michael Stipe should mumble again, and Peter Buck can get jangly with it?

14. Led Zeppelin - Despite their propensity to over-extend themselves on some songs (like “Dazed And Confused” – we got it already) they had it all. They had the riffs, the songwriting, and the variety. Listen to Led Zeppelin III and be amazed at how much ground they cover in one record. And you know, “Communication Breakdown” IS punk rock.

13. The Cars - The Cars always hold a special place in my heart and in my ears, as they were OUR band in high school. Sure, they got a bit commercial, and Ocasek seemed to run out of ideas, but the first four albums have a great sound. I still have to jump around the room like an idiot when I hear “Shake It Up”!

12. Superchunk - Again, this would have been a much higher ranking had they kept their momentum up from the heyday, as I’m not in love with their new stuff. I mean, I like it, but I wouldn’t marry it. But this fiercely independent band really struck a chord with me as an antidote to the ‘commercial’ grunge era. Besides, Laura Balance is STILL a hottie.

11. Black Sabbath - Again, anything after Sabotage doesn’t really exist, except for the song “The Mob Rules”, but with that caveat the Princes of Darkness were quite revolutionary, even if a lot of their albums have some notoriously mediocre filler (“Supertzar”? WTF is THAT all about??). What that means is that when they were on, they were just tremendous. Seek ye out songs like “Cornucopia”, or “Hole In The Sky”, or “Behind The Wall of Sleep” for starters, and get sludgy with it!

10. The Replacements - From snotty punks, to snotty adults, the ‘Mats were the epitome of what rock and roll is all about. Sure, they probably could have ‘concentrated’ and made better, more cohesive albums and could have always done a professional job on stage, but if rock and roll isn’t about danger and taking risks, then why are we having this conversation anyway?

9. The Pixies - I think I’m not so enamored with Frank Black’s solo work because the Pixies were such a kick-ass band. They were weird, they were loud, and they didn’t care. People keep trying to match them, but I don’t think anyone can come close to the synthesis of sound that the Pixies put forth. I smell smoke that comes from a gun named extinction…

8. The Minutemen - Sadly, this is one band that ended well before its time, with the tragic death of D. Boon right when the Minutemen were poised to enter a new direction with their music, I feel. Almost all of their albums are timeless classic punk rock rants. Sure, they were written in the Reagan era but you could really transplant them to the modern day America and they work just the same.

7. Judas Priest - I saw them once, and I wish I could see them again. Or go back in time and see them around the Unleashed In The East era. The first time I heard the Priest in high school I just knew they were the metal band for me. Kids, this is something called heavy metal. Turn it up loud.

6. Husker Du - At their best, Husker Du was staggeringly inventive, even in the ‘narrow’ vein of punk rock. They used an ocean of sound to construct songs of power and frailty, and weren’t afraid to change things up and experiment. I think they broke up at the right time, too, so their legacy isn’t tainted.

5. The Clash - Sure, they had some weak moments (ahem…cough…Cut the Crap….) but most all of their stuff is remarkable. They pushed the boundaries of punk rock and moved it into places that it had never been before, and hasn’t gone since. It’s hard to imagine the band that created “White Riot” or “1977” would have hit singles in the US, but they did, and that’s a testament to them, not a black mark against them!

4. The Byrds - I wrote about them here and I don’t think I need to say more!

3. The Jam - Not really punk rock, but creators of their own sound, fusing the early Who with some Motown influences, the Jam were amazingly popular, prolific and powerful. Putting on every one of their albums is a joy (well, OK, a couple weren’t so hot) and the non-album singles they released were incredible. Every time I hear a song by the Jam I want to get out of my chair and play air bass or drums or something!

2. The Beach Boys - Oh, yeah, they released a metric ton of crapola. But they (and by they I mean the Wilson brothers) were absolute gods until about 1974, even with all of the ‘interesting’ stuff on their records. I wrote these two essays about 30 unknown Beach Boys songs.

1.The Beatles - They will be a subject for a further rumination, but this was the band that got me interested in rock and roll (thanks to my sister!) and the band I turn to when I get in some of my moods. Without the Beatles, there is no rock and roll.

I’m sure some of these picks were surprising, and some of the omissions more surprising. But we can cuss and discuss this until the cows come home, and that’s what’s so great about rock and roll music, any old way you choose it!

 

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