It is time, ladies and gentlemen, to explore the second half of the rock ‘n roll alphabet. Are you ready?
As you know, I have been going through the alphabet letter by letter. I’ve been naming a great band for each letter, some honorable mentions, some newbies, and then dissing those souls that deserve it. I’ve gone after some alleged icons. And you have let me do it without calling me out at all. So, we are in full agreement.
Let’s get back to the fun with the letters M, N and O. As always, if an artist travels under their given name, I used the last name to categorize them. For example, James Brown would be listed under “b.” And away we go.
M is for Madonna. I’ll bet you didn’t see that one coming. Madonna is manipulative, commercial, egotistical, thin-voiced and material. She is also hugely talented, a risk-taker, a decent live act, and a purveyor of hit after hit. You can say what you like about her, but she has maintained a compelling career over many decades, and has been the model for later performers like Lady GaGa. I like her, I sing along and dance to her songs, I like the fact that she is a strong woman making a mark in a traditionally misogynistic industry, and I think she defines the letter M.
Honorable Mentions: Mano Negra – Until Phoenix came along, the best rock band ever out of France. Until Phoenix came along, the only rock band out of France. Maroon 5 – I agree with all the criticisms. But I still like them and I still think they rock out. Material Issue – a wonderful power-pop band that put out a few memorable albums. Not well known. Perhaps Congress can pass a law? The Mavericks – Good new alt-country out of Miami. Metallica – all metal should start here. Enter Sandman is a personal favorite and makes me want to bounce. GO HOKIES! Minor Threat – the best harDCore band ever. Ian Mackaye later went on to found Fugazi. Mission of Burma – one of the best unknown indie bands of all time. They played LOUD. Modest Mouse – I had to put them here for all my friends who think they are great. I think that they are good. John Mellencamp – one of the most authentic voices in rock. From the heartland, and eloquently singing about it. Rocks out, too. Solid live act! The Monkees – I’m not explaining why. You figure it out. Van Morrison – one of the best of all time. Not even close. He almost took over the M spot completely, but I’m sticking with Madonna.
Newbies who are worth checking out: Mayer Hawthorne – Talented neo-soul singer. Not consistently good, but when he’s on, he’s compelling. A lot more to him than simply The Walk. My Morning Jacket – they’ve been around a while, but aren’t that well known, so I’m plugging them. Terrible name for a band. Mountain Goats – silly name for a good band.
Disrespect: Barry Manilow – easy target, right? Yes, you are right. Most of his stuff makes me gag, and some outright puke. But I do find the campy Copacabana funny to listen to at times. Midnight Oil – I like some of their songs, but preachy to a fault. What ever happened to them? Mumford and Sons – I prefer Sanford and Son. Bob Marley and the Wailers – I just can’t stand hearing those same songs again. Yes, they were great. But overplaying them made me begin to use the word “hate.” Please, for all things decent in the world, make it stop. The Moody Blues – have you heard Knights in White Satin lately? It’s awful. And why are the knights in white satin anyway? I like mine in armor.
N is for Nirvana. Rock was dying. And then out of the Pacific Northwest came an explosion that took over radio and brought rock streaming back to life. The first few notes of Smells Like Teen Spirit are great. But then the biggest, baddest drumming you’ve ever heard kicks in and the song really takes off. Whoa!! Kurt Cobain was a tortured soul who loved a crazy woman who screwed with his mind for her idea of sick fun. But don’t let that ruin it for you. If you remember the time and place when Nirvana blew onto the scene, you remember the feeling of salvation. Nirvana was a band that led the way for a lot of other bands to follow. Grunge brought us back to a stable place where it was ok again to rock out hard. God bless Nirvana.
Honorable mentions: New York Dolls – punky new wave before it was a thing. Some really good songs, like Personality Crisis and Trash. David Johanson and Syl Sylvain were trailblazers. New Pornographers – who is naming these bands? Terrible. But really good music from north of the border, and a terrific live show, too. NRBQ – oh, what a bar band! Back in their heyday, they were so fun and their songs are so good – all about girls, cars and hangin’ out with the boys. I still regularly listen to them. Warning – Terry Adams tours under the name NRBQ, but it is far from the same show. I left early last time. I never leave early. Got it? NWA – this is it for the rap bands. I don’t like the genre, but these guys are about the best of the bunch. The Neville Brothers – wonderfully talented band. Tell it Like it Is is one of my favorite ballads (admittedly, it’s a short list, but still).
Newbies who are worth checking out: Neon Trees – many people know this band because of Animal and Everybody Talks. If you don’t, at least check out those two songs. The National – I’m still wondering if I like this band or not. Some of it sounds like funeral dirges. But some is quite good. What do you think?
Disrespect: New Order - synth band. Hyped. One word – bad. No Doubt – I liked one of their albums. Then they were on Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve and after that, the wheels came off the bus.
O is for Old 97’s. Admittedly, there aren’t a lot of bands that begin with O. The Old 97’s clearly don’t stand with the Beatles or others in this alphabet game. But they are a really fun alt-country rock band. I’ve seen them or their frontman, Rhett Miller, so many times that they send me a birthday card and know the names of my kids. They are always fun, their songs are singable with good hooks, and I was really stuck on them for a few years there. And while I like Oasis, I couldn’t bring myself to honor them because of how egotistical they are. So there you have it.
Honorable mentions: Oasis – Catchy songs, arena-sized fan base, good lyrics. Almost insufferable, however. I still like them. Kind of. The Offspring – I’ve missed them live, but they rock hard. The Outlaws –there was a time when I listened to tons of southern rock. The Outlaws were one of my favorites. Hats off, fellows. The O’Jays – some funny lyrics, particularly in retrospect. But they were a hit machine back in the day.
Newbies who are worth checking out: Ought - Newbie indie band with female lead singer who rock out. They need to develop, but keep an eye on them.
Disrespect: Sinead O’Connor – I think she only got played because she shaved her head. I never saw the talent. Oingo Boingo – great name, terrible band, glad they broke up.
Once again, I am right with all my opinions. I appreciate your continued support.
See you later and thanks for reading.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.