I’m baaaaaaaaaaaack. It’s time for us to continue with our ABCs. I stopped last time at I. Onward to J, K and L. That will get us about halfway through the alphabet. And nary a comment yet! You are either a very agreeable readership, don’t give a crap, or can’t find it in yourself to send me a comment ripping my sorry behind. I’m hoping for the first, thinking the truth is the second, and dismissing the third out of hand – you clearly don’t work for me if that is the case. Anyway, let’s move on.
I forgot a couple of acts in some of my earlier posts. Please forgive me. Here are two that I realize should have gotten their props: Donald Fagen and Billy Idol. They are both great, and while both have been / will be recognized for the bands in which they perform(ed), they are also kick ass in their solo careers. So my apologies to them for leaving them off my R-E-S-P-E-C-T list. They are worthy.
Let’s get back to it starting with the letter J. Again, 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.” Good? Let’s roll.
J is for The Jam. What, you say, not Janet Jackson? Nope, afraid not. I’m going with Paul Weller and company. Perhaps the most British of all of the punk bands hailing from the class of ’76, the Jam is one of my favorite bands. Weller wrote passionate lyrics about strife, urban decay, class struggles, and the decline of the West, but kept the subjects tender and human. A true rock talent, he also wrote songs that rocked. I particularly like the Eton Rifles, Down in the Tube Station, In the City, David Watts and Town Called Malice. And that’s just the beginning. Unfortunately, I never saw them live and Weller has said he will never do a Jam reunion tour. That’s too bad, but the recorded legacy of this great act lives on.
Honorable Mentions: The Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson– a really tough second place as MJ was, for all his huge faults, one of the best pop artists of all time. Is there a better album than Off The Wall? Or Thriller? And the J5! I Want You Back remains a wonderful, danceable song after all these years. Legends, and I hardly ever use that term. The Jags – I’ve Got Your Number is one of new waves very best songs, but this band went deeper than that. A solid power pop act whose music stands the test of time. Joan Jett – What woman sang Bad Reputation in the 80s? She should be required listening for all women who aspire to rock stardom. Groundbreaking. Jesus and Mary Chain – I always liked these guys. Rocking songs with hooks galore. Jethro Tull – I was a big JT fan back in the day, saw them many times live, and still put on Thick as a Brick and Aqualung from time to time. Joe Jackson – while we went our separate ways many years ago, his first two albums were great and still sound terrific. Rick James – Give it to Me Baby is a fantastic party song. And cocaine is a powerful drug. Janis Joplin – Piece of My Heart makes her worthy. I hate Me and Bobby McGee and almost dissed her for that song. But Piece of My Heart won me back. The Jayhawks – fabulous alt-country band. OK as a live act. Elton John – rightly criticized for Candle In the Wind 2, he has a formidable catalog, and wrote a couple of songs, like Saturday Night’s Alright for Fightin’ and Bennie and the Jets, that are worthy of acclaim.
Newbies who are worth checking out: Japandroids – Love the name and love the song Evil Sway. Sometimes they sound a bit repetitive, but let’s give them a chance to develop as a band. Joy Formidable – They’ve been around for a bit. The first album is great, the second not so great. Good live band. Joywave – danceable band with a solid live show.
Disrespect: Janet Jackson – the Super Bowl thing was ridiculous. The bigger question: what was she doing there in the first place? Joy Division – I loved new wave, but always found these synth goths insufferable. Some things never change. Jane’s Addiction – I should like this band more than I do, but I thought their music always sounded forced and made solely for commercial success. Billy Joel – I detest Billy Joel. I once heard him described as a rock ‘n roll singer. Nothing could be further from the truth. He’s a commercial douche bag whose talent is way overrated. Judas Priest – I like good metal. I don’t like Judas Priest. Journey – I stopped believing in the 1980s. I never liked this band, and Don’t Stop Believin’ is a vapid song that is undanceable, so why is it played as a dance song over and over again?
K is for The Kinks. If you like rock ‘n roll, you have to like the Kinks. Blues based, originators of a great guitar sound that has been imitated over and over, catchy songs with witty lyrics – they are the apotheosis of great rock. Plus they have a feuding brother combo that pre-dates the Gallagher boys from Oasis. Everyone knows the Kinks, and everyone should. They are in the upper reaches of all things great in rock ‘n roll.
Honorable mentions: Kasabian – British band without much of a US following, they have terrific power and snappy songs. They are also good live, and are not the least bit afraid of bass. KC and the Sunshine Band – put on their greatest hits and try to remain seated. It’s impossible. The Killers – perhaps the best Mormon band from Las Vegas ever. Seriously, some kick ass songs, but the lyrics could be improved. Kings of Leon – You want rockin? These guys deliver. I don’t love them as they aren’t consistently great, but they get played on the iPod when it’s time to kick it up. Kiss – this band grew on me over the years. Blatantly and unapologetically commercial, they still put out some seriously good power pop. Kid Creole and the Coconuts – a very fun party band. Maximum silliness. BB King – I love his version of the blues. He is missed. The Kingsmen – Louie Louie. Enough. Kool and the Gang – Did someone say party? These guys brought it.
Newbies who are worth checking out: Kaiser Chiefs – not exactly new, but you ought to give them a listen nonetheless. King Tuff – watch these guys. Seriously good debut album.
Disrespect: Katrina and the Waves - Walkin’ On Sunshine is a great song. Kimberly Rew played with Robin Hitchcock in the Soft Boys. But in the end, they are one hit wonders who could have been so much more. Kid Rock – has become a parody of himself. I do like a song or two of his, however. Killing Joke – big back in the new wave day. I always thought they were boring. You never hear them played anymore. I was right. Ben “E” King – I checked, and the E really does stand for Eeewww. Kraftwerk – the worst thing out of Germany post WWII.
L is for Led Zeppelin. Stupid lyrics about stairways to heaven and the hobbit. I know. But they created heavy metal, and their music is still rocking and standing the test of time. Page. Plant. Just those two guys are enough, but Bonham and Jones made up a great quartet. Not as good a live act as they should have been what with bombastic drum and keyboard solos, and silly things like Jimmy Page playing the guitar with a violin bow. But when they kicked it in, you stood up. You put your hands in the air. You sang along. You danced. And you loved it enough to play it on the way home.
Honorable mentions: Lady GaGa – Yup, hugely commercial and provocative sometimes just for the attention. But the talent is undeniable, and the songs are good. She kicked ass singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, too. She respected America. And I respect her. The Libertines – this is what all drug addicted drunks should sound like. Little Feat – a much loved and much missed band. The definition of southern summer fun music. Los Lonely Boys – three brothers from Texas with an unmistakable sound. Really good live act, too. Lynyrd Skynyrd – What a name! What great music! The one band that it’s not a joke to yell “Free Bird” at and like it if they play it. I love the south and I love Skynyrd. Little Richard – a screaming nutbag with a piano. Perfect. Los Lobos – great LA band with heavy Mexican influences. That’s a really good combination. Nick Lowe – hugely influential artist who wrote some fantastic songs, including my favorite Elvis Costello song (Peace Love and Understanding). Good live act, and nice to kids, too. The Lovin’ Spoonful – much more than Summer in the City, a band that wrote some seriously memorable songs.
Newbies who are worth checking out: The Lovers Key – Florida neo-soul crooners with a full horn section. Low Cut Connie – one of my new favorite bands with a retro rockin’ sound. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – not really new, but indie rock at its finest.
Disrespect: Living Color – they had one song, Cult of Personality, that I never liked. The Stones toured with them and Van Halen one time, with each switching off as the opener from show to show. I got Living Color. Crap. Kenny Loggins – I liked Loggins and Messina. Saw them live back in the day. But Kenny Loggins became a purveyor of sap. I’m surprised he didn’t write the Riunite jingle. Jennifer Lopez – Jenny from the block is a commercial hack.
Did you like that? Hate that? Tell me what you think, and the next time you come to Philly, I’ll tell you where the city’s best cheesesteak is made.
See you later and thanks for reading.
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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.