Rock 'n Roll ABCs
I’ve been working on this blog post for a while. I’m going to piss off many people with this one. Why? It’s long. Sorry, but it’s worth every bit of your time to read. Also, it’s hugely opinionated. I know, that’s not much of a change, but its topic is guaranteed to lead to disagreements.
I’m going to go through the alphabet, name one or two icon bands per letter, mention some other honorables, and, then rip away and throw out disses to bands that are popular but suck, are over-the-hill, are overrated, or otherwise irritate me. It should be fun for me, hopefully for you, and it’s time for me to shut up and get on with it.
I’m going to start with just A through C, but I’ll come back and get the other 23 letters. 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 with that, hold on to your hat and let’s go.
A is for AC/DC. John Fein, in his book “Your Band Sucks,” calls AC/DC the perfect band. He’s right. Everyone with any sense loves this legendary band. They don’t get adventurous with lyrics, and pretty much stick to sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll themes. And they rock hard with memorable guitar solos perfect for your air guitar fantasies. AC/DC is a great live act, from Angus’s silly schoolboy outfit, to the big Hell’s Bell, the cannons, and the volume. They know exactly what their fans want to hear, and they bring it every time. No going through the motions with these guys. The ancient Egyptians would have built a pyramid for them.
Honorable Mentions: Aerosmith during their drug days. Not so much after they became clean, and Steven Tyler has proven to all you kiddies out there that taking too many drugs will make you insane. But they were kick-ass back in the day. The Allman Brothers Band, another all-time favorite worthy of a pyramid. The greatest of southern rock bands. Ash, a fantastic but not well known band from Ireland. They simply rock. Ryan Adams, the most prolific and (sometimes) best songwriter of alt-country.
Newbies who are worth checking out: Arctic Monkeys – well not so new, but if they continue to put out good music, they have built a great foundation to move up to the honorable mention category someday. All Time Low – I play these guys a lot in the car and everyone who hears it says “who is this? it’s good.” Yeah, no shit, it’s my car, what did you expect? ABBA?
Disrespect: ABBA – Speak of the devil. Their phenomenal European success is a huge reason why we should never try to emulate the Europeans. Many of our ancestors left that continent because they caught a rumor that ABBA was on the horizon, and for that, we should thank them. America – Muskrat Love. Need I say more? OK, a Horse With No Name. Not even Clarence Darrow would have defended these California pretty boys from the ridicule they so richly deserve. Asia. Supergroup? Projectile puke.
B is for the Beatles. Could it be anyone else? I think they wrote about 80% of all the rock/pop songs that could be written. So much ink has been spilled fawning over them that there is nothing left to say. One of the all-time great rock lines is from the song I Saw Her Standing There, my favorite Beatles tune: “Well she was just 17, do you know what I mean?” Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Is it possible to NOT want to dance to “Twist and Shout?” Not for me. And I could go on and on. Even their slow stuff, like the Long and Winding Road, is fantastic. They weren’t perfect, or else they never would have written about an octopus’s garden in the shade, but man oh man, what a legacy. And they aced out a ton of other great “B” bands.
Honorable mentions: The Buzzcocks – still one of my all-time favorite bands. Listen to Singles Going Steady and you’ll realize what a great singles band they were. And GREAT in concert – a show at the 9:30 Club in the mid-80s is still perhaps the best live rock performance I have ever seen. The B-52’s – fun, fun, fun. Everyone knows the words to Love Shack, as they should. Speaking of Fun, Fun, Fun – the Beach Boys – California, surfing, cars and girls – that’s about it and that’s all you need. The Beastie Boys – just for Fight for Your Right. Kick it! The Beautiful South – love these former Housemartins who are very underrated. Big Audio Dynamite – Mick Jones post-Clash had some memorable songs. No. 10 Upping Street is the closest thing you’ll ever hear to the Clash. Big Star – yup, there they are, the legends from Memphis featuring Alex Chilton. Their songs have held up great over time. Black Flag – LA’s best punk outfit other than X. TV Party tonight! Black Sabbath – just for Paranoid and because Ozzie is so freakin’ iconic. One of the originators of black t-shirt music, and just a disgustingly amazing rock persona. Blink 182 – Punk Pop at its finest, Dammit! Blondie – wonderful new wave band that constantly improved and impressed. Plus, Debbie Harry separated their look and sound from the “pure” punks like the Dead Boys and Ramones. And they did the all-time stalker song in One Way or Another. Blue Oyster Cult – I can listen to Don’t Fear the Reaper over and over and over and never get sick of it, but they also have Godzilla. History shows again and again how nature points up the folly of men, indeed. Bon Jovi – stadium rock at a very high level. Livin’ on a Prayer is one of rock’s all-time great anthems. Bottle Rockets – best bar band in the land. David Bowie – Rebel Rebel is the best danceable hard rock song of all time and that’s just the start of this amazing performer’s list of great tunes. James Brown – all-time greatest funk/soul musician bar none – can you take me to the bridge? Too bad for JB that the Beatles start with B. The Blasters – rockabilly par excellence from the Alvin brothers. Chuck Berry –he truly made electric guitar badass. Chuck Brown – Bustin’ Loose is an all-time favorite, he’s from DC, and his son played good football at VT. Black Keys - two guys busting out some big big sounds. Really good rock ‘n roll out of Nashville. The Byrds – put on their greatest hits and remember what an influential and hook-filled band these guys were. Love the jangly guitar sound.
Newbies who are worth checking out: Bully – out of Nashville, but rockin’ hard. Justin Bieber – I’m a Belieber! He should date either Lindsay Lohan or Miley Cyrus and they can both blow up together. Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend is an amazing, rocking, danceable single. Benjamin Booker – great punker out of LA with a memorable gravelly voice. Blonde Summer – a BRP favorite. Beach House – good hanging-out-on-a-summer’s day music. Beach Slang – Philly-based punkers who can bring it.
Disrespect: The Bee Gees – I can’t take it anymore. What do they mean by more than a woman? A hermaphrodite? Lose the falsetto and quit sounding like the Vienna Boys Choir trying to be hip.. Black Eyed Peas – I hate them, please don’t ever make me dance to any of their songs anymore, and whoever picked them to be on the Super Bowl halftime show should be charged with crimes against humanity. The Black Crowes – O-V-E-R-R-A-T-E-D. A reason to support open carry laws. Blues Traveler – put the harmonica down. Now! Bow Wow Wow – one hit wonders whose one hit doesn’t hold up. Buckcherry – Oh, just STFU. Buena Vista Social Club – top of the communist heap, whoop-de-damn-do. Badfinger –yup, I own their greatest hits and actually like 3 of their songs, but they ruined a great band name by being bland beyond those 3 songs.
C is for the Clash. I love the Clash. Their output was remarkable in how much ground they covered, and how they changed / developed as a band. Were they frauds? Maybe Joe Strummer was, but I don’t care. They rocked, they wrote great lyrics and they did it without selling out. A band destined to break up almost from the start, it’s incredible they lasted as long as they did. And yes, I saw them live, and the energy from the band and pace of the show was great. At one time, they truly were the only band that mattered. Put on London Calling, listen all the way through, and tell me they aren’t great. I double-dog dare you.
Honorable mentions: Paul Carrack – he’s groove approved. Johnny Cash – so many good songs and such an amazing outlaw country persona with a heart of gold for the downtrodden. Ray Charles – super career, super talent and looks like Jamie Farr. Cheap Trick – not hall of fame worthy, but they had some great songs. I surrender. Cher – a lifetime achievement award for comedy – Half Breed is a family joke that we always laugh at. And Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves, hahahaha. George Clinton – P-Funk is forever da funk of choice at BRP. Go see him before he quits touring. He’s a national treasure. Collective Soul – I love ‘em, Helen hates ‘em – she is, in a word, wrong. The Commodores – now this is what good dance music sounds like. Elvis Costello – through about the Trust album, he was among my favorites. Few people put out as many good songs as he did on his first three albums. Cracker – good tunes, not great tunes, but good tunes. And good tunes are GOOD. The Cramps – the best ghoulish band out there – love the Goo Goo Muck. Sheryl Crow – wow, how many good hit songs has she had? A LOT! Commercial? Yup, and BRP loves her music. The Cure – weird hair for sure, but a great band. The Cars – not much of a live show – they are the definition of standing around – but some really classic songs that, upon release, sounded like nothing else. The Chills – Heavenly Pop Hit is one of the best songs ever made. I never get sick of it. Commander Cody – if you don’t like Hot Rod Lincoln, you should go confess to the priest. That’s worse than original sin. Credence Clearwater Revival – Countrified classic rock, still great to listen to, still has a great guitar sound.
Newbies who are worth checking out: Gary Clark, Jr. – he flat out rips. Chumped – Go on tour, goddammit! Car Seat Headrest – One prolific guy about 17 years old pumping out catchy and interesting garage rock. The Canyon Rays – all-time greatest band out of LA, bar none. Catfish and the Bottlemen – if you like power pop, you’ll like these guys. Cloud Nothings – get out the earplugs and turn it up. Lots of hard driving guitar wall of noise from these guys.
Disrespect: C+C Music Factory – be happy this blog doesn’t come with a scratch ‘n sniff card or you would be smelling springtime at the farm about right now. Mariah Carey – I hate her more than her fifty ex-husbands. Combined. The Captain and Tenille – there is some truth to the rumor that the Lincoln Tunnel is smaller in diameter than Toni Tenille’s mouth. Carly Simon – she had nipples and that ends her positive attributes. David Cassidy – I cherished putting his name on this list. Tracy Chapman – who really thinks she is any good? Anyone? Eric Clapton – I hated I Shot the Sheriff, never want to hear Layla again. He is so washed up it isn’t even funny. Elvis Costello after the Trust album. Proof that Cole Porter was reincarnated. Oh, and EC, dump the stupid freakin’ hat, you look like an idiot. Counting Crows – every song is the same song and it wasn’t very good the first time. Cowboy Junkies – The answer to the Jeopardy question of how you define “suck” in two words. Crosby Stills & Nash – Neil Young was smart enough to stay away from this smarmy crapola and continue to be worthy of respect.
OK, are you pissed off yet? Or fully in agreement? Who did I miss? C’mon, join the fun and let me know. Tell your friends so that they can rip me, too. The lifeguards are telling me that there is a rip tide coming to BRP, and I want to see if they’re right.
Rock on until next time, 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.