Welcome back to BillyRocksPhilly, your rock ‘n roll joke. I’ve been messing around, seeing a lot of music, traveling, working my little tail off, watching football, working out, etc. But one thing that I haven’t done is finish the Rock ‘N Roll Alphabet. I’m so close, too, with only X, Y and Z to complete the series. But these are hard ones – there’s a reason why you get 8 points in Scrabble for using the X and 10 points for using the Z, and it’s because there just aren’t that many words that start with X and Z. Well, it’s the same with bands. That being said, there are some great ones out there, and I would be negligent not to mention them.
As always, a solo performer is listed by the first letter of their last name. So James Brown can be found in the B listing. But Jethro Tull is found in J because they aren’t a solo act. Got it? Of course you do – you wouldn’t be reading BRP if you weren’t smart as hell. And with that brownnosing out of the way, here we go.
X is for XTC. As I just said, there aren’t many bands that begin with X, but XTC would be listed highly regardless of what they called themselves. They are a remarkable band. Here’s the story: Andy Partridge quits playing the lead of Keith in the television show The Partridge Family and goes on to form XTC. They create solid new wave studio albums like Drums and Wires, Black Sea, Mummer and White Music and singles before they find their groove and put out a trio of albums that are among the best of the best: English Settlement, Skylarking and Oranges and Lemons. Those three albums alone are worthy of rock ‘n roll homage, but let’s not forget great songs from other albums, like Statue of Liberty, Making Plans for Nigel, Life Begins at the Hop, Generals and Majors, and on and on. One big awful thing: Partridge has stage fright, probably caused by having to hang out so much with Danny Bonaduce, and they do not tour. So I’ve never seen them live, and am stuck with watching re-runs of The Partridge Family to get my fix. Nonetheless, check out those three albums – sophisticated, great complex tunes, catchy, and simply among the best that rock has to offer. They also have an alternative psychedelic band called the Dukes of Stratosphere that are also worth a listen. And tell me if you can find the song Take This Town for downloading because I love it and only have it on album.
Honorable Mentions: X – Out of the LA punk scene along with Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, X was America’s answer to the Pistols, Clash and Jam. Terrific punk songs and even some country influences, but not that great live. Exene Cervanka has one of rock’s most memorable voices – some hate it, btw – and Billy Zoom was an amazing guitarist.
Newbies Worth Checking Out: I got nothin’ for ya.
Y is for Neil Young. Neil is the real deal. How he ended up with CSN is beyond me, but he wrote some excellent heartache songs, some rockers that ripped, and everything in between. He has turned out to be an inspiration for tons of young musicians on the rise. And Neil did all this with a thin, reedy voice that couldn’t carry a room. I saw him a few times, but the best was a show at the old Capital Centre in DC. While the band was getting set up, a guy with a hat comes out with a broom and appears to be sweeping. He puts the broom down, picks up a guitar, and steps up to the mic. “Hello, I’m Neil Young,” and it was! Neil then ripped into a fantastic set. Neil remains an iconoclast and is still putting out music. Some of it is even pretty good.
Honorable Mentions: Yardbirds – some great tunes from these oldsters. I think they had a famous guitarist or three? Young Fresh Fellows – I saw these guys about 4 times. Their live show was always a blast, and the drummer had a cymbal that swung way out over the stage and the other guys had to dodge it. Rock ‘n Roll Pest Control and When The Girls Get Here are garage classics. Young the Giant – a pretty good act that deserves better acclaim. Yonder Mountain String Band – modern bluegrass for your ass. Yo La Tango – These guys are hugely deserving. I don’t like all of what they put out, and they are prolific, but man, when they are on, they roll. Damn fine band.
Newbies Worth Checking Out: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – not exactly new, but my boy Jonathan likes them. And I needed something to put here.
Disrespect: Yes – No. Picture this: Rick Wakeman in a cape playing ripped off Brahms tunes in the round surrounded by mountains of keyboards. The only good thing about Yes is that they inspired punk rockers to seize back rock ‘n roll from whatever the hell you call what Yes did. Yanni – How did this guy ever become known to me? His music sucks, he is a purveyor of New Age pap, and he’s ugly.
Z is for ZZ Top. Let’s just say that there aren’t many acts that start with the letter Z. But ZZ Top is a good act, has been around for a long time, and as I found out recently in Baltimore, they can still sell out a pretty large venue. You know the songs, particularly La Grange. And no, don’t call these guys rabbi, they are just dudes with really long beards from Texas.
Honorable Mentions: Warren Zevon – I always liked the late WZ. He hung out with a lot of 70s California popsters, but had an edge about him that was distinguishing. I think it was called “alcoholism.” Zombies – They had some great tunes back in the day.
Newbies Worth Checking Out: Again, I’m coming up dry on this one.
Disrespect: Nothing. Can you believe it?
And now, a special bonus: bands that start with numbers! I’m not going the “Arabic Numerals are for ________” this time. Instead, just “respect,” “newbies” and “disrespect.” Here we go:
Respect: 311 – I like these guys. They rock hard, have a distinctive sound, and I find myself listening to them every few months. 3 Doors Down – I like two things about this band: they are from the South and the song Kryptonite. 20/20 – I saw them live many moons ago. Love the song Nuclear Boy. In fact, the whole “Look Out!” album is good. 999 – Good early British punk by a band that’s pretty much forgotten in the US. 4 Out of 5 Doctors – One hit wonders with the song Waiting for the Change, but it’s a great one hit. 5th Dimension – Wedding Bell Blues is one of the all-time great “Bill” songs, and if you’re reading BillyRocksPhilly, you know that fact is important to me.
Newbies: The 1975 – Good background music while you’re doing something else.
Disrespect: 5 Seconds of Summer – About 4 seconds longer than I wish this band were played on radio. 10,000 Maniacs – great band name, but I never liked Natalie Merchant. Almost broke my arm moving too fast trying to change radio stations whenever they came on. 10cc – Remember these talentless slackers from your high school days? Bummer that I reminded you, right? 24-7 Spyz – I don’t care much for Living Colour, and these guys were the poor man’s Living Colour. Uh oh.
And that’s it! I’m done, but I’m sure I messed up somewhere. So let me know, give me hell, praise me, but just don’t ignore me. Tell your friends about the amazing A, B, C’s on BRP! I’ll be back with something else soon enough. 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.