Making Beautiful Music
The Kansas City Chiefs are the Super Bowl champions this morning, the U.S. Senate will hear closing arguments in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, also this morning, and later this afternoon Iowans will caucus to decide who gets to keep their campaign going forward in the 2020 presidential elections, so I decided it was the perfect day to write a follow-up column on music.
To say I was surprised at the response to my first one, a little over a month ago, would be an understatement. Not only did it get more hits than anything else I've written, but it received more feedback than anything I've written. Since then several of you have asked me to write another one, and because I love, you my fans, (?), and because I spent much of the weekend listening to old songs, here you go.
As many of you know, I have always been moved by music. It fills me with wonder how people can write a song. There are only so many notes and yet there have been hundreds of thousands of songs written since man first started making music about 9,000 years ago. The world's earliest melody is believed to be "Hurrian Hymn No. 6". I'm not sure what happened to the first five, but moving on. The oldest musical composition to have survived in its entirety is "Seikilos Epitaph" from the first century AD. Look it up.
I believe my friend Tim was at the first concert. He still has the souvenir toga he bought.
If you've ever tried to make a top ten favorite songs list you know it is impossible and I'm not even going to try. I would have three hundred songs tied for 9th place so instead I made two lists for today. The first is my ten favorite albums and bands, pre 2005. As you will recall my last column was bands/singers who have changed music since 2005 so this was my cut line for this. The second list is, also pre 2005, who has the biggest impact on rock and roll. The founders of the rock era, if you will, make up this list.
Every album not on this list would be on my honorable mention list. There has rarely been an album that has been released that I couldn't find at least one song on it I liked. I'm sure if I thought long enough I could come up with several but my head hurts already. In no particular order, here we go.
Neil Diamond - Hot August Night: Yes, I'm a Neilist so deal with it. I learned to play the guitar to this album and l wore out the grooves doing so. I, of course, have already forgotten how to play but the album remains one of my all time favorites.
The Who - Who's Next: If you held a gun to my head and made me pick, this album, and group, would likely be my absolute favorites. One of the few albums with no bad songs and I never get tired of hearing any of them. Probably the best live band ever.
Frank Sinatra - Greatest Hits: It would be impossible to pick just one album of his because there are about 150 great songs he has recorded. I picked this one because I am a fan of his earlier stuff. Go back and listen to it and you'll agree.
Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells a Story: Another album I wore out the grooves back in the day. I can still remember sitting in my room playing it over and over until my mother completely lost her mind and made me turn it off. Good times.
Styx - Styx II: A local Chicago area band, that I didn't really discover until college and I was a disc jockey at the college radio station. I love their sound, which is unmistakable and unique, and this album was a favorite for me.
Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: Double the album and double the songs. An absolute classic and while he's had many great ones, this is still his best in my mind.
The Outlaws - Green Grass and High Tides: A classic country rock album filled with awesome songs and another I can't get enough of. How many misspent nights listening to this one?
Prince - Purple Rain: The movie was preposterous, still I loved it, but the album is incredible. His ability to vocalize his passion is chilling and it still gives me goose bumps to hear the title song.
Green Day - Dookie: Possibly one of the most underrated bands of their era. Many people just label them as another punk band but actually listen to their lyrics and you will hear the depth of their joy and pain.
Metallica - Black Album: Within the first three cords you can tell it is a Metallica song. Their unique sound, and haunting lyrics, makes them, and this album, one of my go to selections. If your head is not snapping up and down by the end of Enter the Sandman then you are likely dead inside.
So there are my ten favorite bands/singers and my favorite album of theirs. If you have not heard any of them, get youtube up and running and listen to them. If you haven't heard them in a while, go and do the same. Make your own list and send it to me.
Now for the meat of this column, the most influential bands/singers in the rock era. In reverse order.
(7) Madonna - While she has slowed down in the past fifteen years, she is still a force in the music industry, as many of today's big stars idolized her while they were growing up. For a twenty year window from 1984 - 2005, she was the most dominant artist in music. She changed her look and sound multiple times and remained on top each time she did so. One of the all time superstars.
(6) Lynyrd Skynyrd - I can hear you saying, "what!?!?" Aside from writing one of the greatest concert songs of all time, Free Bird, this band introduced the world to a whole new genre of music the critics labeled, country rock. I know there were others playing similar music before them but these guys made it popular. They not only changed rock and roll, they changed country too with their success.
(5) Chicago - Unquestionably the most underrated band of all times. It took them until 2019 to make the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, long after, other, leser, bands did so. By showing you could combine traditional rock band sounds with horns and strings, they changed the way music sounded for all times and launched a whole new era of music in the late 1960's. Go listen to how rock sounded before Chicago and then how it sounded after.
(4) Motown/Berry Gordy - The founder of Hitsville USA, Motown as it became called, was a revolution in rock & roll. By giving African American singers a platform from which they could write and sing the music they loved, he launched a whole new sound in the 1960's that still is a foundation for today's music. The Temptations, The Supremes, The Four Tops, and Marvin Gaye are just a few of the hundreds of bands that have walked through these doors and into music history.
(3) MTV - What Motown did for the 1960's, MTV did for the 1980's, they completely changed how we listen to music today. With the invention of music videos, you could now not only hear the music but see it played out too. I remember sitting in awe watching this channel when it debuted the Buggles, Video Killed the Radio Star for hours waiting for the next song to come on. Song number two on MTV, Pat Benatar, You Better Run.
(2) Elvis Presley - No Elvis, no rock & roll, it's that simple. He may still be, 43 years after he died, the most popular singer of all time. His unique blend of country, pop, and R&B, with a little bit of gospel thrown in for good measure, became known as rock & roll and changed the musical landscape forever. https://youtu.be/2Ox1Tore9nw Listen to this song to get the flavor of his ability to blend all these sounds into one song.
(1) The Beatles - Was there ever any doubt about who was going to be number one? I mean, where to even start? 56 years ago, this coming Sunday, February 9th, Ed Sullivan introduced them to a screaming audience and they hit the first cord of I Wanna Hold Your Hand and the entire world changed at that instant. As a nearly ten year old, standing in the living room and watching them, I knew right then, that the world would never be the same. They changed the way music sounded. They changed the way we looked. They changed the way thought about things. They literally changed the way the world turned, and we've never looked back.
So there you have my two lists. Agree, disagree, discuss among yourselves. Thanks for letting me share this with you and tell a friend about this column. Please feel free to share it on social media if you know how. You know who I'm talking to.