Monday, October 22, 2007

My Tops in Rock

I recently heard WFAN's Chris"Mad Dog"Russo and Mike Francesa talking about the best in rock and roll. I took what they consider the top five and began with that to form my own list of 25. Basically, it is considered heresy to start off a list like this without Elvis or The Beatles in the number one positions. I suppose it might be more interesting to list my top ten or so, which I have done at the end. There are so many singers and bands that could have made this list and it is of course very subjective. I'm pretty solid on the top ten, though. The rest is interchangeable. The reason I don't like doing lists with musicians is because I don't want to disparage anyone's work, not that they care what I think. But I have the utmost respect for anyone who can pen a song and then perform it for everyone to critique. That alone makes these folks inspiring! Nonetheless, here is my top 25 in rock accompanied by my favorite song or songs:

1- Elvis Presley. The "King" truly had it all. Great songs, charisma, awesome live. Unfortunately, he also died too early, which in many ways and quite sadly immortalizes a rock star. "Suspicious Minds" is one of my favorite songs ever!

2- The Beatles. Led the "British invasion" into America. As much as they accomplished - which is a lot - imagine (Lennon solo, but still no pun intended) if they were able to stay intact for even another ten years! A shame that they couldn't get along. Here's a little known fact about them: they've sold over one billion units! That's tapes, compact discs, records, eight tracks, etc. Incredible! "Here Comes The Sun," "I Saw Her Standing There," "Twist and Shout," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Ballad of John and Yoko," are among my favorites.

3- The Rolling Stones. They could be considered overrated and underrated, if that makes any sense. Their longevity and money making ability is unparalleled. Forbes ranked them #4 on their most powerful list. "19th Nervous Breakdown," "Ruby Tuesday," "Get off my Cloud, " "I'm Waiting."

4- The Who. The band from Shepherd's Bush round out the "trinity of rock gods." The Who's display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes them as prime contenders for the title of "World's Greatest Rock Band,"only The Beatles and The Rolling Stones receive a similar accolade at the Rock Hall. Influenced Led Zeppelin, U2, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Pearl Jam, Sheryl Crow, and Oasis just to name a few. "Substitute," "Amazing Journey," "My Generation," "The Kids Are Alright," "Who Are You," "Baba O'Riley," just some of my favorites. If this list were who I think are the best, the top ten spots would be occupied by The Who, but I am trying to remain impartial here. Live At Leeds is an absolute must for any fan of rock, and is considered to be perhaps the best live rock album ever.

5- Bob Dylan. I'm not in love with his voice all the time, but his song writing ability is the kicker for Dylan. Usually only twosomes like Lennon-McCartney can match the great quality of Dylan, who is of course one man. "Hurricane" stands as my favorite.

6- Beach Boys. They aren't loud enough or hard enough for me, however, I get their popularity and their musical contributions. Pet Sounds is regarded as one of the best albums ever made. "Barbara Ann," "Good Vibrations" are to my liking.

7- Jimi Hendrix. Wasn't around very long, but what he accomplished in that time period is amazing. I remember hearing Pete Townshend saying that he, Paul McCartney, and Mick Jagger would go check out Hendrix and would just sit there in awe. "All Along the Watchtower," "Purple Haze," among many very good songs.

8- Led Zeppelin. Their popularity on radio, their influence, and the different styles of music that Led Zep used in their music is truly one of a kind. "Going to California" is my favorite Zeppelin song. Like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who, they have too many for me to list. I must say I was a little let down when I saw Robert Plant and Jimmy Page in concert at the Meadowlands in 1998. They were good, but not as great as I was expecting.

9- Eric Clapton. I admire the fact that Clapton just keeps coming back from adversity. Drug and alcohol abuse, the loss of his friend, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and his four-year-old son, Conor, only proved to inspire "Slowhand." Was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame as a solo artist, a member of The Yardbirds, and Cream. "Forever Man," "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," "Cocaine."

10- Bruce Springsteen. Bruce's longevity is really astounding. The guy just keeps putting out number one albums. I saw him live and think that he is one of the rare singers out there whose performance level goes up a notch in person. There's not many around today that could sell out a stadium, no question Springsteen can, because he does. "Jungleland," "No Retreat, No Surrender," "Born to Run," etc. etc.

11- U2. This band evokes many different emotions for the listener. They've evolved through their history, but the Irish band remains one of the best out there today. "Bullet the Blue Sky," "Desire," "Where the Streets Have No Name."

12- Elton John. Sadly, his personal lifestyle has sort of overshadowed his musical genius. Many people don't take him as seriously as they used to and that's a shame to me because he is definitely one of the best. A personal favorite of mine. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," Rocket Man," "Your Song."

13- Billy Joel. Joel is like the Rolling Stones to me in that he is in some ways overrated and underrated. He's the Russell Crowe of rock music! Get back to me on that, if you get it. He's very popular on radio, where you can hear him on a variety of different types of radio stations. "Angry Young Man," "The Stranger."

14- Pink Floyd. I get their lyrical genius and their contributions, but I find much of their work to be quite depressing and too slow moving for me. I saw a cover band called The Machine that looked like and sounded like Pink Floyd. "Dark Side of the Moon."

15- Grateful Dead. Very underrated, with an incredibly loyal and passionate fan base. The Dead were not just a band, they were a lifestyle. "Friend of the Devil," "Fire on the Mountain," "Ripple," "Box of Rain," "Uncle John's Band."

16- The Doors. Lead singer Jim Morrison was a deranged poetic genius, who became the tragic hero of his own play. One of many rock icons who died at age 27. "Crystal Ship," "People Are Strange," "Break on Through." "L.A. Woman."

17- Nirvana. Cobain was a modern-day Jim Morrison, although more depressing, yet still brilliant. I admire The Doors and Nirvana for their lyrics, which can be complex at times. "Lake of Fire," "The Man Who Sold the World," "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

18- Janis Joplin. I prefer Starship's Grace Slick because she was much easier on the eye and had a much more powerful voice, still, Joplin's influence is immeasurable. It's a testament to her greatness that many people never even think of the band she started out with, Big Brother and the Holding Company. What Bob Dylan was to Greenwich Village, Joplin was to the Haight. She remains one of the best female rockers ever. "Piece of My Heart."

19- Queen. You want to talk about underrated? Queen is it. "Bicycle Race."

20- The Allman Brothers Band. Their live stuff is truly awesome! "Melissa."

21- Fleetwood Mac. They formed in 1967 and what amazes me most is that they have gone through so much turmoil and turnover to put out hit after hit. "Little Lies," "Don't Stop."

22- Sex Pistols. They aren't my cup of tea, but they do have some stuff that I really like. Never Mind the Bollocks is considered to be one of the best albums ever. "God Save The Queen."

23- The Kinks. The term "British Invasion" has been expanded and contracted, yet The Kinks are definitely a part of it in my book. "You Really Got Me," " Lola," "Come Dancing."

24- Van Halen. David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar has been debated at many bars around this country, with no real winner ever being established. I like the band with either frontman. "Panama," "Runnin' With The Devil."

25- Aerosmith. Perhaps the greatest American band ever. "Walk This Way (with run DMC)," "Crazy," "Dream On."

1- The Who
2- The Rolling Stones
3- The Beatles
4- Led Zeppelin
5- Bruce Springsteen
6- Eric Clapton
7- Jimi Hendrix
8- Elton John
9- U2
10- Aerosmith

This is of course rock, otherwise Jay Z would have gotten in there somehow!

Don't sing off key, or something like that!


Rob Adams said...

Holy...freakin'...cow!! Where to start? I might have to do my own response to this over at "Exit 55." I applaud your in-depth analysis of these great musical acts. You can probably guess my first rebuttal - I'll take The Fab Four over The King at the top spot.

I wanted to find another band to argue the Aerosmith "greatest American band" tag, but so far, I've come up empty. And obviously, "rock" is such a wide-open label. Where do I fit Chuck Berry, for instance, who influenced literally everybody - especially The Beatles? Or Johnny Cash, or Ray Charles, or Little Richard, and on and on? To just tag them as "country" or "R&B" probably isn't fair.

It just gets tougher from there. Simon & Garfunkel? Guns 'n' Roses? The Clash? The Police? The Eagles? I'm not even saying some of these will be in my top-25, but they're all part of the conversation.

The Heart of Rock and Roll is still beating!

Sean G. Kilkelly said...


You're right there are so many acts that could be included such as C.S.N.Y., Chicago, perhaps Dave Von Ronk, Eddie Cochran, and Bobby Darin. I decided to use Mike and The Dog's listing because that made it easier for me. It's very subjective and like you said what is purely rock and roll and who would you say fits as something else. That's always up for debate.

I look at my own list and could make some more changes. But at least I've got two comments from it.