My musical taste has largely been shaped by my Mum and Dad and so a lot of the music I listen to is from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. It’s not that I don’t listen to chart music, I just don’t find a lot of it very interesting to listen to. There’s not a lot of substance to it. If you like modern chart music and artists, cool, good for you, more power to you, who am I to tell you what you can and cannot like? Hell, the music I listen to was the popular music when it was released. So, without further ado and in no particular order, these are my favourite bands.
Ritchie Blackmore’s post Deep Purple classical/rock project started off well, got even better then slowly went downhill to complete rubbish. The first four albums are well worth checking out though. Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Rising, Long Live Rock n’ Roll and Down to Earth are great albums with fantastic musicians playing brilliantly. Some of the foundation of power and thrash metal is there as well. With the right people, a great band and a fantastic live act as well.
Another stellar live act who transitioned from darlings of the Mod craze of the early 60’s to pioneers of the stadium rock extravaganza era with three of the best musicians you could find in John Entwhistle, Roger Daltrey and the incomparable Keith Moon and one of the finest writers there has ever been in pop music, Pete Townsend. A great guitar player in that he made it simpler to write songs that hooked you in and spoke for generations (his and mine). The very beginnings of punk and grunge can be found in The Who’s music, as well as their penchant for completely destroying all their equipment.
This is what happens when you take blues, R&B, and early 60’s British Invasion pop, smash it up in a bowl, add a blend of Scottish and Australian ‘no BS’ attitude and you have AC/DC. Never following a trend, never pandering to critics, just cranking out their music, their way, at their volume (which is loud). They are another example of ‘it doesn’t have to be complicated to be good’. No complicated riffs or chord changes just the bits you need. They are the kings of hard hitting power chord riffs, E, A, D, G and occasionally a B chord and that’s it. On top of that, they rose from tragedy to keep the band going without losing their sound or integrity and rose to even greater success, cementing themselves as one of the pillars of classic rock.
Sultans of Swing. That’s all the argument I need to include Dire Straits on this list. Forget Hotel California and Free Bird, this is the best guitar solo ever played. I first saw Mark Knopfler play this song live when I was about twelve. I had no idea of his career with Dire Straits, being honest I had only ever listened to one song of his. And then, he kicked off into the end solo of Sultans and my jaw hit the floor. Mark Knopfler is simply one of the best and most tasteful guitarists ever, his touch and approach to soloing is perfect and though he may have stepped away from the hype of Dire Straits’ heyday, with the massive tours and eight people on stage, his talent for songwriting and choosing the perfect phrase or lick is undimmed.
Guns N’ Roses
The last true bad boys of rock n’ roll. The so called ‘most dangerous band in the world’. Like Aerosmith with their blues drenched hard rock sound, they smashed through the pretty boy world of Poison, Motley Crue, Winger, Ratt and Whitesnake, and threw a hundredweight of dirt and grime on their party world of drink and drug fuelled backstage sex parties. The songs may have had some similar themes to them, but GNR wrote their songs while they were dirt poor, surviving on what they could get their hands on, and handouts from whichever girls they were sleeping with at the time. A song like Sweet Child O’ Mine has so much more heart and meaning to it that Unskinny Bop. Again, it’s the combination of those five guys that made it stick. Appetite for Destruction is the story of what they were doing to destroy themselves, probably because they were bored and didn’t know what else to do. But the chemistry was undeniable, with a monster lead player steeped in the blues and classic rock, a rock solid rhythm section and one of the most magnetic frontmen ever seen. They are, for me, the last great rock band.
The Rolling Stones
Nowhere on this list will you find The Beatles. Nowhere in my iTunes library will you find a Beatles song. Because the truth is I don’t like the Beatles. For me, The Rolling Stones are the ultimate British rock n’ roll band. They wrote some of the most memorable songs of the ’60’s and then carried on writing great songs for 10 years after that. I’m not going to pretend they are still writing great music, but what rock band does in their 60s and 70s. Rock n’ Roll is about youthful rebellion and anger. That needs energy and by the time you’re the age The Stones are, that’s largely used up. But they are a great live band. Still a great live band. And they don’t look ridiculous doing it. You can see the young anti-establishment rebels within the grown up men. And they have Keith Richards and that immediately makes your band cooler and better, no questions asked.
Duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-dun-ah, duh-duh-duh, duh-uh. (That’s the verbalisation of Smoke on the Water if you’re confused). For the longest time, Deep Purple was that band with the one guitar riff to me. I didn’t listen to them and I didn’t really mind. Then I decided to look deeper into their discography and oh my god! This band are incredible! I mean, Highway Star, Speed King, Black Night, Pictures of Home, Lazy, Smoke on the Water, Burn, Lay Down Stay Down, Mistreated. That’s a pretty kickass set of songs right there. Pretty much all of their output from the ’70’s is well worth checking out. In Rock is a great album, Machine Head is a great album, Burn may be my favourite Purple album, Stormbringer is far more chilled out and funky, but is still a great album, when you’re in the mood for it. Another band who built its reputation on their live abilities, supremely talented musicians who, though they may have fought and argued and driven each other crazy, but they made great music that will last long after they’ve gone.
I don’t listen to many ‘prog-rock’ bands, but Pink Floyd goes beyond progressive for me. They speak of failure to communicate with your fellow man, feelings of isolation and desperation, of greed, of absence. This was a band who decided to write songs about something other than love affairs and matters of the heart. They decided to write about the world that had cost them their friend and the founder of the band they kicked him out of. And they perfected the idea of the concept album, not with Dark Side of the Moon, which still stands as one of the pillars of rock music, but with it’s follow-up, Wish You Were Here. The Wall is one of the finest rock-operas ever written and some of their legacy can be seen in the tours that travel around the world for some of today’s biggest stars. Pink Floyd started that trend, with lasers and puppets and giant screens and projections. No one had ever decided they were going to build a wall right across the stage separating the band and the audience. Their legacy is to be the underground band that made it and made it big.
Anything involving Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton is rightly celebrated as one of the finest guitar players to have lived. This is the man who was proclaimed God in spray paint on the wall of a Tube station in 1965. From John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, The Yardbirds and Cream to Derek and the Dominoes and his solo career, he has added a fabulous touch to all the projects he has worked on. His nickname may be Slowhand, but don’t let that fool you. He is the only man to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three separate times, and if you ask most guitarists, Clapton is usually one of their greatest inspirations.