I am Sid Life Crisis, I’m the singer in Punks Not Dad, I am pushing fifty and, Like most people my age, I like a nice sit down and a cuppa, the antiques roadshow and Rock N Roll.
Music is great. I believe in its power. Sadly, it seems to have temporarily lost the ability to land disorganised blows upon the noses of the likes of Cowell and Cameron. With tossers like them in charge, the notion of ”ËChanging the world’ through music has never been more necessary than it is now.
One of the reasons interesting music doesn’t cause a stir in the mainstream anymore has got to be the sheer number of bands! I don’t want to devote my entire life to listening to other people’s music in order to ever hear anything good, but increasingly that’s what you have to do. I can’t be the only one who feels lost in the jungle. I used to record the top 40 and hear good stuff as well as the shxte. This week however the entire top ten apart from Lana Del Ray was all that unlistenable vocoder pop. I listen to 6 music and the new bands on there are mostly dull too. However I know there are good bands all over the place because I see them at gigs and festivals.
“What if there were only 30 bands from the whole of rock n roll history allowed?”Â I mused on twitter. “If we had a kind of rock n roll year zero, which great bands from history would you keep to restart the whole thing again?”Â to inspire a reconnection between the spirit of rock and the mainstream.
10 seconds later Louder Than War appointed me to decide who they would be. (Actually 31 bands will be allowed, I’m not stopping playing with the PND at the very moment I can guarantee a full house, plus think of the supports we’ll get to play!)
The bands chosen will be operating at their peak, they will not be revival tour imitations of themselves, they will have their best known line-up playing at the age they were then. They’ll be artists that seemed to believe that what they were doing might change something, throw a mirror on something real or just be more exciting than the previous most exciting thing.
It is not a chart for lovers of lost obscurity. I will expect most readers to have heard of most bands on the list. I have kept my choices, except number 30, to those who tried to achieve mainstream success in Britain and The US rather than those who created markets in other countries and continents or those who remained underground or in their genres by choice.
I know the lack of modern bands will raise comment, it honestly isn’t that I don’t like them, I love the Black Keys and Vampire Weekend. I tried very hard to include a grime artist and Dizzee would make my individual list.
Locally to me in South Wales there are some brilliant young bands (check out Islet, Fjords, Inconsiderate Parking and Town). The reason only 2 artists from this century got in was really that 1) we are still waiting for the dust to settle 2) I’ve really gone for bands who have wanted the mainstream rather than alt success and in most cases achieved it. 3) I love music from the period 76-82 cos it seemed to be a period where the bands themselves made the running. At the end of the day, like all these things it’s my list, it reflects what I like and I could be bothered to make it. So there!
Please spit fury or laugh knowingly at my obvious and frankly poor choices. No Stones and no Roses? Its not that I don’t quite like them, they are on my i-pod but I chose the bands for the impact they had on me when I first heard them. I also put a couple in cos they are a bit underrated or for social reasons and generational impact.
Also its bands only, no Bowie, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Kate Bush or Olly Murs are allowed. I’ll do another crap list for them if you want!
So in roughly chronological order here we go. The only Thirty bands in history I’d allow to exist are…
”Â¢ Lonnie Donegan skiffle group . Without the king of skiffle there may have been no British guitar music at all. Lonnie inspired a generation of austerity hit teenagers to buy guitars and those teenagers went onto become The Beatles, Led Zepplin, Van Morrison and the Kinks. Also, the speed and edge of songs like Cumberland Gap was to have echoes in merseybeat, glam, punk and brit pop.
”Â¢ Gene Vincent and the Bluecaps. Cool and malevolent, Gene’s voice was as sweet and blue as the smoke from Virginia tobacco and he said ”Ëdon’t try push me around because I’m mean and bad’. He sang songs about fighting, racing the devil and grabbing girls which the Bluecaps sparse tight sound complimented. Later touring Britain he helped to define our idea of what an rock n roll anti-establishment figure should be.
”Â¢ The Isley Brothers- From Twist and Shout through Behind the Painted Smile and Summer Breeze to Fight the Power, the Isley Brothers hit just about every trend in gospel, r and b and soul over their massively long career whilst continuing to sound like themselves.
”Â¢ The Beatles. Do I have to justify this decision? No! lets move on.
”Â¢ The Shangri Las. I got nothing against girl pop groups but so many of them are poorly conceived and unconvincing. But adolescent street tragedies such as ”ËWalking in the Sand’ and ”ËLeader of the Pack’ show the modern stage school moppets pretending to be tough the way.
”Â¢ The Kinks. The Kinks invented a proto-heavy metal sound on their early singles but then found it wasn’t a subtle enough tool to contain Ray Davies’ wit and songcraft and went off to do Something Else. The result was a classic run of witty, tongue in cheek hit singles that told a story of change in 60s London.
”Â¢ The Jimi Hendrix experience- Jimi and his band were massive show offs who wore ridiculous clothes while providing the link between the blues and metal. Don’t let the boring guitar freaks claim Jimi Hendrix, he was a popstar in a costume and a one off and he was all the better for it.
”Â¢ Toots and the Maytals- As well as being uplifting and tough, the band who invented the word Reggae, had a soulful almost spiritual sound on songs like Bam Bam, Pressure drop, Sweet and Dandy, Monkey Man and 5446 whch, of course, was Toots Hibbert’s number when he was wrongly incarcerated. Try to keep dancing to Toots on a sweltering day in Glastonbury aged 46 and full of strawberry cider. I have and it nearly killed me.
”Â¢ (Iggy and) The Stooges– agreed? It better be- Overblown stadium rockers should be forced to abandon props and sets and instead choose one mundane item, such as a jar of peanut butter, to try and make exciting.
”Â¢ Black Sabbath- defined the way hard rock would sound for years and introduced many of metal’s staple themes. Plus we still need someone who bites the heads off bats and gets given briefcases full of money by record companies to buy drugs with.
”Â¢ Slade- COZ I LUV SLADE
”Â¢ Bob Marley and the Wailers- I don’t think you can leave them out and this is definitely not a solo act, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh were incredibly important as well as Bob himself. they began to change attitudes to third world music and recorded a great catalogue of songs.
”Â¢ The Sex Pistols– I must have heard their four main singles about a thousand times each and they never fail to make me excited, they sounded as though something amazing was about to happen. Ok they never quite bought down the establishment but there was a moment when it seemed to be at a loss to know what to do about them.
”Â¢ X Ray Spex– Poly Styrene’s voice was very strange, somewhat like a tuneful klaxon. She went out her way not to look a popstar and the sax made them sound different to anyone else. Songs like oh bondage up yours, Identity, The Day the world turned Dayglo and Germfree Adolescents seem even more relevant than they did in the late 70s to me. It was a crying shame Poly’s death was glossed over so quickly by the mainstream media last year because she was brilliant.
”Â¢ The Clash- They would be in on their first album alone (and the singles around that time that weren’t on it) which repeated exhorted young listeners to grab anything they could, guitars, bricks or bottles and do something with them to overthrow the man. They also seemed the perfect band. A fantastic front man, a really creative lead guitarist, a cool bassist and a great drummer”Â¦. And they looked good in pictures.
”Â¢ The Adverts. one chord wonders who didn’t care and didn’t give a damn about the history or the future of music, or their ability to play. Nowadays managers might have told them to tour for two years before making a record and we would never have got to hear the succession of absolutely brilliant songs TV Smith wrote. Would be close even if they hadn’t contained my biggest teenage crush, no not Lawrie Driver, the other one,”Â¦ the bassist
”Â¢ XTC- You hear XTCs jerky, quirky, jingly-jangly style everywhere in modern guitar bands. They also wrote great songs that, unlike many of their imitators, were full of heart and made a wistful soundtrack for vanishing Britain without being jingoistic.
”Â¢ The Only Ones-The only ones were not a punk band, in fact, some of their stuff sounded almost prog-rock (shudder), but Peter Perrett had a great punk voice. They made a punky single that should have been a hit but was banned and a wonderful, spiteful/kind, album called Even Serpents Shine that had the worst album cover that I have ever seen.
”Â¢ Ian Dury and the Blockheads- For the pub rockers who have struggled round the circuit for years. For the misfits and ne’er do wells and losers who Dury immortalised. Like the man himself, the Blockhead’s music was confusing. Half contrary punky toerag and half joyous funky celebration.
”Â¢ The Specials -were not just an inspired fusion of ska and punk, The disparate nature of the members, the relationship between the band and its mostly very young following, their incredible live energy, their danceability and their political awareness also made them special. They also did it for themselves, made up their own movement, their own label and took Britain by storm.
”Â¢ Talking heads-“Singing is a trick to get people to listen to people to listen to music for longer than they would ordinarily. There is no music in space. People will pay to watch people make sounds. Everything on stage should be larger than in real life.”Â
”Â¢ Blondie- They had the tunes and the words and could add exactly the right amount of punk, disco, rap, pop and rock to keep them interesting whilst still sounding like themselves. Even the guys exuded a slinky cool, plus, of course, they had Debbie Harry.
”Â¢ The Smiths– After punk they tried to clear all remnants of dissent away into the underground, luckily there were The Smiths to confuse them, boastful yet shy, alternative and yet poppy and funny yet miserable. Marr and Morrissey’s incredible songs seem even better the further we get from their release.
”Â¢ Public enemy- Chuck D’s Brilliant uncompromising attacks on the institutional culture of white America finally knocked the door down for hip hop and black culture to become a mainstream voice in America and I like people who wear clocks round their necks.
”Â¢ Nirvana- Represented the moment the dam broke in American (therefore world) rock music in the same way as punk did in Britain as well as being a very odd and unique sounding band despite having a lot of unbelievably boring imitators (see nearly all American rock bands since).
”Â¢ The Prodigy– First time I felt lost and left behind by music was when I experienced the prodigy for the first time. It wasn’t keith flint that frightened me, it was the noise they made and the subject matter of their songs and the feeling that my generation and its visions of society and love of guitar music seemed quaint by comparison.
”Â¢ TLC- They had great popsongs that said things that helped empower girls and women, they had attitude, they imploded, the best one died, how rock n roll is that? They influenced all female pop artists that followed from the spice girls to destinys child (neither of whom I disliked). They sang and rapped about real subjects rather than just spouting off the peg platitudes.
”Â¢ Pulp- Britpop wasn’t self-critical and it was by and large fuelled by a belief that Britain was becoming a pretty great place to be with all its drugs, new labour and football money. What was good about pulp and in particular the album Different Class was that it was actually an antidote to all that chest beating that sounded just as triumphant.
”Â¢ arctic monkeys- Alex Turner sings like John Noakes and cant have been alive in 1984 to know what robots danced like. Which led people to guess that his lyrics had been written by someone else, which of course was rubbish. That a young band who write proper lyrics about real things and be popular should be suspected says how ashamed the mainstream British music industry is of its glorious past.
”Â¢ Marjinal– Indonesian punk band who have got the street kids playing their songs on ukes all over the country sometimes at risk of forced rehabilitation and haircuts as a way to foster independence from begging. This is true Rock n Roll for me.