We have just been handed a scientific report on the most influential band ever. Top scientists have poured over the data and facts and lots of fiction and come up with a list that no-one will agree with.
The list is about pop culture as a whole and not the tiny indie ghetto where the Velvet Underground are still referred to as the most important band ever because they invented being pasty-faced and wearing sunglasses as a kind of cool. The Stone Roses may have invented Britpop and were referred to as such as far back as 1988 but in terms of the whole world their influence is very local.
The real game changers were the musical forces that changed generations and sometimes invent whole new forms of music…
1. Elvis Presley
‘Before Elvis there was nothing ‘, John Lennon once said and it’s true because it’s hard to imagine a time before the golden hamburger that changed the world. Elvis shook his hips on American TV and caused the kind of cultural meltdown that is impossible to imagine now. Sure there was big stars before the unlikely named King burst onto the scene but they didn’t seem to be made out of this kind electricity.
2. The Beatles
It’s often be said that if you ever want to study a history of the sixties then listen to the Beatles back catalogue.
If Elvis created rock n roll The Beatles took it to another level, inventing the modern notion of the band.
The Beatles also kidded everyone that you could write your own songs which has been both a blessing and a curse in rock n roll.
3.The Rolling Stones
‘If you don’t like the Rolling Stones then you don’t like rock n roll’ the great sage John Cooper Clarke once told me. The band created the template for every wannabe rock n roll outlaw since they took the train out of Dartford in the early sixties.
A million bands rushed to the garage and attempted to grab that combination of blues, sex and sullen bad boy posturing and few succeeded. Even in the 21st century the Stones are still a key influence in the garages and rehearsal rooms.
4. James Brown
With his concrete bouffant and dance steps and machine like tight band James Brown virtually invented funk.
His songs are so meshed into culture that their deceptively simple genius is forgotten. Without JB would there have been funk and disco? He even influenced large swathes of rock music from the Stones to the Chili Peppers and his deceptively simple genius is crucial in the development of modern music.
Arguably the most influential band ever, Kraftwerk is a band who managed to invent not one but two genres of music.
The German half man, half machine had the most profound effect on popular culture in one of the strangest cultural shifts of all time when their Teutonic twinkling was picked up by hip black kids in the Bronx who understood das robots subtle funkiness and used it as a template to create techno and by extension hip hop.
Ten years later everyone was at it again when the band were used as the foundation for Techno and acid house – there can be few dancefloors not affected by this outfit.
6. Jimi Hendrix
It’s hard to imagine the impact Hendrix must have had when he turned up in the Summer of Love with his out-there image and stunning guitar playing.
Of course there had been lead guitarists before but no one had been a guitar hero and Jimi’s use of electricity influenced everyone from the Beatles to Prince. It was an effect so profound that all the pimply white youth at the time, who were itching to turn their guitar amps up like Eric Clapton, were acolytes of the genius of Hendrix and dominated early seventies rock without ever getting close to effortless brilliant of the master himself.
7. Black Sabbath
It could have been Led Zeppelin or it could have been Black Sabbath but somewhere between the two Brit bands a whole new kind of molten industry was forged.
Black Sabbath came up with the cultural DNA that laid the foundations for metal or rock or whatever you want to call it, with a dark and heavy bombastic riff loaded sound that came with a dark and melancholic atmosphere.
The seeds that were sown and grew into the true alternative music of these times, a worldwide culture that virtually dwarfs every other form.
8. Sex Pistols
These days the Clash get all the credit but as Mick Jones himself once remarked to me there would have been nothing without the Sex Pistols.
Like a mini Elvis they came out of vacuum and changed popular culture in a sleep walking late seventies UK.
There is a good argument that at the same time the Ramones impact was equally powerful, and indeed I have enjoyed this argument many times, but with the Pistols you get the added cultural baggage that was like a hammer blow to rock culture, creating the first generation gap in rock n roll.
If the Ramones musical ideas have been endlessly adopted by bands ever since then the Pistols just shade it with their overall cultural effect.
For good or bad, there is rarely a modern pop star that has not taken their template from the squeaky dancer.
Madonna ruled the eighties – a decade where ambition far outstripped talent and created a whole new notion of the pop star for the video age.
10. David Bowie
Like the Beatles did in the sixties Bowie did the same in the seventies, mapping out a decade with his cultural shifts and ideas that lit the touch paper of several musical movements from glam to punk to post punk.
Where it went next was little to do with Bowie himself, who had already moved away into another place.
He also ‘invented’ bisexuality in a music scene that was yet to come out of its closet and he broke down all the last remaining barriers in pop culture and was key in introducing all manner of weird and wonderful music to his faithful droogs.
11. Bob Dylan
You can’t take Bobby D out of the equation – the tousle-haired one leapt out of the folk scene and grabbed a backing band and went all electric, causing a cultural meltdown and creating the notion of the rock poet with his complex riddle laden lyrics.
A whole slew of serious young men armed with guitars going all singer/songwriter has been the result – and not always a good thing.
12. Bob Marley
You only have to go to Africa to feel the international force of Bob Marley’s influence.
He may not have invented reggae but he took it to the world and opened the mainstream. Teased by some ska hits, to the wonderful possibilities of reggae culture and the amazing music that would pour out of the place – a relatively small island with a conveyor belt of great and varied music.
13. Joy Division/Bauhaus
This debate was touched on a couple of weeks ago when Bauhaus frontman, Peter Murphy told an interviewer that he felt his band were more influential than the Mancunian heroes.
Whilst it never looks right bigging yourself up he had a sort of point. Bauhaus, amongst a clutch of others laid the groundwork for the so called goth scene and were occupying the same moribund corner of music as the dark-hearted Mancs who pretty well inventing post punk at he same time.
14. Grandmaster Flash
Ok, not strictly the inventor a whole genre all by himself, the flash-man dressed in a series of outfits that would make Blackpool illuminations cringe and managed to get his name in the book of firsts with a series of hits that popularized the form in the first place.
Hip Hop is now one of the key musics in the world both musically and culturally and every backward wearing hat wannabe gangsta on the planet is deafening themselves to the thundering beat and the fistful of rhymes whilst copping the swagger from the form of music.
15. Ravi Shankar
It was not intentional but the late Indian sitar virtuoso created a mass interest in so called world music when he teamed up with the Beatles in the late sixties.
Ravi played the amazing ragas of classical India that captivated a whole new generation who saw them as tripped out masterpieces – certainly not the intention of the very strict player himself.
The newly wealthy youth of the sixties had discovered a whole new world outside the Anglo American axis, a whole new area of rich talent has been promoted or ripped off since then.
What do you think? Are these the most influential artists and bands? Tell us your thoughts below…