20. Green Day
Highest Position: 3rd
In 2004 American Idiot came out, and I was a convert. It is my favourite album released in the 2000s. Concept albums are nothing new in music, but Green Day opened up an entirely new idea for me in music, and nine minute eclectic pop punk songs were and still are right up my alley.
What’s funny is American Idiot never motivated me to try out their other work as a youngster. It was only when I got older that I bought the rest of their discography. Dookie immediately shot into my top ten albums of all time, and Insomniac followed. Like The Offspring, they too were instrumental in reviving interest in punk all the way back in 1994.
Green Day have had a career of two halves. For a while it looked as if they, and their genre, were quietly returning to being a niche interest. But then they dared to try something they had never done before, knowing full well the backlash they would receive from some members of a community which can be very judgemental. They did it anyway, and American Idiot was released, and all was well in Phlegmland.
If you want to give them a try, decide whether you like short and sweet or epic ambition, then buy both Dookie and American Idiot anyway.
Write-up by Flem274*
19. The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Highest Position: 6th
Jimi Hendrix Experience
Jimi Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle, WA in 1942, however his father, a GI, changed Hendrix's given names to James Marshall on his return from the war. Hendrix first gained notoriety as a guitarist while playing sessions, including The Isley Brothers, however it was as a solo artist when he really began to make waves. His playing style, including using his teeth, behind his neck and even setting his guitar on fire, while not original was new to the mainstream and his image, including his "dandy" attire and a supremely cool vocal drawl, made for an absolute sensation as word spread. He was taken under the managerial wing of ex-Animals bass player Chas Chandler and supporting musicians were soon found, bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell joining Hendrix to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience (Chandler changed the spelling of Jimmy to Jimi). Many of the audience members at Hendrix's early UK concerts were fellow guitarists like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, who were totally blown away by this phenomenon. Hendrix enjoyed a number of UK hits during this period, notably "Hey Joe", "Purple Haze" and "Foxy Lady". The Experience was then booked to play at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 which lead to overdue success in his home country, but it was at Woodstock in 1969 that his legend was forged globally, including a mind-blowing solo performance of the Star Spangled Banner. Never one to shy away from controversy (his appearance on the Lulu show, when he interrupted one of his songs to do a cover of Cream's "Sunshine of your Love" led to him being taken off the air), his album Electric Ladyland featured a cover consisting of a bevy of naked beauties, leading many record stores to sell it with a plain brown paper cover instead, though those who risked the shame of purchase were rewarded with an immortal version of Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower".
Under pressure to form an all-black band, Hendrix disbanded the Experience (though Noel Redding had formed a band of his own due to his frustration at not being able to play his first choice instrument, guitar) and joined forces with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox under the name Band of Gypsies. However, this did not work out and he was soon back with Redding and Mitchell to re-form the Experience. After a number of further tours, Hendrix died of an overdose in 1970 aged 27, catapulting the single "Voodoo Chile" to the top of the UK singles chart - he had only recorded three studio albums, however all three (Are You Experienced #15, Axis: Bold as Love #82 and Electric Ladyland #54) were voted into Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Hendrix was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
Write-up by chasingthedon
18. Joy Division
Highest Position: 1st
In 1976, Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner went to a gig at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall organised by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto. The main act was a band calling themselves the 'Sex Pistols'. Others allegedly in attendance included Morrissey and Mark E. Smith. The following day, as the possibly apocryphal tale goes, Hook and Sumner bought guitars, and set about completing the band 'Warsaw', eventually settling on vocalist Ian Curtis and drummer Stephen Morris. They later changed their name to 'Joy Division' - a name given to Jewish women held as prostitutes by the Nazis during WWII. (The name, along with the image of a Hitler youth on the cover of their debut EP 'An Ideal for Living' led to early suggestions that they were Nazi sympathisers.) Their aggressive early offerings reflected their punk influences and gave little hint as to the future direction of the band.
Their first studio album, Unknown Pleasures (1979), established their signature sound and completed their transformation from punk pretenders to post-punk pioneers. The band's sound was heavily indebted to producer Martin Hannett, who focused on creating a dark, spacious soundstage somewhat at odds with their rambunctious live performances (and at odds with the wishes of some of the band). Curtis' baritone delivery ranged from the low murmur of 'Insight' to the frantic 'She's Lost Control'. His lyrics were simultaneously intensely personal - reflecting his personal struggles with epilepsy, depression and marital problems - and also distant, apocalyptic and otherworldly (e.g. 'Shadowplay'). Hook's prominent, instantly recognisable and often melodic basslines, Sumner's rhythmic, distorted guitar and Morris' authoritative drumwork combined perfectly to create the purposeful and focused yet unmistakeably eerie sound of Unknown Pleasures.
Between albums, the band released two of their best-known singles: 'Transmission', and - the 'best single of all time', according to NME - 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'. Around the time of the release of the latter, Joy Division were in the studio recording their second album, Closer (1980). After recording the album, but before its release, Curtis hanged himself in his kitchen.
Though Joy Division were destined for musical immortality, Curtis' suicide undoubtedly hastened their apotheosis. Closer is an outstanding musical achievement independent of its context, but it is inextricably linked to the circumstances of Curtis' death and it is impossible to delineate the two. The opening track beckons 'this is the way, step inside...'; the album offers a window into Curtis' psyche in the months leading to his suicide. In 'Passover', for example, he sings, 'this is the crisis I knew had to come/destroying the balance I'd kept'. Despite Curtis' protestations, it is difficult not to interpret 'Isolation' as a personal account of his struggles with epilepsy and depression. Musically and lyrically, the album is even more sparse, intimate and claustrophobic than its predecessor. Synthesizers and keyboards feature prominently, foreshadowing the direction the remaining members of the band would later take. Though mostly sombre in tone, the album varies widely in its dynamics and tempo. The haunting 'Twenty Four Hours' in particular perfectly captures their mastery of the 'soft/loud' approach.
Joy Division was officially laid to rest with Curtis, and Sumner, Hook and Morris went on to form 'New Order' (a name that, incidentally, did nothing to quell allegations of their supposed inclination towards fascism). New Order's first single, 'Ceremony', was a re-recording of one of the last songs written by Curtis. The new group went in a different direction musically and enjoyed far greater commercial success than Joy Division ever contemplated. Nonetheless, Joy Division's critical acclaim, legacy and (arguably) influence remains unsurpassed by New Order. For me, at least, they will be better remembered for their role in the timeless, distilled perfection of Unknown Pleasures and Closer.
Write-up by Adamc
Highest Position: 3rd
If you went to an English secondary school in the mid-90s, chances are you were probably asked at some point that age old question, “Blur or Oasis?” If you went to my school then you were asked it by me.
Despite being fierce rivals at one point though, really you had two very different bands at the forefront of the Britpop scene. Blur emerged from the Great Britpop War and beyond recognised as a band who were never prepared to sacrifice musical integrity for a few extra record sales and stand along their aforementioned rivals, in addition to Radiohead, as one of the most influential bands to come from this island in the 90s.
Comprising of singer and driving force Damon Albarn, guitarist Graeme Coxon, bass player and cheese farmer Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree, Blur’s career can be neatly divided into two. The first half encompasses the first half of the 90s. 1991’s Leisure is an album mainly enjoyed only by Blur fanatics but contains some real high points, in particular the cockney charm of There’s No Other Way. It was the follow-up, Modern Life Is Rubbish which brought them to prominence though, with ode to London For Tomorrow providing a career highlight. The relative success of their sophomore effort fed nicely into 1994’s Parklife, bringing them true mainstream success, with hits like Girls & Boys and the title track remaining popular today. They won several awards for the album, but the following year’s The Great Escape was a much weaker effort, despite possessing a few highlights, and it reflected in its performance; released in the midst of their war with Oasis, they did not fare well, and the band went back to the drawing board.
And how. Onto phase two.
1997’s eponymous effort showed a rejuvenated band. Taking a ‘lo-fi’ approach and drawing influence from the likes of Pavement, they produced their finest effort, throwing out massive hits with Beetlebum, Song 2 & On Your Own but the real standout tracks were Country Sad Ballad Man and Graeme Coxon’s You’re So Great.
They went further out with the experimental 13 in 1999, and then released their final album Think Tank in 2003, this time without guitarist Coxon who had had ‘musical differences’ with Albarn. Both of these albums produced many great tracks; Tender, No Distance Left To Run, Trailerpark, Out Of Time and Brothers & Sisters are all very different to each other and showcase some of the many sides of Blur.
Since Think Tank, Blur have stopped and started, releasing the odd single and playing some high profile concerts which will continue this summer with them playing at the closing ceremony for the London Olympics. As a band who have always been fiercely proud of London, it is more than appropriate.
16. The Velvet Underground
Highest Position: 1st
What do the Velvet Underground have in common with Johann Sebastian Bach, Edgar Allan Poe and Vincent van Gogh? Apart from the obvious answer, that they were all pre-eminent in their various artistic fields, the common thread is that none of them received the acclaim due to them whilst at the height of their powers.
The real Velvet Underground revolved around two men, Lou Reed and John Cale, both of whom went on to enjoy considerable solo success after leaving the band in, respectively, 1968 and 1970. The ersatz Velvets who were led by Doug Yule between 1970 and 1973 were but a pale imitation of the real thing.
There were only ever four studio albums. The first, in 1967, was "The Velvet Underground and Nico", and that was followed by "White Light/White Heat", "The Velvet Underground" and finally, post John Cale in 1970, "Loaded". All four caused the critics to purr, but only Loaded enjoyed any degree of contemporary success. Later in 1974, the best Velvets album bar none, "1969" saw the light of day. I am not usually too keen on live albums but this one, reflecting as it did the band at their peak, is by a distance the best of its type that has ever been released.
Despite the real band folding in 1970 songs like "New Age", "Rock and Roll", "Heroin" and "Waiting for my Man" influenced virtually everyone who came afterwards. There is a famous quote, the actual source of which is long forgotten, to the effect that although the first album only sold 5,000 copies, everyone who bought it went on to form a band. And so it seemed. I read New Musical Express throughout the 1970s, and the overwhelming majority of songwriters and musicians, particularly once the so-called "New Wave" began in 1975, counted Reed, Cale and/or the Velvets amongst their greatest influences.
One other facet of the Velvet Underground’s music, certainly in the early 1980s, was that it seemed to, when combined with a modest amount of alcohol, have a remarkable disinhibiting effect on womankind and as such will always represent to me the soundtrack of my best years. Sadly the distance in time since then is now rather longer than that which will elapse before my children choose the care home where I will spend my dotage, but when I become too frail to even leave my armchair without assistance, I will find an old iPod, put “1969” on continuous loop, and remember my glory days – so thanks to Lou Reed and the Velvets I will die with a smile on my face – what greater measure of their brilliance can there be?
Write-up by fredfertang
Highest Position: 1st
It was the summer of 1974 when a young, upbeat band started touring Melbourne playing their own brand of lollipop rock in front of screaming teenage girls desperate for a new pop icon to follow and fall in love with. This new band, fronted by a diva wearing nothing but a retardation of a sports bra, a scarf freely hanging off his neck as if saying "look at me! I'm rebellious!", and latex pants so tight that a fart would form a bulge with nowhere to go, much to his band’s misery who was desperate for a sound of its own. On one of the gigs, said frontman returned home to put his lipstick on and the band was left without a singer. It was at this moment a miracle happened that changed the fortunes of this band. Their chauffer, who had been filling the role of the drummer, decided to say ‘**** it’, grabbed the mic, and started belting out any song he knew as the band tried to keep up. After a few hours of him drinking and singing and dancing on the patrons’ tables, the band had decided that he was their new frontman. From that moment on, an invigorated AC/DC took the stage with a ferocity and intensity and crassness never seen before in Australian clubs, never tuning it down through nationwide bans, criticisms for corrupting the nation’s youth, allegations of Satanism, and even having Bon Scott trapped under the 19 stone Rosie. Though AC/DC suffered through the untimely death of their singer (non-Rosie related), and some low quality albums in the late ‘80s, they never stopped churning out the same song, and eventually left a mark on rock history that will not soon be forgotten.
AC DC Family Jewels DVD1 13 Fling Thing, Rocker - YouTube
Write-up by nightprowler10
Highest Position: 1st
Our Choice – Band of the 80s” screamed the iconic headline on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine as four 20-something Irishmen looked out from it defiantly. The article within continued the adulation, lavishing such praise as “the band that matters most, maybe even the only band that matters” on the four Dubliners. Looking back on the career of Ireland’s most famous musical export and their journey to global megastardom, bestowing such a title is hardly surprising - until you look at the issue in which it was found: March 14, 1985. The decade was just half complete, and while their European success had been considerable, U2 had yet to have a top 10 record – either single or album – in the USA, Rolling Stone’s home. It mattered little. The social and cultural impact of the band - specifically their articulate, politically-aware mouthpiece Bono – complimented by their searing live performances meant record sales seemed almost secondary.
Formed in 1976 as Feedback (one of the few technical terms familiar to a group who acknowledged their relative lack of musical proficiency), the foursome quickly gained a strong local following. A name change to The Hype was short-lived, a second name change – to U2 – rather less so. A string of impressive albums in the early 1980s built their fan-base and reputation, but it was a live performance at Red Rocks amphitheatre in 1983 – released on record as Under a Blood Red Sky - which to many confirmed the band as modern rock and roll’s messiahs.
Theirs was a sound built from the attitude of punk, but which evolved into something far more richly textured. At the heart of it was The Edge, the anti-guitar hero who famously described himself as a musician rather than a gunslinger and whose idea of brilliance was to use fewer notes, not more. Notes, he believes, are expensive and should be used sparingly. Not for him the blistering solos of many of his contemporaries, but rather an epic and unmistakeable wall of sound.
If for the first half of the 1980s the band’s record sales failed to match their reputation, that all stopped in 1987 with The Joshua Tree. One of the decade’s defining albums, it reached no.1 everywhere, turned U2 “from heroes to superstars” and confirmed them as indisputably the biggest band on the planet. A first listen to The Joshua Tree is a lifetime musical highlight – stunningly atmospheric, soaringly anthemic but beautifully intimate, Irish of origin yet instantly American of theme. Achtung Baby was another – very different – kind of masterpiece, an experimental Tour de Force which featured possibly the band’s finest hour – the haunting, utterly immaculate “One.”
It’s not all been smooth sailing, mind. U2’s reputation took a bit of a battering in the 1990s as they continued to experiment. Zooropa played far too hard at being “different” and not nearly hard enough at being “good” while Pop had its moments (“Discoteque” and it’s accompanying video was brilliant) but paled in comparison to what had gone before. There has been criticism, too, of Bono’s ego and his seeming desire to single-handedly save the world. Seriously? Granted, he can come across as self-important and worthy almost to the point of caricature, but to criticise a man of his influence for trying to use that influence to feed the starving and heal the sick of the developing world just feels like invective for invective’s sake. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.
Thankfully, there’s still the music. Always the music. U2 launched the new century with “Beautiful Day”, their best track for years, signifying a return to form that again placed the band at the top of the rock world, a position they are not looking to relinquish any time soon. U2 aren’t nearly as cool as they once were – they’ve been around far, far too long for that. Then again, those of us who listen to them aren't as cool as we used to be either, if indeed we ever were at all. But the four school friends from Dublin have reigned as the world’s most popular band for a quarter of a century. And they’ve been in The Simpsons.
It’s fair to say that U2 have lived up to The Hype.
Write-up by The Sean
13. Guns N’ Roses
Highest Position: 1st
The week before they had cancelled in Montreal. So we didn’t really believe they were going to take the stage. But there we were in row 7 waiting for the show of our lifetime. Going to his first concert with us was Paul. His parents gave him $15 to last him the weekend for meals which he promptly spent acquiring a GnR head band for $13. Finally the lights went out and then out of the darkness screamed a voice. It was a raspy charismatic voice.
“Do you know where the **** you are Edmonton”
“You’re in the Jungle. Wake up. Its time to die”.
Cue the best 3 hours of my life including a ten minute Slash guitar solo that morphed into the opening for sweet child o’ mine.
Guns n Roses was initially formed from the players from two bands (Hollywood Rose and LA Guns). After some early changes to the band they settled on their famous line up. Even before their first album they developed an ardent following in LA. Slash got fired from his job because groupies kept hanging around the store just to be near him.
Their album Appetite for Destruction rocketed them to stardom. The album owes some of its success to MTV. Appetite for destruction was out for a year with low sales before MTV started playing Sweet Child (link to Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine - YouTube ) . Success was overnight. I remember being riveted by some of the lyrics. It has been called by some the best debut rock album ever. While still at the peak of their powers they released Use your illusions I and II. I feel if they had’ve created an A album and a B track album rather than the double release then they could have rivalled Appetite. Even so the two albums spent 108 weeks on the Billboard charts.
I won’t comment on what happened after the band split and some of the acrimony. But my only regret about GnR is when the CW Guns battle of the best song was abandoned
Joe Perry Aerosmith - Guns n' Roses revived our kind of rock. I remember someone handing me a copy of Appetite for Destruction and saying, "You've got to hear these guys — they're the new big thing." Bands like Bon Jovi and Whitesnake were big then, but Guns n' Roses were different. They dug down a little deeper into rock's roots. I heard a lot of Aerosmith in them, which meant I also heard a lot of bands that came before us. And I remember being a little jealous, because they were really hitting the nail on the head.
Axl Rose: I know that many of you are disappointed that some of the people that you came to know and love could not be with us here today. Regardless of what you have heard or read, people worked very hard (meaning my former friends) to do everything they could so that I could not be here today. I say **** that. I am as hurt and disappointed as you that, unlike Oasis, we could not find a way to all get along.
Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong ““It’s the best debut album in the history of rock and roll,” Armstrong said. “Every song hits hard. It takes you a trip to the seedy world of Los Angeles. The thing that set them apart from everyone else was guts. They never lost their edge for one second.”
Write-up by Hurricane
12. The Clash
Highest Position: 3rd
In 1976 life in rural north-west England was, for stroppy sixteen year olds with chips on each shoulder, mind-numbingly dull. Then at the beginning of December news reached us of the Sex Pistols' hilarious appearance on prime time London television when presenter Bill Grundy was called, amongst other things, a dirty ****er. That week's copy of New Musical Express told me all I needed to know and I just got to the booking office in time to pick up a ticket for the Preston Guildhall leg of the "Anarchy in the UK" tour - The Pistols were due to headline supported by The Clash, The Damned and Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers. To this day it remains one of the great disappointments of my life that Preston's city fathers took the moral high ground and pulled the plug on the gig at the eleventh hour.
In the fullness of time all four bands from that vanguard of the "New Wave" released successful and critically acclaimed singles and albums, but it was The Clash above all of them who have left a timeless legacy of material that I can still listen to to this day. Their first single, "White Riot", was typical of the genre, consisting of a whine of buzzsaw guitars played at breakneck speed with a mindless chant as a lyric. Much of the eponymous debut album was more of the same. That said the self-penned "Garageland" hinted at greater depth, and the band's classic version of Junior Murvin's "Police and Thieves" showed their versatility.
In 1978 the second album, "Give 'em Enough Rope" demonstrated that, unlike many of their peers, guitarists Joe Strummer and Mick Jones were fine songwriters and, in time, bassist Paul Simonon showed he could fashion a decent tune as well. The album contained what remains my favourite Clash song, Mick Jones' paean to an old school friend whose career as an armed robber took him to the maximum security wing at Her Majesty's Prison Parkhurst, "Stay Free".
The following year saw the band reach its apogee with the magnificent double album "London Calling", without doubt one of the finest ever recorded. Could they repeat the feat? The prospect just twelve months later of a 36 track triple album smacked of self-indulgence and overkill but, when it appeared, "Sandanista" proved to be a masterpiece throughout, and while it has never received quite the same plaudits accorded to its legendary predecessor it loses little in comparison.
Some of us assumed that, like the Beatles, the Clash would go on producing the goods for ever. Sadly we were wrong as the last proper Clash album, "Combat Rock", released in 1982, was a disappointment, and while their fans fretted as the news of the band's subsequent slow death by disintegration came in, perhaps it as well for the reputation of the Clash that the end came as soon as it did.
Write-up by fredfertang
11. The Smiths
Highest Position: 1st
For a band to emerge from so short a career with such a devout following, and elevate two members to revered status' within the music world, sums up the effect of this alternative band that formed out of Manchester in the early 1980s. Marr's guitar and Morrissey's lyrics were the meat and potatoes of a band who appealed to the disenchanted youth, not only of the 1980s but throughout subsequent decades. The Smiths were prolific throughout their five years, releasing four albums and plenty of additional material even before their break up.
The eponymous first album set out what to expect from the Morrissey-Marr combination, with singles such as "What Difference Does It Make" dragging you in with trademark jangly guitar introductions whilst their first single "Hand in Glove" featured a second line stating that 'the sun shines out of our behinds'. This knowing humour was part of their great appeal; Morrissey had the ability to sound serious whilst satirising, then call on absurdity to focus upon the serious.
With Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke in tow, each album has its own innate appeal; the rawness of The Smiths, the politics and grandstanding of Meat is Murder, their magnum opus The Queen is Dead - a regular feature on best album lists, and the farewelling Strangeways, Here We Come, which the two main protagonists still refer to as their own personal favourites.
The destructive and messy split has failed to overshadow the body of work left behind by The Smiths, and in spite of Morrissey's continuing solo work and Marr continuing to find work as a gun for hire, they will be forever associated with the music they produced in the 1980s, and the songwriting legacy that they have left which still shows through in popular music today.
Write-up by vic_orthdox