I have been considering which bands, musicians and singers would make it into my personal Hall of Fame. My music collection is quite large but of course there are favourites within it and some of them are very important to me. Feel free to comment with your thoughts on who would make your Hall of Fame.
I think I have to start with the band which takes up the first three rows in my iTunes album view; AC/DC. Very specifically it’s Angus and Malcolm Young who have been responsible for many of the greatest rock tracks ever written.
With the late Bon Scott they created album after album of fantastic material which I couldn’t live without. Their first 7 albums would be my Desert Island Discs. They are in a VIP section all of their own in this Hall of Fame.
I could easily list individual people but so often the magic of a band is all about the combination of its members and so I can’t split Led Zeppelin. Individually Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are iconic in my musical development and I guess I have my brother to thank for discovering them at a relatively early age.
They’re also another example of a band whose first 5 or 6 albums are the very pinnacle of their quality and form a bedrock of so many people’s cultural appreciation. We all know Whole Lotta Love, we all know Stairway to Heaven and more people would recognise Rock n’ Roll from its opening bars than they might expect. Led Zep is part of the music landscape and that doesn’t happen by accident.
Watching Robert Plant in full flow as the rock god and Jimmy Page as the apparently effortless guitar virtuoso is one of the great pleasures in life, in my opinion.
The Rolling Stones
There’s so much to discover with a band that has such a vast back catalogue. My Stones appreciation began in my late teens when I had the Hot Rocks collection on cassette (Google it). It covered the period from ’64 to ’71 which has all the old favourites that we know and love and have heard a million times. But then more recently I discovered Exile on Main Street, an album that’s only a couple of weeks older than me, an album I knew by name and reputation but had never heard. Thanks to the churning of the money making machine they released the remastered version with an album’s worth of unreleased stuff to accompany the original. It’s superb.
As I dig around more, I find other stuff that appeals, whether it’s the Some Girls album or individual tracks off Let it Bleed. You can’t help but admire the showmanship of Mick n’ Keef even if they were clearly past it at Glastonbury this year but as a force of nature they’re a band whose place at the top table you can’t deny.
Yes, yes, I know. Inducting the Fab Four into your music Hall of Fame seems a little obvious but I love so much of their stuff. They matured and developed in their style so much over a relatively short space of time and even made their early covers more endearing than twee.
They created one of my favourite albums (Hard Day’s Night) and so many era-defining tracks that I think it’s acceptable for people of all ages to know and embrace The Beatles.
OK, here’s an individual I can pick on. He was the drummer in Nirvana, for goodness sake. That makes him cool right away and he’s not a bad guitarist either. I don’t love albums of Foo Fighters stuff but there are plenty of great tracks in amongst it all.
But mostly I think it’s his stage presence. He knows how to play a crowd, they put on such a high energy show and he walks the right of line when it comes to having that swagger. He’s not trying to be Jim Morrison or one of the Morrison wannabees who think you’ve gotta be full of yourself to make it big. He’s all about the show.
Talking of being full of yourself, let’s not focus on Liam Gallagher but let’s judge the albums. So many great tracks, riffs and catchy stadium pleasers that I think they’re in on merit even if you find the idea of warring musician brothers to be very cliched.
While simmering tension may be bad for the atmosphere on a tour bus, it doesn’t seem to do creativity any harm. Up until Dark Side of the Moon it’s fair to say they had been finding their feet. But what a way to get it right, and then to follow it up with Wish You Were Here!! Honestly, without Pink Floyd what on earth would people have listened to in the 70s when they were getting high?
Even if you’re not a big fan of bold, brash 70s concept albums, I defy anyone to say that The Wall isn’t an extraordinary piece of work. Taken as a whole it’s a remarkable portrait (self-portrait as it turns out) of a disintegrating emotional state and an allegory for the destructive power of… well, power.
Seeing them live in ’94 with my brother at Earl’s Court as part of the Division Bell tour is a treasured memory. They are a band that know the meaning of spectacle and have the artistic flair to deliver.
Guns N’ Roses
Can a band define an era as well as themselves with just one album? Appetite for Destruction is so extraordinary that I would argue they can and did. So many late 80s early 90s bands wanted the same raw energy and impact but could only come up with one track so relied on drug addiction to make them appear in the same league.
It was lightning in a bottle, something even they couldn’t repeat. The bloated vanity of the Use Your Illusions and the forgettable nonsense of the Spaghetti Incident are unable to take the shine off that magnificent album. If you get the chance, watch their finest moment on YouTube. The legendary performance at The Ritz in New York in 1988 shows all the venom of a band at the height of their powers, burning bright and fast, showing the rest how it’s done.
I’m a blues fan so it might seem a bit middle class to choose Eric Clapton as the poster boy for the likes of Robert Johnson, Buddy Guy or Muddy Waters. In the mid 80s I encountered a Clapton compilation and just loved that sound. Whether it’s 12-bar blues which arguably all uses the same structure (sing Sweet Home Chicago to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Pride & Joy to see what I mean) or a more low key melancholy sound I just love that sense of rhythm and emotion. Eric Clapton’s got that, personally speaking so he’s in.
I may come back to this subject as different things occur to me but when all said and done music is a big part of my life and our tastes represent many things about us. Mine seem to show a love of guitars, and yes I did buy one in my late teens which stood propped against my bedroom wall gathering dust. I wish I’d given it more of a go.