In a recent post I said I could timeline my entire life based on the songs and albums I’ve owned. Well, the other day I came across a book called Music Listography. It’s actually a fill-in journal that lets you chronicle your life in playlists. I decided to make the purchase and thought it would be fun to answer the questions right here on the blog from time to time. I also thought it would be cool for you to comment with your own answers or make an opinion on mine, so don’t be shy. You can order your own copy of the book at Amazon.
So the first is “List Your Top Twenty Favorite Bands.” For me, this includes not just bands, but, solo artists too. My answers were filled in as they naturally came to mind, so they aren’t technically in any specific 1-20 order per say. Also, as a songwriter it’s hard to not let “favorite” and “influential” clash, but overall I think the list came out to be pretty accurate, they’re all regulars on the iPod. Also, at the bottom you’ll find a video for each artist and a short explanation on why they made my list. Enjoy.
The Beatles: Even though they had already been around 30 years before I discovered them they’re the band I grew up with. I was about 11 years old when I got my own copy of Revolver and they’re the band that made me want to play guitar in the first place. Before I even knew a chord I would hide away in my room and pretend to be a Beatle, fake strumming, lip syncing. I even remember writing down Beatle lyrics in a spiral notebook in 6th grade and taking it to school to tell fellow classmates they were my songs. How is that for plagiarism? Even now the Beatles catalogue inspires me. For me it has far surpassed being “just good music.” It’s a way of life in the music world. Recording techniques, audio engineering, song craft, there is simply no end to the amount of information you can absorb in The Beatles’ World.
The Beach Boys: I didn’t really get into The Beach Boys until 2006. I knew all the basic hit songs but when I finally bought Pet Sounds it opened up a whole new appreciation for the band. The problem is I am what they call a “completionist,” so when I get into a band I have to buy all their albums. After Pet Sounds I had to hunt down every Beach Boy album from 1962 on up through the not-so-prolific 80’s and 90’s albums (John Stamos singing “Forever” anyone?). Long story short, after catching up on 40 years of Beach Boys music over the course of 2006 they found a home as one of my “new” favorite bands.
Sam Cooke: Sometimes I get distracted on iTunes and sample songs all night. The “Listeners Also Bought” suggestions can keep me entertained for hours. That’s how I discovered Sam Cooke. I’ve always loved oldies music, I think because my 5th grade teacher used to listen to oldies radio during class. When I started going to through the iTunes samples on Sam Cooke: Portrait of a Legend I found out he was behind many songs I always loved but never knew who sang them. But aside from the music itself, that voice. If I could choose a voice to sing with the rest of my life that would be the one.
The Rolling Stones: I only recently started to appreciate the Stones. Maybe I avoided them for so long because I always heard that “You’re either a Beatles or a Stones fan” and I chose Beatles growing up. I also think hearing “Start Me Up” at every sporting event I ever went to kept me away as well. Now I can appreciate the Stone’s raw energy on their earlier albums. You don’t get rock and roll like that with The Beatles who definitely had a more polished presentation.
Bob Dylan: I think as a songwriter it was inevitable that I end up listening to Dylan, he’s simply THE songwriter, period. At the time of his arrival it wasn’t very common for a performer to sing their own songs. Sinatra, Nat King Cole, even Elvis chose songs written by others. Dylan, while he did have others singing his songs, performed his own material and was the first to really do it successfully in the pop world. I would say he’s responsible for the term “Singer/Songwriter” which is practically it’s own genre of music these days.
Paul McCartney & Wings: The other songwriter of our time, Paul McCartney, has been an idol of mine for many years. I couldn’t think of another entertainer who has accomplished so much with their life. I got to see him perform live twice and if you watch the Back in the U.S. concert DVD (and don’t blink) you might see me in the crowd singing Hey Jude. The Ram album is definitely one of my all time favorite albums and due out for a deluxe reissue this year, I’m stoked.
The Monkees: The first concert I ever went to was The Monkees 1987 reunion tour. I must have been about three or four years old but I have vague memories of being there. With the recent passing of Davy Jones there’s been a small surge of Monkees interest online. I’m glad a new generation can discover their music as I’ve always believed they deserve more recognition. The irony of the Monkees story is that everything people scolded them for over the years is exactly what the industry has become. The manufactured image is standard now. The difference is even though The Monkees started out manufactured they proved themselves to be a legitimate group with their own vision in the end. Check out the album HEAD.
Nat King Cole: By now you’ve probably noticed my favorite music is not of recent years. That’s not to say I don’t listen to new music, but when it comes down to my absolute favorites I prefer the classics. Nat King Cole is classic and for my money has one of the most endearing voices of all time.
Michael Jackson & The Jackson 5: When I was between the ages of nine and eleven Michael Jackson was my world. I danced like him, I had all his albums on cassette, I wanted to be Michael. At the root of my being an entertainer you would find Michael Jackson. There’s no reason to even explain why he’s in my list as I’m sure he would be in anyone’s list, so I’ll leave it at that.
The Who: I think I became a fan of The Who after watching a video tape of The Kids Are Alright. What young kid wouldn’t think Pete Townshend’s windmill guitar playing wasn’t cool? I sure did. The Who Sell Out is another one of my favorite albums.
Del Amitri: Wow, a band post the 1960’s on my list?! Yep. In America if you are to ask someone if they’re a fan of Del Amitri you’ll most likely have to sing their hit “Roll To Me” to better explain who you’re talking about. In my opinion they’re one of the most underrated pop bands in recent time, unfortunately I don’t think they’re together anymore. Justin Currie, who now has two great solo albums out, is one of the most talented songwriter’s I can think of and heavily influenced my work in Five Times August. Hatful of Rain: The Best of Del Amitri was probably the most played CD I had in high school.
Oasis: In eighth grade I couldn’t get enough of Oasis. I knew virtually every song on guitar, collected all their albums and singles, and even got an Epiphone electric guitar like Noel Gallagher’s.
Harry Nilsson: For many years I remembered seeing a cartoon as a kid that featured a little boy in a pointed hat. I never knew what it was until my Mom told me it was called The Point and she bought the movie for me on VHS. Both the story and the music in the film were written by Harry Nilsson. It’s a great children’s story album and probably another of my favorite albums. Nilsson has a lot of great and creative music to look into.
David Gray: I used to go to Virgin Megastore and listen to new artists on the listening wall. I found David Gray’s White Ladder there and thought the sound of acoustic guitar and piano with programmed beats was completely bizarre. I think I went back to the mall on three separate occasions before I bought the album, I guess it had to grow on me. Sure enough I became a life long fan.
Fleetwood Mac: When I first heard Lindsey Buckingham play “Big Love” on the album The Dance I think my life changed. That is an iconic performance for me and completely opened the doors to what one person with a guitar could do. It sounds like six guitars playing at one time. The band, before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined, went through so many variations and actually started out as a blues band. The Pious Bird of Good Omen is my favorite of their early years.
Ben Folds (Five): I saw Ben play solo in 2002 and after the show waited to meet him with other fans outside the back of the venue. I was just starting out and gave him a copy of my first album. He actually amused me for a moment and complimented the packaging and then put the CD in his front jacket pocket. Whether he listened to it or not, who knows, but I always thought it was nice of him to acknowledge it for as long as he did. How he handled the fans after the show made a big impression on me. He stayed as long as he could and talked to just about everyone before management pulled him away.
Sting & The Police: One of the first Christmas presents Kelly got me was The Police: The Complete Recordings boxset. I always love when a small group can get such a huge sound. In the studio it’s one thing but doing it live is another. They’re a great live band and wish I could have seen the reunion tour back in ’08.
Wes Montgomery: It’s taken me a long-long time to get into Jazz music. When I started checking out the jazz guitar greats I found a lot of qualities in Wes Montgomery’s playing that I had already been applying in my own style, mainly playing in octaves, a technique he innovated and was known for. In addition to Wes I’ve also been listening to Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Pat Martino, and Joe Pass – to name a few of my ‘new’ favorite Jazz guitarists.
Billy Joel: I’m surprised I almost ran out of space on the list before thinking of Billy Joel. He’s a very relevant figure in my musical landscape. When I was a kid I used to listen to An Innocent Man and The Bridge on my walkman on the bus ride to school. Apparently I listened to those tapes so much that when I ran into a guy I went to elementary school with years down the road he remembered me as “you used to listen to Billy Joel all the time on the bus.”
Duncan Sheik: When I started writing my own songs I aimed to write like Duncan Sheik. His music is mature, you can tell there is thought put into it. Like David Gray and Justin Currie, Sheik is a consistent writer. If you like one song he’s written you’ll like them all. I’ve always aimed for that with my own music.
So, who are some of your favorites?