YMMV (Your mileage may vary).
Note- This list is NOT:
What I consider the greatest Rock Bands
My favorite Country bands
My favorite Jazz bands
My favorite artists
They are my top ten favorite Rock bands, which means they are closely associated with Rock. And they are the bands I have liked listening to the most.
Read on to know who and why and feel free to post your own.
And yes this is pretty much in order.
1) The Rolling Stones. Beatles vs Stones, sorry Stones win with me. The Beatles don’t even make my list though I agree they may the most influential of all bands, even to the Stones.
I just find the Stones (esp early to mid) more compelling and more entertaining.
2) The Yardbirds. Besides being nearly as influential as the Beatles (including incubating three of the guitarists who defined Rock guitar), they were just a fun, energetic band. I find nearly all of their songs entertaining and I could never stop being fascinated by them since I first purchased “Featuring Performances By” all those years ago on vinyl (which I still have).
3) Cream. Probably the most influential band personally. Great songwriting, pioneering production by Pappalardi, and of course the great musicianship of Clapton, Bruce and Baker.
I was lucky enough to attend their 2005 reunion show at MSG and though at times it was clear they were just going thru the motions (you can see and hear these shows online and judge for yourselves) it was just amazing to hear them live, sounding uncannily like they did 35 years earlier.
4) Procol Harum. Another band I just can’t stop listening to. All of their songs are great and each LP has a different flavor. Their first, a Whiter Shade Of Pale is colored by the dark lead guitar of a young Robin Trower. Shine On Brightly has a bit of everything and some of their best lyrics. A Salty Dog now has gorgeous strings and other interesting textures. Home has the great Whiskey Train and Whaling Stories. Broken Barricades has Trowers best work ever, on such songs as “Simple Sister”. Live With The Edmonton Orchestra shows what a real rock band (not some quasi artsi rock band) should sound like alongside a full orchestra, as BJ Wilson’s drums ferocity and David Ball’s guitar work come “shining thru”. A breakthrough effort.
And on and on- so much to say about this great band but I’ll sum it up by asserting that they are best band to combine symphonic European Classical with soulful rock very very successfully.
5) Steppenwolf. When I was 12 I had just gotten out of the hospital with a bad case of pneumonia. I asked for only two things for Christmas that year: Best Of Cream and Steppenwolf 2. When I got out of the hospital after Christmas and found them waiting for my I was beyond ecstatic- one of the happiest days of my life.
Joachim Fritz Krauledat escaped East Germany as a young tyke with his family to Canada, where he formed Sparrow, later moving to LA. After getting a record deal the band changed its name to Steppenwolf and rode to fame on the basis of the iconic “Born To Be Wild”.
Steppenwolf released a string of great LPs over the next few years and sold millions of singles off of each, including Rock Me, Screaming Night Hog, Move Over, The Pusher (which made its way onto the Easy Rider soundtrack, along with Born To Be Wild). And of course “Magic Carpet Ride” which is the reason I wanted the 2nd LP.
Besides featuring the great writing of John Kay (which he changed his name to), Steppenwolf also had the great Leslie organist Goldie McJohn, and drummer Jerry Edmonton, brother of Born To Be Wild writer Mars Bonfire AKA Dennis Edmonton.
After the band’s initial breakup Kay went on to record some great solo LPs, before eventually bringing the band back with new members (due to a contractual dispute with some of the original members).
But it was those early years that defined Steppenwolf and neither I nor the rock world can ever forget the great songs and music they brought into it.
6) The Allman Brothers Band. I had the honor of playing a warm up spot for Gregg Allman at the Stone Pony many years ago when I was in JP Gotrock. Our drummer Vini Lopez had performed with the Allman Brothers when he was with Springsteen the decade before. but Greg was so out of out (either tranquilized or whatever) that he wasn’t able to communicate anything back.
By then Gregg had split with Cher and had not yet made his great comeback in the late 80s. His show was very laid back, and I can honestly say WE rocked the Pony much better than he did that night, though that had more to do with him.
But when the Allmans arrived on the scene it was another game changer. In 1969 they released two killer albums combining the best of southern soul, blues, and modal Jazz into what became known as “Southern Rock”.
In fact, they were so influential that the spurred on a movement, from Wet Willie to Black Oak Arkansas, to Lynyrd Skynyrd.
And years later with the rise of modern country music their influence is stronger than ever- the country field is loaded with bands who owe allegiance to the Allmans and what they started. Listen any rock-oriented country song, from Carrie Underwood to Miranda Lambert to Brad Paisley and Zack Brown, and you’re hearing what the Allman Brothers started.
7) Black Sabbath. In this day and age I know its impossible to imagine, but when the first chord of “Paranoid” came on the radio back in 1970, to many of us it was like NOTHING we had ever heard.
Sure hard rock had been around a couple of years before this- The Who, Hendrix, Blue Cheer. But Black Sabbath’s heaviness was just SO THICK! Heavy metal thunder at its best and it still moves millions of people around the world 45 years later.
8) Booker T and The MGs. Really known as an R&B band but they are on this list because they rock like the best of them. The basically created Southern Soul, and Steve Cropper, Al Jackson Jr, Donald Duck Dunn and Booker T. each wrote the book on how to play simply and soulfully. In the process they have influenced everyone from Elton John to the Stones, to today’s neo-soul stylists, to TV show bands such as the SNL Orchestra and The Roots.
Simply put, without them musicians would never had learned the combination of soulfulness and tastefulness that a great, tight, funky R&B influenced rock band needs.
I could listen to all their songs for hours- my favorites are Green Onions and Time Is Tight.
To all learning musicians take note- whether its keys, guitar, bass or drums listen to this band. They wrote the primer for all great, tight music to come.
9) Dramarama. I have to include this band. So many great songs. They are master song writers and each one is a classic. John Easedale one of rock’s greatest singers is perfect for their material, which is so infectious. A local NJ band who made good, no who made great!!!
10) The Band. I would put them higher up on the list but the problem with them is their uneven output. Yes many of their songs are some of the greatest ever but some of their music after the first few albums falls a bit flat,
Not matter- they definitely learned the lessons from Booker T and The MGs and are perhaps the tightest band in the history of rock. Again with some of the greatest songs.
My favorite are “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, “Makes No Difference”, with a hear-wrenching vocal by Rick Danko, and “Tears Of Rage” which I still sing at some of my shows.
The also rans:
OK before you get your tits in a pinch please remember these are only ten bands, my short list. Of Rock Bands, not Artists.
some bands that would make the longer list:
1) The Beatles. Of course, I just never listen to them as much as the others though I consider “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to be at the top of my list of favorite songs- just perfectly written and performed.
2) Led Zep. And of course I am a huge Zep fan, but what holds me back from having them as one of my top ten is their blatant plagiarism, and the hype around them when they were around. They seemed to use their position as a license to bully and bluster as no band before had done (with no small thanks to their manager Peter Grant, by all accounts one of the most despicable sleazeballs in the history of rock).
Their albums are uneven (though at their best, especially the first, second and Houses Of the Holy they near perfection) and their live performances were over the top indulgent, with inane patter by Plant and sometimes sloppy playing by Page.
But they were just about as great as everyone thought they were, even with those flaws, so I would considering them one of the greats.
3) The Who. Again, uneven output, though “The Who Sell Out” is one of my faves. And they are arguably THE GREATEST LIVE BAND EVER. If you don’t believe me watch the 9/11 tribute benefit from 2001, or even the Stones, “Rock and Roll Circus”, with their vicious rendering of ‘A Quick One’- possibly the greatest example of rock ever created for TV.
4) Neil Young with Crazy Horse. Yes his work with this band has been panned but I love and never ever, except maybe with Dylan and The Band, was a songwriter so perfectly paired with a backup band. Their stuff is downright otherworldly when they are at their best, which is almost always. And yes I am one of the biggest Neil Young fans around.
5) Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. To Bruce’s followers I get it. A towering great performer onstage, and his “Wild and The Innocent” featuring the aforementione Vini Lopez I consider one of the top 5 LPs of all time.
Just not as big a fan of his other work, some of which I am crazy about and some of which not so crazy. And I have seen him so many times locally that I don’t have too much of an appetite to even see him live.
I’ve been in the same room with him dozens of times and never introduced myself. Performed with several musicians from his bands. And he’s even seen me perform a few times.
Here in the Asbury Park area he is a God. But to my he’s just a great rock act and the band a great rock band with some stuff I like and some stuff I don’t like as much.
6) Band with females. Hey this isn’t my fault. Most female singers front their own bands so as such they go on another list, that of the singer-songwriter. Unless someone can point out a rock band with a female singer other than maybe a few grunge rockers such as The Breeders or Jefferson Airplane, who just aren’t on my list (and yes I like lots of their stuff) you can’t blame me for leaving any out.
7) Jimi Hendrix. Of course he us up there with Beck and Clapton, whom I also don’t put on this list. Again this is a list of bands- Hendrix needs a spot on the top ten great instrumentalists, thats all.
8) Lynyrd Skynyrd A great band with some great songs, just not ahead of the Allman Brothers is all.
9) What no Jazz Rock? In general I despise Jazz Rock. Except for the first two Chicago and first three Blood Sweat and Tears LPs and a few isolated exceptions just not a fan.
10) Rod Stewart, The Byrds, The Eagles, Grateful Dead, The Doors, Counting Crows etc – all great bands. I like a lot of their stuff and the Eagles live LP is great. Just didn’t make the cut. And I sing “Rain King:” to this day. Counting Crows are the other great band to come out of the 90s.
Again what are your thoughts? Have I offended anyone, or validated anyone’s views? Feel free to leave a comment and thanks for spending time with me here on my blog!