I like making lists. Apparently, folks on the internet like reading lists as well.
There you go. First off, I am going to share with you a list of the best bands of all time, in my humble opinion. (In alphabetical order, mind you)
THE BEACH BOYS
I never quite got into The Beach Boys till the early 90s! Better late than never, right? My buddy Eric Khoo – a huge fan – passed me his entire Beach Boys collection and those weeks of early listening dispelled all the misconceptions I had held of the band as nostalgic surf-rock has-beens. The band’s 60s/70s output – not to mention the genius of Brian Wilson’s songwriting and arrangements – certainly merited their place in the rock pantheon – and one of the best bands of all time, of course!
What can I say? My first musical love! Strangely enough, the first time I heard Beatles songs came via The Chipmunks! But thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to catch on to the real thing. Suffice to say that The Beatles were the first and the best – trend-setting for the majority of their existence. The brilliance of The Beatles, the classicism and the experimentation set a high bar for pop music in the years to come.
The brothers Gibb were probably my earliest band obsession when I was about 10/11 years old. The British teen movie S.W.A.L.K. featured Bee Gees songs like “Melody Fair,” “First of May” “The Morning of My Life” etc. As a late teen, I was also caught up with Saturday Night Fever and the Bee Gees’ significant role in that phenomenon. By that time, the band straddled their chamber pop and soul R&B styles perfectly. Amazing songwriters!
One of the earliest punk/new wave bands I latched on to were The Jam. If I recall correctly, I’d read about them in the British music weeklies and when I saw the first two LPs in a bargain bin at a basement departmental store (remember those?), I did not hesitate. Maybe tail end of 1979 before I bought Sound Affects the following year. The sheer energy of the band and Paul Weller’s songwriting attracted me to The Jam. Have loved them ever since!
Now, regarding Ray Davies and The Kinks, similar to the Beach Boys, I only got into them in the 90s. I believe it was the Kinks Kronikles compilation that won me over. Of course, I had heard about the band and read about them in the music press but it was not until that album that I began to investigate the band seriously. What sucked me in was Ray Davies’ observational writing – it was so inspiring for my own songwriting. Also, I was able to draw a connection between The Kinks and The Jam, it was pretty obvious. Classic.
I was about fourteen when I was introduced to Pink Floyd via Dark Side of the Moon. It was not till later that I even realised that Syd Barrett was a founding member so for me it had always been Gilmour, Mason, Waters and Wright. The Wall was probably the album I remember most when it was released but by then, the band were already imploding. I have of course gone back and picked all the albums pre-The Wall but the eighties incarnations were embarrassing. Still, that does not detract from the epic music they produced in the 70s.
Sting and company have a special place in my heart. When I discovered them via a pirated cassette of Regatta De Blanc (yes, those were a thing in Singapore in the 70s), I fell head over heels in love with them and believe that like The Jam, their discography is untouchable. Maybe also due to the fact that both bands broke up before they could suck. By the time, Synchronicity rolled into town in 1983, The Police were the biggest band in the world! I count myself fortunate to have caught them in their reunion cum retirement fund tour – they must have been magnificent in their prime!
Sure, I’ve always heard of the Stones but only became a serious obsessive with the band in the 90s when I bought one of those retrospective boxsets that were all the rage during the CD era. From then on, I picked up on anything Stones-related and determined for myself how important they were as a band. The Stones were probably the very epitome of a rock n roll band in the late 60s/early 70s. Nobody quite comes close to that run of albums from Beggars Banquet to Exile on Main Street.
Late to the party also with The Who but at least it was the late 70s, rather than the early 90s. Strangely enough, it was Who Are You – Keith Moon’s final album that brought me into the fold. Like the Stones and the Kinks, I began to dive deep into their back catalogue from that moment onwards. The Who’s influence on rock music is incalculable – from the songwriting to the stage performances to the arty experimentation, no rock genre has been left untouched by The Who.
Last but not least. Thanks for persevering to the end. Now, when I first met them, XTC were at a commercial peak. The double LP English Settlement yielded the band’s biggest hit – “Senses Working Overtime” and the band threatened to break big in the USA, like The Police. Alas, frontman Andy Partridge’s ill mental health scuppered those plans and the band stopped touring and lost drummer Terry Chambers to Australia. Despite these challenges, XTC produced album after album of exponential creative growth, cementing their reputation as one of the most under-rated pop bands out there. Might not be on most folks’ list of the best bands of all time but I believe they certainly deserved to be.
… still there’s more …